A 6-Step Guide to Breaking into the Sports Writing Business

A 6-Step Guide to Breaking into the Sports Writing Business

Do you spend your weekends glued to the TV watching your favorite teams battle it out? Or, better yet, at the game decked out in the home team’s colors cheering for your sports heroes?

If you’re a sports fan, turn your love of the game into a potential payday with sports writing.

Why sports writing?

As a sports writer, you’ll likely get access to games, as well as players, coaches and super fans.

Why watch your favorite baseball player on TV when you can chat with him about his hopes for the season instead?

Of course, not every sports writer will have instant access to big league players, coaches and teams, but by breaking into the world of sports writing, you can immerse yourself in your favorite game, while earning cash at the same time.

Breaking into sports writing

If you have a history of playing or writing about a specific sport or even if you’re just a devoted fan, be sure to mention that in your letter of introduction or pitch to an editor or outlet.

Sports publications want people who know, understand and love the sport to write about it.

They also don’t want people they have to explain the sport to or people who might not be familiar with the rules, players and lingo.

Break in like you would with any other type of market. Research the possibilities, study the publications and write your best letter of introduction or pitch.

Here are some more tips to break into this exciting and potentially lucrative market.

1. Don’t stick to the pros

While professional sports might see most of the glitz and glamour, high school, college and amateur sports still need to be written about, too.

Be sure not to overlook these beats.

It’s easier to break in with smaller beats, and you’ll likely find less competition if you try to break into the field writing about the local minor league baseball team rather than a high-level professional team.

2. Be open-minded

When you say you love sports, maybe it’s basketball or football or hockey you have in mind. But there are plenty of other sports that need coverage.

Consider everything from lacrosse to ice skating to competitive archery. Covering some of these lesser-known sports is a great way to make a name for yourself in the business.

Of course, if you truly want to pursue a specific sport, like baseball or football, go for it.

If your goal is to write about professional football, writing about college football will be more helpful than covering the local lacrosse league.

3. Write for the local newspaper

Local papers generally have a sports section, so why not reach out to them and see if they could use a writer?

You could cover high school, college, amateur or professional sports. They may need coverage of home or away games or a variety of other types of stories.

If you know a lot about a variety of different sports, consider seeing if they may need a sports columnist. Being the voice of the sports section can be a great way to help establish yourself as a prominent local sports writer and that can lead to other opportunities.

sports writing

4. Contribute to popular publications

Publications like ESPN are household names, and they’re one place to approach if you’re interested in sports writing.

Who Pays Writers lists a number of sports publications and their rates, including ESPN Esports, Excelle Sports, Vice Sports and Vice Sports Canada, though there are many others out there as well.

Contently’s rate database also lists a number of sports-related publications and contributor-reported fees, including one writer who received $1,500 for an investigative piece for SB Nation Longform.

Many large newspapers and magazines also include sports coverage, so these are great places to approach.

5. Find interesting angles

When you’re looking at a publication and preparing to pitch, be sure to take a close look at the types of stories it covers.

While you may pitch stories about coaches talking strategy, or a team preparing to play a major rival, don’t overlook a story about a groundskeeper who has kept the team’s field pristine for the past 40 years.

People love reading about sports, but they also love a good sports-related human-interest story.

Don’t just write the obvious stories. Write the captivating ones.

6. Try the trade publications

Don’t limit your sports writing to the big markets with familiar names.

There are also plenty of sports-related trade publications in need of writers. A trade publication could be anything from a publication read by coaches of a particular sport to a magazine for uniform manufacturers that addresses the needs of the industry.

I typed “sports trade publications” into Google and came back with 36.5 million results. Sure, these aren’t all trade publications in need of freelancers. But out of these results, there are no doubt dozens of publications that may be good markets to reach out to, depending on your specific areas of interest and expertise.

However you choose to break into sports writing, it probably makes sense to try a few different options. Perhaps pitch a few popular publications, contact your local paper and reach out to a number of different trade publications.

A multi-pronged approach is often best when trying to break into any field of freelance writing.

And it might just be a chance to watch games and talk to players — a dream come true for sports fans.

Filed Under: Freelancing

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