Considering a career in sports journalism? Many sports fans dream of becoming a sports journalist and it is easy to see why. A career in this field gets you incredibly close to the action, and provides the ability to engage with professional athletes, share your opinions on your favorite sports and lead an exciting lifestyle.
While there are certainly many perks to a career as a sports journalist, it is also one that has several unique challenges and it can be incredibly stressful, demanding and competitive. There are a range of skills and attributes that will be required if you are to find success – read on to find out what these are.
Sports Journalism Degree Online
A sports journalism degree online is a vital qualification if you want to find success as a sports journalist. A sports journalism degree online will develop the skills and confidence required to excel in today’s fast-paced, 24/7 and competitive sports coverage environment. Once you have earned a sports journalism degree online, you will know how to go about developing original stories and finding unique angles in a diverse sports media landscape.
Excellent Sports Knowledge
Obviously, you also need an excellent knowledge of sports so that you can educate your readers. This should include a strong grasp on tactics, strategy, athletics and psychology relating to a few different sports. On top of this, you also need to have a strong understanding of the business, legal and financial side of different sports as these often have a huge influence on sports but are areas where the average fan will not have much knowledge. While you should certainly have one or two sports that you specialize in, you will put yourself in a stronger position if you can cover a wide range of sports so that you will be more appealing and able to take on more work. A few key sports to be able to cover include:
- American football
Even with a sports journalism degree online and expert sports knowledge, it will be impossible to succeed without excellent writing skills. You need to have attention to detail, the ability to engage readers and a way with words that will bring your stories to life. Writing skills can be developed on a sports journalism degree online but you can also take additional courses, take inspiration from other writers with continuous reading and with creative thinking.
In today’s day and age, there are so many sportswriters out there that it can be very hard to stand out from the crowd. Good writing is the best way to separate yourself from the competition, so this should be an area that you prioritise and could set you on the path to success.
Strong Work Ethic
One of the most important skills that you will need to have is a strong work ethic. You will not find success with writing talent, a sports journalism degree and sports knowledge alone as you will need to work incredibly hard to continuously discover and create engaging stories – it is not a typical 9-5 job where you can switch off at the end of the day. You need to have a strong work ethic and be willing to put the work in, but this does also mean that you need to know how to switch off and look after yourself in order to prevent burnout.
As a sports journalist, you also must be persistent as this is a career that throws up many obstacles and barriers along the way. It can be hard to get your foot in the door and find success with your pitches to publications, plus you will often find that athletes, coaches and other sports personnel are slippery and hard to get hold of – this is partly because those involved in sports can be very wary of the media, so you need to be persistent and develop position reputations with those in the industry.
Following on from this point, networking is vital for any kind of journalist. When you are able to build and maintain a large professional network, it will allow you to get the key stories and access to those that you need to get to the bottom of the story.
While you certainly can and should network online, in an industry like this you will want to prioritise networking in person. This means that you should try to develop positive reputations with everyone in the industry that you come across and maintain these relationships over time.
Sports journalism has traditionally been a respected tradition, but like many media roles, it has come under scrutiny in recent times largely due to “journalists” acting without integrity and without a code of ethics.
Harassing and following athletes, distorting the truth and not respecting boundaries can understandably create a frosty relationship between those in the industry and journalists, so you need to position yourself as a trustworthy, respectful journalist that acts in an ethical manner. When you are able to do this, you are much more likely to find success when it comes to interviews, getting the inside scoop and access to athletes and other important personnel.
Similarly, you must also be dependable if you want to find success as a sports journalist. You need to be able to deliver to tight deadlines while maintaining a high standard of work, fulfil your obligations as a sports journalist and be a reliable journalist that the public can trust and depend on for their sports news.
As a sports journalist, you obviously need strong written communication skills in order to create engaging content. It is also essential that you have strong spoken communication skills so that you can work effectively in the field, form strong relationships and also present your stories in a number of ways. Today’s sports journalist is not one that simply writes but also one that appears on camera themselves, creates podcasts/videos and has a personality that is presented to sports fans.
A sports journalism degree online will teach and develop all of the technical and practical skills required to do this, but you may need to work on your communication skills beforehand if this is an area that you struggle with. This is not limited to your verbal skills either, as a good sports journalist is also one that is an excellent listener and able to read body language – this can give you an edge and allow you to get the real story.
Leading on from this, it is very hard to find success with a career in this field without confidence, even if you have a sports journalism degree online. Journalists need to have the confidence to pitch their ideas, present their stories to the world and be proactive in contacting and engaging with professional athletes in a competitive field.
It is a shame, but often it is the journalists that are the most confident and assured of themselves that find the highest level of success in this field so you may need to work on your self-confidence if this is an area that you struggle with. Of course, there is a fine line between being self-confident and arrogant and you will not want to spill over into arrogance as this will come across in your work and make it hard to develop a positive reputation.
Following on from this, as a sports journalist, you must also have thick skin if you are to succeed. Negative feedback will be common whether this is from your editor, comments on your stories or interactions with professional athletes.
This means that you need to be able to take constructive criticism and be willing to improve and edit your work, but you also need to be able to ignore the negativity online. It is no secret that the internet has become an extremely negative environment when it comes to people commenting on stories, and it is in your own best interest to ignore these, especially on social media.
There certainly are many perks to a career as a sports journalist, but it can also be incredibly stressful, so stress tolerance must be high. You will be working to tight deadlines, working on multiple stories at once, having to maintain high standards and working hard in the field to get the key details for all of your stories. You will also have the stress of putting your work out in the world and facing criticism, so those that struggle with stress will need to work on this as stress is a big part of the job.
Ability to Connect With Fans
While you should not trawl through social media comments, it is important that you have an ability to connect with sports fans. You are the middle person when it comes to sports and if you can connect with fans you will develop a loyal following, advance your career and improve your professional reputation.
Creating high-quality, engaging and unique content is the best way to do this along with showing your passion for sports, relating to the audience and being reliable for breaking stories. On top of this, you should also be active on social media, demonstrate your personality and cover the stories that the fans want to see.
Commitment to Self-Improvement
As with most lines of work, it is also important to have a desire to improve and develop your abilities. This will help to ensure that your work is the best that it can be, it will open up new opportunities and help you to stand out from the crowd. As such an enormous industry, the
re is the potential for great success in sports journalism, but you must also create your own opportunities. This means that you should consider what your weaknesses are and turn these into strengths, set yourself goals and establish what path you want to take within sports journalism. You should also seek feedback and advice from editors and those that you work with – often, there will be areas that you need to improve on that can be hard to identify yourself.
Additionally, you might find it helpful to look at successful sports journalists and see what you can learn from them. This is a well-trodden path and there are many respected, popular and iconic sports journalists across all sports that can be a great source of inspiration for sports journalists.
Sports journalism is a demanding, fast-paced and challenging field to work in and will require excellent time-management skills. You may have to travel a lot for work, you might be creating multiple stores at once and you will also need to factor in other people’s time for interviews and phone calls.
On top of this, you also need to know when to take a break and how to use your time off effectively in order to prevent burnout. In order to use your time effectively, you need to be highly organised, be able to prioritise your workload and plan ahead – fortunately, apps and software can make it much easier to stay on top of everything, so make sure that you are utilising the best tools to help you to manage your time.
These are the main skills and attributes that are required for a successful career in sports journalism. A sports journalism degree online is useful for developing many of these skills, but you may also need to work on them and develop many over time.
Sports journalism is a dream career for many sports fans and it can certainly be a rewarding and enjoyable career that gets you much closer to the action, but it is also an extremely stressful, demanding and challenging career and one that is becoming increasingly competitive. When you know the key skills and attributes that are required to find success, it will hopefully help you to get ahead and stand out from the crowd.