Once high school sports conclude at the end of the month, what’s left to cover? Far more than one can imagine. At some newspapers, the summer is a time to recover from an exhausting prep season. But let’s not forget all the ripe sports stories ready to be plucked. Summer is a great time to reflect, report and write some amazing stories. Here are some possibilities.
- How difficult is it for a coach to relax during the summer? Find a coach who is traveling to some exotic place, such as Costa Rica, in order to soar across rain forests on tree lines. Or find a coach who volunteers at a local charity. Or even a coach who relaxes by planting a garden – perhaps, you can have some relaxing conversations as he works the garden that reveals this person’s philosophy on life and coaching sports. Away from school, coaches are finally able to unwind, which means they might be able to speak more candidly. Hang out with a coach or two and learn a little about the challenges of coaching, and why they might need the summer to decompress.
- Head out to a local road race. At these 5K and 10 K races, you’re going to find more stories than you’ll have time to write. The person who started running after having had a heart attack, the person who runs to honor another. The 80-year-old runner who started running after retirement. Or the person who always finishes last but still loves the camaraderie. There are far better stories than these at most road races, if you are willing to speak with race directors and just hang out among the runners.
- Head out to a local lake or river. Find out what’s biting. Eventually, you might learn the answer is you – and that the fishermen are just as interested in reeling in you in order to tell some tales. Listen and you’ll probably find some gems. Maybe, you can even head out in a boat for several hours with a fishermen or two. If nothing else, you’ll get in some fishing and some good conversation. But I’d be shocked if you didn’t also land a pretty good story.
- Go watch some AAU or youth basketball games, where you can focus on local prep players. See how they are doing. You can even write some featurized game stories on the games. You can do the same at AAU track meets, junior golf events, or pretty much any other sports event taking place in the area. Speak with HS coaches, check AAU websites, or just head out to local sports centers to learn more about sports schedules.
- If you live along the coast, check out local surfing events that should yield some interesting stories. Bring the sun screen, because, as you should tell your editor, this event could take all day.
- Head to the local bowling center. Yup, bowling. Youth leagues are very popular during the summer months. Talk with the center owners and pros in residence to learn more about the kids, unusual performances and trends. There are far more stories in these league than one can imagine. Really.
- On a more serious note, evaluate coaching for youth sports, particularly travel baseball and softball, where some adults believe they are managing at the professional level and not guiding 10 and 12-year-old girls and boys. As a former travel coach, I was shocked by the language and approach used by some opposing coaches. I once watched a coach berate a 10-year-old catcher after she allowed a few pitches to skip by her. He marched out there and made the girl take off her catching gear in front of everybody before she was sent to the bench. Not a single parent on this other team confronted this coach after the bawling girl walked to the dugout. Chronicle moments like this, speak with numerous coaches, interview umpires, and league officials, as well as sociologists, psychologists and other researchers to learn how and why some coaches act like dictators. Would make for an illuminating investigative piece, if you are willing to spend the time at the ball fields.
- You might also address abusive coaches at the collegiate level, where Texas Tech’s Mike Leach and others are starting to get dismissed for such behavior. Thanks, Mark Grabowski, for this story about coaching abuse.
- Head out to a local dragway or dirt track, where you can find countless stories. Besides covering some races, you can also track down profiles on mechanics and drivers, follow up on fatal accidents, or just learn about the culture surrounding these smaller tracks. Could make for some interesting Saturday nights.
- Make Little League and youth softball a regular beat, as Florida Today has. You’ll have far more ideas than time to cover stories such as this one on a 69-year-old man who has coached for 34 years.
- Swimming will be wildly popular again this summer, thanks to the 2012 Summer Olympics; however, the sport is always active at pools across the country. Check how the local swim clubs are doing, learn how swimmers are faring, and find out whether new training techniques, innovative swim wear or some other trend is affecting the sport. For example, have local swim clubs grown since Michael Phelps’ historic performance in the 2008 Olympics, or do the numbers typically swell during any Olympic year? Don’t forget to check on the older, or Masters, swimmers as well.
- Quidditch is no longer reserved just for Harry Potter and his fictional friends at Hogwarts. More than 700 muggles recently competed in the fourth annual Quidditch World Cup. Like society, sports evolve and grow. Investigate these obscure, or unusual, sports being played in your area. Besides throwing quaffles, folks in your town might also be playing kronum, octopush, or hantis.
- Let’s not forget stories on Tough Mudder, which holds its rigorous events across the country. To understand Tough Mudder, think road running on an obstacle course. If you can’t find an interesting story during one of these events, you’re not really trying.
- Duck into a dodgeball tournament, especially if you live near Chicago, where the Midwest Dodgeball Championships are held in late June.
- You might even pull off the road to watch and talk with kids or adults playing Wiffle ball. Sports stories do not always have to be about a competition certified by a state high school association, professional league or national organization. The best stories transcend the games themselves. Check out the Best American Sports Writing series to read stories that offer perspective both inside and outside the lines.
Please, offer your own ideas or links in the comments section below. Have fun this summer.