May 24, 2016
Dog Ear Consultants
Even if you’re not a “sports school,” most of us are covering our athletic departments and programs. Some schools have full sections devoted to school sports, others sprinkle sports content in the front of the book—big wins, sports nostalgia, etc.
Sports stories don’t have to be—shouldn’t be—a rehash of the season. Way (way, way) back in the day—pre-Internet—that kind of coverage made sense. But these days, your athletic departments are streaming games real-time. They’re tweeting highlights, and posting scores and wrap-up stories online. Let them own that.
Our job as magazine editors is to highlight our sports programs in ways that will keep the reader engaged—even one who never set foot near a basketball court or football field. A few ideas to get you thinking:
Kenyon’s Alumni Bulletin does a wonderful full-page athlete profile in an unconventional way—though we haven’t seen it in recent issues. It was a great shot of an athlete with all of his or her gear, and it included annotated notes about the student and the sport. No full 300-word profile. No season wrap-up. All personality.
The College of New Jersey’s TCNJ does something similar in their “How I Got Here” feature.
They also play with nostalgia a bit, telling the stories of epic moments in the college’s sports history, always coupled with a great old photo.
And don’t forget to look outside the world of alumni magazines and adapt content from commercial magazines to suit your publication. Imagine a section like this one, found in Self, but tailored to be workout tips from your star athletes. Service journalism at its best.
And remember, if you have to cover a season or game recap—like, say, a championship—cover it a different way. Interview the folks who had to clean up the confetti. Collect stories of where people were watching across the globe. Get a physics or math professor to talk you through the science or probabilities of that final shot.
In short: Drop the highlights. Treat this section with the same kind of creativity you bring to the rest of your magazine’s pages. And don’t forget to have fun. It’s all a game anyway.