Sports are deeply embedded in South Africa’s national and cultural identity. From rugby and cricket to soccer and athletics, sports unite communities, ignite passion, and foster national pride. Given its profound impact, sports journalism should be regarded with the same importance as politics, business, and health journalism. It plays a crucial role in narrating the stories that shape our cultural and societal landscapes.

Entering the field of sports journalism requires specialised knowledge, a strong background in the sports you cover the respective players and their careers, and the overall historical context. It’s not just about knowing the rules of the game; it involves in-depth research, keen observation, and the ability to anticipate and analyse unexpected events, such as a surprise match outcome or a sudden coaching change. Building a solid network of sources—coaches, athletes, and sports officials—is essential for gathering accurate information and gaining insightful perspectives. Regular practice, attending events, and honing technical skills are also vital to succeed in this dynamic and exciting field.

Breaking into sports journalism can be exciting but highly competitive, here are some tips on how to take the first step. 

Hone your interest: Get to know the rules of the game, the players, and the history of the teams you cover. Sports journalism is not about scores and game highlights only, but also about providing context on significant wins or losses.

Gain practical experience: Cover local sports events, high school games, and college sports to build your portfolio. Attend as many training sessions and matches as possible, as these are often where you’ll find the best stories and unique angles. Learn from other journalists’ reporting of sports events.

Build networks: Your information is only as good as your sources. Form a network of contacts, including managers, coaches, athletes, and other sports professionals, but maintain professional distance with sources. Stay sceptical and verify all information to maintain credibility. 

Develop technical skills: Keep up with new approaches and technical skills, such as interactive storytelling. Learn how to use digital platforms, multimedia, and data to tell unique stories. Presenting news in different formats—like videos, blogs, or social media posts—can reach a broader audience.

Create your own style: Develop a distinctive style that sets you apart. In-depth details and unique perspectives can make your work stand out. Explore investigative journalism, real-time reporting, explanatory pieces, and historical analysis.

Plan properly: Sports events are scheduled in advance, so give yourself enough time to plan your coverage and interviews. Familiarise yourself with the sports calendar and prepare accordingly, but also be prepared for unforeseen events like match postponements or sudden coaching changes.