Monday, August 27, 2007

Don’t just wing it: Squeeze in some time to develop stories on bunts, picks-and-rolls and other sports strategies

USA Today recently posted a great article on the Wing-T offense in football, a formation that relies on misdirection and deception. This formation is especially helpful for smaller programs that do not have the size or strength on the front lines, although this formation is effective for programs of all sizes. More than 16 percent of all state champs in 2006 implemented the Wing-T, so named because the formation loosely resembles a T. To learn more about the strategies and intricacies of the Wing T, click here.

Readers love stories that help explain strategies, formations, and techniques. For example, you could write a story on how teams effectively implement the suicide squeeze in baseball, the triangle offense in soccer, or the pick-and-roll in basketball. That means you need to talk with as many coaches as possible to fully understand the nuances of these plays – and so you can get many perspectives. Not every coach runs the same play or offense the same way. In addition, make sure you also find compelling stories that reveal how the plays have worked, otherwise your story may read more like a training manual than a news story. Stories keep readers reading.

Also, do the research to gather statistics that help support your points, if possible, just as USA Today sports writer Jeff Zillgitt did in “The Wing-T offense: Football’s shell game.”

Some examples:

“An American Football Monthly survey of 2006 state champions revealed 16.8% of the respondents use the Wing-T as their base offense.”

“Goncharoff, who is 81-7 since 2000 and has won five of the past six Washington 3A state titles, loves the deception.”

“Few Wing-T teams have enjoyed as much recent success as Bellevue. The Wolverines started running the Wing-T in 1980 and won their first state title in 1982. In 2004 they ended the 151-game winning streak of then-USA TODAY No. 1 De La Salle (Concord, Calif.), rushing for 463 yards and not attempting a pass. In 2005, Bellevue won 30-16 against then-No. 3 Long Beach (Calif.) Poly.”

Make sure you also explain the strategy or play simply so even non-sports fanatics will understand how it works. Remember, someone new reads the sports pages every day. Help them to understand as well.

Here’s the simple break down on the Wing-T, as offered by Zillgit: “A basic Bellevue Wing-T play goes like this: The quarterback hands the ball off to the fullback. Or does he? He hands the ball to the running back. Or does he? He gives the ball to the wingback, positioned 1 yard off and 1 yard behind the tight end. Or does he? All four backs can be used as ball carriers, blockers or for deception.”

Make sure you also plan visuals and other ancillary elements to go along with your story, depending if it runs in print or online. That means scheduling pictures, working with graphic artists, and capturing video or audio. The USA Today story offers five video clips that help show the Wing-T in action. More and more, journalism merges words, video and audio (each has its distinct advantage.) Print allows for easier explanation of complex issues, video offers visuals that cannot always translate into words, and audio allows reader’s to hear inflections and speech patterns (and to hear the sounds of the game.)

Take some time when you develop story ideas like this, otherwise your final product might get lost among other items in print or online.

Give this a try: You’ll find you’ll also learn much more about sports. Good luck.


1 comment: said...

Hey Joe. You have written so very well on wing t but still I don’t understand that are you offended if teams use wing t as defend or you are supporting it?