Interviewing coaches is a critical part of most broadcasts. Aside from filling time in your pregame show and giving you a sellable sponsorship opportunity, they help to inform you and your listeners of potential storylines in that night’s game. However, far too frequently broadcasters waste this opportunity with canned or uninformed questions. This not only does no service to you or your listeners, but many times will annoy coaches and make them less likely to cooperate with you in the future. With that in mind here are a few tips from my experience on how to get a good coaches interview.
Listen, Listen, Listen: The first key to doing a good interview is listening. You should be prepared and have a map of where you expect the interview to go, and you should also be ready to abandon that path at any time. The most insightful answers in any interview are almost always on follow ups to an earlier question. Good follow up questions come from paying attention and probing deeper into the initial response.
Do Research: First and foremost, the more prepared you are for the interview, the better it will be. You should know at a bare minimum what each team did the week before and a general overview of the season. If the information is available, it helps to know style of play, team leaders and stars, and some key stats. Information is often scarce when covering high school sports, but if you can’t find the previous weeks scores and season record then you probably aren’t looking hard enough.
Ask Questions Before You Start Recording: When you get the coach on the phone, have a brief pre-interview conversation to fill in the gaps that you were unable to find in your previous research. This shouldn’t take more than a minute or two. Quickly ask what happened in the last game, who played well, and how practice went that week. This gives you the ability to frame your questions in a way that sounds intelligent and informed.
Start Broad and Zoom In: Sometimes you just don’t have any information besides records and scores going into an interview. When this happens, start with a broad question, something like “what did you do well in your win against team x?”. Listen closely to the answer and ask a follow up that sheds more light on the subject. If they answer the first question with something about running the ball well, then ask which running back was the star, or ask if they think the offensive line can dominate the line of scrimmage in a similar way for this week’s game. Using this method, you can still get some of the specific and relevant information that your listeners are looking for without a great deal of background information.
Avoid Cliché Questions: It’s safe to say that dealing with media is very rarely any coach’s favorite thing to do. The quickest way to annoy a coach is to ask the same cliché questions that they hear from everyone else. Questions like “What are the keys to the game?” are almost certain to get a response that mentions avoiding turnovers, controlling what you can control, and playing well on special teams. If you don’t make the coach think, they will fall back to boring coach-speak answers that put listeners to sleep. Treat an interview like a cover letter: each one should be designed specifically for that specific broadcast