Miguel Delaney is a football writer for ESPN, the Independent on Sunday, the Irish Examiner, and Blizzard.
In this interview, he explains how you can become a sports writer or journalist, and he also describes what life is like in this busy profession.
Q. How can someone become a sports writer or journalist?
I can only explain my own circumstances, but it’s far from the only route.
I did a degree in journalism and then, while studying for a masters, managed to get subbing shifts in a paper.
From there, I kind of hung around, hassled the editors to write more. Ultimately, you’ve got to put yourself forward!
Q. What’s a typical day like for a sports writer or journalist?
Depends on the day!
I have no set routine, which I kind of like.
Personally, I’m not good on 9-5s. Usually, I’d be at a game twice a week, and either at a press conference or out interviewing someone two other days. A lot of time around that is spent calling, researching and trying to write.
You always seem short of time!
Q. What’s the best piece of writing advice you received?
Read as much as possible – and then write what you yourself would be interested in or enjoy to read.
That makes it authentic. If you’re faking it, people can read it. If you would want to read it, it will make it better.
Q. What’s the worst?
Oddly, I genuinely can’t think of any. Guess I just remember what works for me, and reject/forget what doesn’t.
It’s as simple as that.
Q. What kind of writing do you most enjoy?
Two types: when it comes to sports journalism, it’s writing, i.e. on a match or right up against deadline. That properly tests you.
But, most of all [I enjoy] when there’s a subject [I] really want to address, and the words just flow out.
Q. Have you had mentor who helped improve your writing?
Yeah, loads, from former lecturers, to editors, to fellow journalists.
Q. How is sports writing different from any other kind of writing?
Other than the fundamental triviality of what sport is (!) – although the very fact that it fills people’s spare time means it isn’t that trivial.
A lot of American political writers started in sport because it covers the same kind of themes. There’s also use of narrative etc
Q. How do you deal with deadlines and pressure to produce copy?
I remember the first time I ever did a live match report – i.e. 800 words of copy that had to be submitted bang on the final whistle – I was so anxious I prepared loads of different intros and outros dependent on different situations.
I still ended up barely using any of them! It’s just something you get used to. You just have to try and maintain focus.
If you’re struggling, don’t get too ambitious, and just keep it straight.
Q. What do you do when you’re burnt out or struggling to come up with an angle?
Go for a walk. It’s the only way to deal with it, I find. It’s amazing how much clearer things will seem.
Sometimes, you just have to get away from the laptop – and the room it’s in – for a bit.
You can find Miguel at @MiguelDelaney.
Did you enjoy this interview? What type of writer do you want to become?
Join over 15,000 writers today
You'll get a free book of practical writing prompts.