Four Ways Aspiring Sports Journalists Can Build Their Resumes

becoming a sports journalist
NBC Sports lead MLS play-by-play announcer John Strong didn't start at the top, he worked his way up (Photo Courtesy: Portland Timbers)
Sports journalism and broadcasting are coveted career paths for many college students, but jobs in these fields are hard to come by. A recent study from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce found that while most jobs have continued to improved since the recession of 2008, journalism remains stagnant.

This shouldn't discourage young people to pursue sports journalism, but instead motivate them to make a bigger impact before graduation and leave college with more than a degree.

When padding your portfolio, look to these areas to wow future employers, build relationships and network with the right people in the industry.

Flex Your Pre-Game Analytics Skills

The pre-game has become just as involved as the game itself, with hours of television and days of print dedicated to the moments leading up to the game. This is especially true in football, where sports journalists break down every detail and statistic going into kickoff, and you'll find it so from high school all the way to the NFL. Take a marquee matchup in the NCAA, or even one from your own university, and break it down for print.

  • Who are the key playmakers going into the games?

  • What are some historical statistics between these two teams?

  • Find a new angle that other outlets haven't covered yet.

Even if your analysis never makes it to print, it will still be a good portfolio item to show future publications — it demonstrates that your pre-game abilities are sound.

Do a 'Where Are They Now?'

If you've ever seen an ESPN 30 for 30 documentary, then you've seen some of the best "where are they now" stories on television — specifically, "The Best That Never Was," featuring running back sensation Marcus Dupree.

This will require some digging, because anyone worth following has already been covered 100 times.

Find a player or figure significant to your school or a smaller university but under the radar on the national level. Figure out an angle that makes their story unique and use it as the base of your piece. A good movie for inspiration is "Resurrecting the Champ," starring Josh Hartnet and Samuel L. Jackson, in which Jackson plays a homeless, retired boxer who becomes the center of a major sports article.

Get Yourself on the Field

This one requires nothing more than a phone call to a high school athletic director. Yes, this one will require a high school to start with. Unless you are covering a game for a college newspaper, most Division I colleges won't let independent journalists cover games from the sidelines, but a smaller high school will likely let you start there for some experience.

Cover the game like it was going to appear in tomorrow morning's paper.

  • Take photos of the action

  • Interview the coaches (and some of the players if you're allowed)

  • Write a post-game recap within one hour of the final whistle (to practice writing for a tight deadline).

Do this over and over and by the time you make it to a college matchup, you will feel more comfortable and made a few good contacts along the way. But the big takeaway is that you now know how to take the initiative.

When In Doubt, Just Introduce Yourself

Coaches and athletic directors are always being promoted to the next level.

That high school athletic director you call today could be working for a D1 college tomorrow. That D3 head coach you interview today could be an assistant coach at Ohio State tomorrow. You never know where and when people will move up, so build relationships and maintain them as their promotions naturally happen.

This article is a guest contribution from writer Gabe Vogt
By Brian Clapp | October 05, 2015
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