You can never know too much about the intricacies of a sport that you’re covering. Your knowledge of the details will improve your coverage of any sports event. Here are several ways to get up to speed on the basics:

Watch a game or two in advance to understand of basic rules, key strategies, terms and etiquette. As you watch, think about how you would cover the game under the pressure of deadline. Who would you want to talk to? What would you ask?

Get the rules from the league. Leagues at all levels will try to help reporters and the public better understand their sport.

Introduce yourself to athletic directors, information directors, managers, public relations officers, referees/umpires, trainers and coaches. Build relationships with people important to the team and players. They can help get you information, interviews and access.

Your colleagues might have some tricks or advice they can share to make your first assignments easier. They might share a tradition a team has before they get on the field, where and how to find the stat sheet, what seats are best to select in the press box, what's the best way to get an interview with a difficult coach.

Create a system to keep score. Some sports have sophisticated methods while others are very simple. See how official scorers keep track of numbers in the game. You can use that system or develop one that works for you and helps you with your reporting.

Taken from Introduction to Sports Reporting, a self-directed course by Joe Gisondi at Poynter NewsU.

Take the full course