Coverage in 2021: Sports ideas

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A year ago, schools extended spring breaks and canceled sports seasons. This March, we’re back on the field, but it’s not quite the same. Here are ideas for sports coverage in a challenging year.

Two weeks ago, a yearbook staff posted photos of a track meet on Twitter. And it was a joy to see spring sports back in action. It’s given us inspiration to continue our 2021 coverage series with sports topics.

If you’re able to photograph games and a normal season, then you’re in great shape! But if you have limited photographic access or limited games, this may help you. Regardless, this is the ideal year to reimagine coverage and think creatively about what you do feature. Let’s play ball:

Feature profiles
Profiles are the bread and butter of people sections, but they should play an integral part on sports pages. If you have a full season, maybe the profile is a small module on the spread. If your access is limited, a profile could become a full page or spread. If the season is canceled, consider utilizing the space to feature seniors and tell their sports stories, including what it’s like to lose their senior season.

The cool thing about profiles is they can be in-depth features, first-person stories, anecdotes, Q&As or hearty quotes. They can focus on seasons, backgrounds, specific games and moments, practice, overcoming obstacles, etc. Also, consider blending coverage to feature athletic profiles from different sports. This might help if some seasons were canceled or you have space to give additional coverage to sports in general.

20_Stanford MS_sports profiles 860In 2020, Stanford Middle School featured four athletes with cutouts and quotes. Even though most of the students aren’t in uniform, the strong design creates an effective layout.

Focus on visuals
It’s imperative to photograph every game, meet and event you can. As many staffs have learned this year, you may not have adequate access or a season could get cut short. Even if photo opportunities are plentiful, focusing on visuals can make a dramatic impact.

Player cutouts are a smart option even when game photos are available. They work well for profiles, other modules and full spread designs. If cutting out action shots is not possible, ask the photographer who took team photos to share individual pictures or schedule time to take photos yourself. (Worst case scenario: have the player or coach snap a photo.) Last year when classes moved online, Inglemoor High School relied on cutouts to visually cover shortened seasons. Shawnee Heights High School utilized volleyball cutouts to feature senior players while McKinney Boyd High School showcased college signees with cutouts on two spreads.

Another option is to feature object cutouts in modules or as the dominant art. Footballs, softballs, gloves and tennis racquets can make compelling visuals to anchor a spread. When classes and sports were canceled last spring, Hill Country Christian School used sports gear cutouts to cover baseball (see example at the top of the post).

A third route is to use full bleed images of sports-related objects or the game settings. This summer, we used dozens of tennis balls as a background image for an example of a tennis spread with minimal photos. Last spring schools used baseball fields and tracks to illustrate shortened seasons. Even if your team is in full swing, a background photo of the court, field or pool can set the stage for a compelling showstopper design. We’ve added a few potential background images for spring sports to our resources drive if you need them.

20_Foster JV softball 860When Foster’s softball season was cut short last spring, the staff had few pictures. They reached out to team members and parents for images, and an editor photographed the field with a lone softball. The background image serves as a strong replacement for the typical dominant photo.

Think creative content

If there was a year for thinking on your feet, this is it! Even if your seasons go perfectly, why not spice up the coverage with fun, relatable topics? Whether it’s a simple module or a full spread, there’s plenty of cool sports-related content to cover. Let’s swing for the fences.

• Playlists (for practices, road trips, before
   games, after games)
• Hype songs
• Training on own
• Tryouts
• Behind the scenes at practices
• Best/worst warm-up drill
• Weightlifting
• How to, step-by-step
• Specialized moves
• What’s the same?
• What’s different?
• Why you play
• How have you improved this season?
• What motivates you?
• Best part of [sport]
• Best game
• Most challenging game
• Rivalry games
• Strengths & weaknesses
• Memorable moments
• Favorite season moments
• Season highlights
• Senior night
• Coach inspirations
• Jersey numbers
• Captain profiles
• [Sport] essentials
• Pre-game rituals
• Team traditions
• Game day traditions
• Game day routines
• Game week routines
• Game day timeline
• Daily schedule
• Balancing school and sports
• Best sports snacks
• Favorite meal before a race/game/meet
• Good luck charms
• What’s in your bag?
• Overheard in the locker room/practice
• Tournament stories
• Road trip stories
• Road trip dining
• Player positions
• Athletic expenses
• Personal records
• Season statistics
• Game recaps
• Playoffs
• Sports gear
• Workout/practice equipment
• Athletic shoes
• 5 things you don’t know about…
• College athletic signings
• Managers & trainers

20 Stratford_sports objects 860This is fun take on a sports spread from Stratford High School. The staff featured items in students’ athletic bags, adding mugs and quotes from several of the athletes.

Please note, if your team does have a season, make sure there is adequate coverage of how it went. Yearbooks tend to be the only permanent record of the year so it’s important we’re providing that historical and statistical role.

Need more ideas? Check out our four-page sports ideas handout with 12 more layouts featured.

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