Ah, the post-game press conference. For athletes and coaches, a burden. For reporters, it can be a gold mine. Maximizing these availabilities is especially important if you’re not covering a team every day. Here are some tips I’ve picked up from my years covering sports on getting the best post-game material.
#1: Look forward
During any post-game availability, there will certainly be questions about individual plays which may (or may not) have impacted the outcome of the game.
This is not the material you should be seeking. For one, having a player or coach do play-by-play makes for boring audio. Secondly, it doesn’t push the story of the team or the season forward.
What happened in the game isn’t unimportant, obviously, but it’s best displayed by other mediums. Smart audio can’t match ESPN highlights, so why try?
Instead, look ahead. If a certain player played well, ask the coach or the player himself what he’s doing to improve his or her performance. If there was a key hit, goal, play, etc., at a certain moment, ask how they seem to come through in those big moments.
This also applies to collecting material for features or previews. You have the players and coaches at your disposal, so why not ask about the next opponent or a topic which doesn’t relate to the game which was just played?
An exception to this rule exists for very significant plays, particularly in the playoffs or a championship game. Not asking about unforgettable moments like Doug Flutie’s Hail Mary pass or Christian Laettner’s last-second shot would be silly. And in the playoffs, individual plays are examined and talked about for days afterwards, so their shelf life is extended.
#2: “Talk about…”
- You’re going to hear plenty of this.
- “Talk about the play…”
- “Talk about how it feels…”
- “Talk about what was going through your mind…”
- Notice anything? None of those are questions.
Coaches and athletes, and anyone else who regularly speaks to the media, generally know not to give “yes” or “no” answers, so reporters will phrase their questions in this way, almost a request for them to just talk for 20-30 seconds. It may also be a print reporter’s way of getting a particular quote for a story which has already been written in order to make a deadline.
The problem with this practice is the “answers” usually aren’t very good. You’ll get many of the boring play-by-play I mentioned before. A reporter may get something close to the quote he or she was seeking, but it’s likely to be a dull answer.
Sticking to the usual principle of asking open-ended questions which can’t be answered “yes” or “no” will result in more revealing quotes and give better opportunities for follow-ups.
#3: Get quick reaction
Two teams may have been battling in the game, but that doesn’t have to end once they’re in front of the media. It may take a bit of prodding on your part.
Coaches and athletes will often talk about the specific performance of opposing players after a game. These comments don’t need to be separated, and should be combined for a better flow to your story.
If a coach comments on the opposing team, even if it’s complimentary (it likely will be), ask for a reaction on that opinion from the opposing coach. You may get something much more animated than the common sports answers.