Tips for Writing 5 Types of Sports Stories

With Sports Story Examples to Get You Started

Young female soccer players playing on field at night

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The field of sportswriting consists of many different kinds of stories, which is why it can be daunting. For the aspiring sportswriter, these are some of the main types you should get a handle on.

The Straight-Lede Game Story

The straight-lede game story is the most basic story in all of sportswriting. It's just what it sounds like: an article about a game that uses a straight-news type of lede. The lede summarizes the main points—who won, who lost, the score, and what the star player did.

Here's an example of this kind of lede:

Quarterback Pete Faust threw three touchdown passes to lead the Jefferson High School Eagles to a 21-7 victory over crosstown rival McKinley High.

The rest of the story follows from there, with an account of the big plays, important playmakers, and after-game quotes from coaches and players.

Straight-lede game stories are still used for coverage of high school and some college sports, but they're used less nowadays for professional sports events. Why? Simply, pro sports are shown on TV, and most fans of a particular team know the score of a game long before they read about it.

The Feature Game Story

Feature game stories are common for professional sports. Because readers usually already know the outcome of pro games, they want stories that offer a different angle on what happened and why.

Here's an example of the opening of a feature game story:

It had rained all that day in the city of brotherly love, so when the Philadelphia Eagles took the field, the ground was already a soggy mess—much like the game that would follow.

So it was somehow fitting that the Eagles would lose 31-7 to the Dallas Cowboys in a contest that was one of the worst of quarterback Donovan McNabb's career. McNabb threw two interceptions and fumbled the ball three times.

The story starts out with some description and doesn't get to the final score until the second paragraph. Again, that's fine: Readers will already know the score. It's the writer's job to give them something more.

Profiles

The sports world is full of colorful characters, so it's no surprise that personality profiles are a staple of sportswriting. Whether it's a charismatic coach or a young athlete on the rise, some of the best profiles anywhere are found in sports sections.

Here's an example of a profile opening:

Norman Dale surveys the court as his players practice layups. A pained look crosses the face of the coach of the McKinley High School basketball team as one player after another misses the basket.

"Again!" he shouts. "Again! You don't stop! You don't quit! You work 'till you get it right!"

And so they continue until they start to get it right. Coach Dale wouldn't have it any other way.

Season Preview and Wrap-Up Stories

Season previews and wrap-ups are fixtures of the sportswriter's repertoire. These are done any time teams and coaches are preparing for the coming season, or when the season has just ended—either in glory or infamy.

Obviously, the focus here isn't a specific game or individual but a broad look at the season—how the coach and players expect things to go or how they feel once that season is done.

Here's an example of a lede for this kind of story:

Coach Jenna Johnson has high hopes for the Pennwood High School women's basketball team this year. After all, the Lions were city champions last year, led by the play of Juanita Ramirez, who returns to the team this year as a senior. "We expect great things from her," Coach Johnson says.

Columns

A column is where a sportswriter gets to vent his or her opinions; the best sports columnists do just that, and do it fearlessly. Often that means being very tough on coaches, players, or teams who don't meet expectations, particularly at the professional level, where all concerned are being paid huge salaries to do just one thing—win.

But sports columnists also focus on those they admire, whether it's an inspirational coach who leads a team of underdogs to a great season or a mostly unheralded player who may be short on natural talent but makes up for it with hard work and unselfish play.

Here's an example of how a sports column might begin:

Lamont Wilson certainly isn't the tallest player on the McKinley High School basketball team—at 5 feet 9 inches, he's hard to spot in the sea of mid-6-footers on the court. But Wilson is the model of an unselfish team player, the kind of athlete who makes those around him shine. "I just do whatever I can to help the team," the ever-modest Wilson says.