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Mastering Sports Interviews: Strategies for Research, Rapport, and Resonance

Courtesy of Matt Byrne

Sports broadcasting is a constantly expanding field and constantly changing with the rise of new technology, streaming services and even social media platforms. Whether your goal is to be the voice of an organization or the face to a brand, honing your skills in sports broadcasting is crucial. When you’re covering a series clinching game or even a championship match, it is important to know how you can ensure that your coverage will captivate your audience and keep them hooked. Today, we will be going over essential tips and strategies to help you excel in the dynamic world of sports broadcasting. Between preparation and research to on-air delivery and engaging storytelling, the insights in this blog post will equip you with the tools you need to become a standout sports broadcaster.

Before you jump into broadcasting, it is crucial that you do your research. Depending on your personal background, your research will vary. Maybe you’re a complete whizz when it comes to hockey but you have no idea how to interview an athlete or maybe you know everything about actual reporting and you’ve been studying Erin Andrews since you were a kid, but you have to cover a sport that is completely foreign to you. Whatever your situation is, know what the situation is and complete the appropriate research. That could look like figuring out who’s on a lineup, the rules of the sport or deciding on questions to ask during an interview.

Following your research, it is important to have your resources in line. This could look like sourcing the team or organization’s media guide, organizing the lineup, filling out your offense-defense chart or printing out your scoresheet. Having your resources in line will facilitate a smoother process when you are completing any type of sports broadcasting. When completing my research, I found a great resource from the STAA (Sportscasters Talent Agent of America) that has many broadcasting prep tools that will help you deliver the best possible content. Click here to access it!

Courtesy of Chelsea Sherrod

Now we’ll discuss interviewing athletes. Interviewing athletes can be a daunting task. Whether that's because you’re simply nervous about the interview going well or you’re preoccupied thinking about getting great answers from your interviewee, it can be an overwhelming task, to say the least.

Starting off, let's discuss the more practical aspects of an interview. First things first, you’re set up and equipment. Before you even head to the arena, make sure you’re familiar with your equipment and make sure everything that needs to be charged is fully charged (and maybe even have some extra batteries or charging cords and blocks). Once you arrive at the location for the interview, you’ll have to find the perfect space for the interview.

The type of audio and video equipment that you have available to you will have an influence on what type of environment you should use for your interview. If you have access to a lavalier mic (lapel mic) and a high-quality camera, you’ll be able to conduct the interview in a traditional sports environment (courtside, on the field, etc). However, if these pieces of equipment are unavailable to you, it’s best to conduct your interview in a quiet space with good lighting. When choosing your space it is important to consider the spacing of your frame, the background and to not forget about background noise.

Courtesy of Kacy Hintz

Following choosing a space for your interview, there are a few more technical things to keep in mind. Always remember to check your white balance. This will ensure that the colors within your video are maintained and come across how they actually look. This is extremely important in arenas because they typically use fluorescent lights which can leave your photos with distorted coloring. When setting up your shot, I cannot stress it enough, use a tripod! This will prevent the shakiness that comes with not using a tripod and, let’s be honest, no one wants to watch a crazily shaky interview.

When it comes to framing your interview, keep these two things in mind. First, always frame your subject with the rule-of-thirds in mind. Basically, divide your screen into three sections both vertically and horizontally. You’ll have four points where these lines cross, these are your “power points”. Positioning your subject on one of these points will help your shot have a more visually appealing look. The other important thing to remember is to have your subject looking slightly off camera. This will avoid the uncomfortable feel you get from your interviewee when you have them looking right in the lens. To make this easy, position yourself off camera where you would like them to look.

Courtesy of Kellyanne Stitts

Time to discuss the actual interview. Before you click record, talk to your subject, make sure they don't have any concerns and that they are feeling comfortable. Once you start recording, start the interview with some easy questions (How old are you, State your name, How long have you been playing the sport?, etc). This will allow your interviewee to get comfortable in front of the camera. When asking questions, let your subject guide you. Monitor them and find out what excites them and what they're passionate about discussing, this will make your interview more entertaining.

Always remember to ask descriptive questions, encouraging your subject to get more engaged with the interview. Instead of asking “How did it feel to win the Stanley Cup?”, ask “Describe the moment the buzzer sounded and you realized you had won.” Following that, let your athlete finish their train of thought, you can always edit after.

Courtesy of Trish Christakis

You should always try and tailor your questions to the specific interview, but here are some questions to get you started:

  • What is your sports routine or regime?

  • How do you stay motivated?

  • Describe your typical night before a big game.

  • What was going through your head during (inset big moment)

  • How has your coach helped you get to where you are now?

Tailoring the questions to the specific interview and athlete is key to eliciting insightful responses. However, some general questions can serve as a starting point, such as inquiring about their sports routine, motivation, pre-game rituals, thoughts during significant moments and the impact of their coach on their journey.

By implementing these strategies and honing your skills, you can become a standout sports broadcaster who captivates audiences with engaging interviews and compelling storytelling. With the ever-evolving landscape of sports broadcasting, embracing these techniques will help you navigate the dynamic world of sports media and leave a lasting impact in the field.

Edited by: Kaya Crawford

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