Growing up, you were an avid reader. As you got older, you started gravitating toward reading about one of your favorite topics: baseball.
Combined with your passion for sports and knack for storytelling, sports writing seems like your ideal career. However, finding work in sports and succeeding in the industry can be a challenge.
Here’s what Belinsky had to say:
A Not-So-Typical Day Of Work
When you work in sports, you don’t often do the same thing nine-to-five, every single day of the week. Belinsky loves the variety of duties and shifting responsibilities throughout the year:
One of the great things about my job is how different each day is. In the fall and the winter time, I spend most of my time in the office organizing information and preparing for the spring and summer seasons.
At Baseball America, we work on laying the groundwork for our annual Prospect Handbook each fall. This means making lots of calls to sources who can help us better understand the players and analyzing all of the information we gather.
During the spring and the summer, I spend a lot of time traveling and going out to see players live. I oversee the process of compiling Baseball America’s draft rankings, and so I do my best to see as many of the top amateur players in the nation. I do this while relying on anonymous sources in the baseball scouting industry to determine how the players ought to be ranked and each player’s strengths, weaknesses, and pertinent background information.
So a typical day might include some phone calls and texts during the day before going out to a high school or college baseball game and reporting on what happens.
As a writer, Belinsky faces the unique challenges of telling stories and connecting with audiences:
One of the biggest issues I have is deciding which information must be included. I’m an extremely detail-oriented person, and I genuinely want to know every fact I can. Sometimes I forget my audience may not be as concerned about the details as I am, and I fail to focus on the big picture aspects of my stories.
Another challenge I have is dealing with the consequences of the articles I write. In this day and age, with blogs being so popular and easy to read, there’s a lot less original reporting happening. Many bloggers never have a face-to-face encounter with someone they may have been critical of in their work.
As a journalist, I’m tasked with presenting the facts, and sometimes those facts aren’t what a parent, family member, coach or agent wants to read about the player. I try to be fair to everyone I write about, but there are inevitably going to be people who are upset with how that all shakes out.
Success Can Be Simple
As Belinsky points out, the formula for succeeding when you work in sports as a writer is quite simple:
Success is achieved through hard and diligent work and the competitive fire to keep trying to be better and adapt to the environment around you. If you get caught up in where you’re at and how far away you are from where you want to be, you’re missing the point.
The way I see it, success is characterized by growth. Are you better today than you were yesterday? Do you have a plan in place to be better tomorrow than you are today? If you can answer “yes” to those questions, you’re successful in my opinion.
So many people want to be general managers or write for the New York Times and make lots of money. Those are admirable goals, but I don’t think success needs to be looked at through that lens. If you’re improving each day and happy with your work-life balance, what more can you really hope for?
What You Need
Belinsky highlights how networking plays a role in your career and why your credibility matters when you work in sports:
The most essential skill is the ability to develop relationships and connect with other people. That’s something you can’t learn in a classroom or in a textbook. You have to experience the world and meet people to do that. If you can connect with people and do your best to treat people the way you’d want to be treated, you’re going to put yourself in a good position to earn trust and develop more meaningful connections.
Writing comes a bit more naturally to some people than it does to others. But if you surround yourself with good writers and reporters and look to emulate the things they do well, you can learn quickly.
As a sports writer, you have to be very detail-oriented, and you need to double-check or (if possible) triple-check every fact and every piece of information you get from a source. Your credibility should be of the utmost importance to you.
How To Make It
With hard work, dedication, and old-fashioned communication, you too can find work in sports and succeed. Belinsky’s advice is tried and true:
Do the job you have, not the job you want. I’ve dealt with young writers who grew up reading Sports Illustrated or watching Peter Gammons or Adam Schefter on TV who think they can skip steps and try to write the greatest long-form feature or report a big breaking story.
Those are admirable goals, but if your job is to write a 600-word story on a subject you don’t find that interesting, put your head down and do the work. If you develop a reputation for doing what’s asked of you, your employers will be happy and you’ll be given more responsibility or more freedom to choose your projects. Make sure you have a clear understanding of your boss’s expectations, and if they aren’t clear, do your best to understand what they are looking for.
Don’t just hear — listen. If someone says something you don’t fully understand, ask him or her to elaborate. Listen for the tone and cadence of a person’s voice and have some feel for what they may be trying to convey through that.
In today’s day and age, people are glued to their phones. Stop texting and start communicating. If you want to really make a connection, make a call or set up a time for you to meet with the person face-to-face.
Human beings text and post on social media through a filter; to capture the real essence of the story, sometimes you need to quit texting and have a real conversation.
You should work at least as hard as your sources. If you aren’t, why should they bother talking to you?
The last advice I would give is to go to the field/court/stadium, and show up early whenever you can. If the game starts at 7 p.m. and you have a bit of time to kill, why not spend it at the field? The people who really know the story are at the field, and time after time you can get good information just by showing up early.
Professionals like Belinsky who already work in sports understand what it takes to get into the field and to learn and grow in the industry. Connect with insiders to expand your professional network and get some tips on how you can provide value to the sports industry.
Interested in finding work in sports as a writer? Check out current openings here.