A Preview describes and analyses expectations ahead of a given event. Your preview will tell readers which teams are playing at what venue and when the game will start. Will your preview be given on a podcast or printed? The media you’ll be using will affect both the substance and style of your preview.
The possibilities for storylines are limitless. The majority of sports fans are more interested in the players than anything else so look for an angle that highlights anticipated player contributions in the coming fixture. A ‘head-to-head’ comparison is always interesting reading.
Your introduction or first paragraph might read: “All Black Number Ten Name can forget about the Euro tour this year if he doesn’t match Aussie goal kicker Number Ten Name at the MCG on Saturday.”
That paragraph contains the writer’s opinion, but if you were uncomfortable with taking that approach—perhaps you are a writer trying to establish yourself—you could simply print opinions gleaned through interviews. Ask the respective number tens for their thoughts; ask the coaches too.
The adoption of that approach gives the story instant credibility and the reader is almost certain to read past the first paragraph.
It’s good practice to include the prospects of both sides in your preview. Even if you’re a writer previewing a local popular team, the opposition has supporters too, and you bring more interest and depth to a preview if you compare and contrast both teams, as far as is possible.
The more you can profile players, the more interest you will get, as every player has fans who enjoy reading their team’s prospects.
A preview that compares both teams favorably enables the writer to stay in a win/win position. By ‘staying on the fence’, the writer will be ‘right’ whichever team wins. However, exploring the form of both sides and then giving a prediction with reasons may win a writer more following.
Readers tend to respect writers with opinions even if those views consistently tip against their team.
Within your initial paragraphs, do give the score. Some will be reading your review to find out if you saw the same poor/excellent plays they did; others won’t know the result yet and will be frustrated if you don’t supply it. Save your humour and trivia—such as details of a new team uniform or the groundman’s post-match clean-up routine—until you’ve given the score.
Reviews must provide the basics: who played where, which team won, and details of the score.
From that point on, pick your own review angle. If a player scored three tries, kicked seven goals and made three try-saving tackles, he would obviously figure prominently in your story.
As was the case with the preview, do your best to interview the player you want to write about. You never know what a player will say, and one comment after the game could well overshadow his feats on the field.
There won’t always be easily identifiable angles for your review, which brings us back to the realm of opinion writing. You may want to say “Otago can forget about making the play-offs this year after their meek surrender to Waikato at Carisbrook yesterday”. But should you? Strong opinions attract strong reactions, so you’ll want to be sure of your ground before going out on a limb like that.
There are sports writers whose reviews are based on the principle that today’s headlines will be fish n’ chip wrapping tomorrow. By that, they mean the players and coaches they’ve given the razz to in a review will have forgotten about the criticism by the next time they meet. Sounds good, but I can report that life isn’t quite that easy.
Early in your career it’s unwise to throw caution to the wind, so a more conservative approach is more often a sensible way to go.
I’ve yet to meet the person who enjoys criticism—and some journos are just as thin-skinned when they get a return serve.
In sports review writing, there’s also a case for overlooking a poor performance, particularly from a champion player. Within the bounds of defamation laws, you can write whatever you like, but it’s often more reasonable to give players the benefit of the doubt. We all have off days, after all.
Reproduced for educational purposes.