When it comes to the sports business industry, it can be difficult for one to get their foot in the door. Truth be told, it’s even harder to climb the ladder as the years go on. Simply put, it’s no wonder why professionals of all ages continuously search for advice and words of wisdom that might help them gain a competitive edge in an otherwise challenging and constantly evolving realm.
One of those knowledge-seeking media members is journalist Colin Beswick, who covers the Boston Bruins for SB Nation’s Stanley Cup of Chowder blog — and unpredictably set the sports business world aflame by proposing an interesting question on Twitter last week.
More on that in a moment.
Leading what he would describe as an “interesting life,” Beswick spent six years in the military — including a deployment to Iraq — and worked briefly in politics. He also spent time on the Counter Drug Unit with the State’s National Guard, and finally got his business degree before embarking on a career in finance.
Now, Beswick finds himself in an incredibly unexpected role: successful sports journalist covering the hockey team he grew up rooting and cheering for.
“I like to call myself an accidental writer,” he said. “I stumbled into covering the Bruins after offering a critique of an article on the site I now write for.”
The site’s writer responded, asked for a rebuttal, and a career in sports journalism was born. Beswick, himself, still can’t believe it at times.
“Eighteen months ago, I didn’t have a Twitter, had never written an article or interviewed a player. Now, I’m building a relationship with my readers, I co-launched a podcast, just did my first major radio hit, and am generally just enjoying the journey.”
Now that he’s “made it” as a sports journalist (although he’d be the last to say it) he often finds himself being asked for advice on succeeding in the sports journalism industry.
“With no formal background, I never think of myself as being successful or influential enough to be asked that question,” Beswick stated. So he had the brilliant idea to “crowdsource” the question, turning to Twitter to ask his followers:
The response has been overwhelming, drawing hundreds of responses from those in the industry, including some pretty big names such as Scott Van Pelt and even best-selling author Stephen King.
Here are a few of our personal favorites — with a little bit of insight included.
…but if you're insane & insist like the rest of us, approach it like the players who play. Bust your ass, study your work & the work of others so you can improve, be coachable, and understand there's no such thing as loyalty. https://t.co/gqz7CWe4Zq
— John Karalis 🇬🇷 (@RedsArmy_John) July 4, 2018
Candid, refreshingly honest, yet ultimately encouraging. Others like Mike Payton and Jay Adams offered similar words of warning, reminding all out there that making it in the sports industry is certainly no easy task.
A great reminder from Veillette that it’s the passion and enthusiasm that will carry you through. Embrace the grind, be ready to work, and don’t expect sudden fame and riches.
Be willing to accept constructive criticism. https://t.co/1HK3AEbSRQ
— Ed Werder (@WerderEdESPN) July 5, 2018
Your editors are your teammate. They want to help. Trust them, but at the same time ask questions. Ask for explanations of changes, etc. It shouldn't be a contentious relationship.
— Gregg Henglein (@GreggHenglein) July 5, 2018
It's ok to fail because it WILL happen.
— Freddie Coleman (@ColemanESPN) July 5, 2018
Never assume you know it all, or that your way is better. Anybody willing to offer constructive criticism and feedback should be met with gratitude. That’s the only way to improve.
— Seth Davis (@SethDavisHoops) July 5, 2018
Read a lot of other writers to get a feel for the job but develop your own style and trust your instincts. If someone says something interesting, ask a follow up to see if the details are even MORE interesting. And something random you find interesting could become a great story https://t.co/FP7q5Robpi
— Bret Strelow (@bretstrelow) July 5, 2018
Late on this but have other interests, a lot of them. Sports can suck you in 24/7 if you let it. Being well-rounded will make you a better writer, producer, manager, etc + a more fascinating human. (No, watching The Bachelor doesn't count.) https://t.co/QoVjFKJzUI
— Melissa Jacobs (@thefootballgirl) July 6, 2018
Remember that there’s more to life than just sports; versatility is key. You never know when that interesting tidbit or piece of trivia will come in handy. That makes your perspective that much more valuable. Also worth noting, “GIGO” or “Garbage In, Garbage Out.” Read good writing if you want to be a good writer.
Talk to everyone who’s willing to have a conversation, even if (maybe especially if) it’s off the record. You never know when you’ll need those connections later while you’re working a story. https://t.co/d4StbGjvas
— Chris Burke (@ChrisBurkeNFL) July 4, 2018
Your ability to succeed in this business these days is directly correlated to how many times you put yourself in a position to be the only reporter in the room. Seek out stories that people care about and arrange to tell them exclusively.
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) July 5, 2018
Venture off the beaten path! Keep your eyes out for opportunities; sometimes even the most unexpected beginning can lead to great endings. Especially when you treat people well and thank them for helping you get there.
Love the journalism more than the sports. https://t.co/hSIFJlsziN
— Pat Forde (@ByPatForde) July 4, 2018
— Mo Mooncey (@TheHoopGenius) July 4, 2018
Don't become a reporter if your goal is to be famous and on TV. The work isn't about you. It is NEVER about you. It's about THEM. It's about truth, honesty and impact. No person is ever obligated to share his or her story with you. That is a privilege and you must earn it. https://t.co/8z3IcFnn4n
— JennaLaineESPN (@JennaLaineESPN) July 4, 2018
If only the rest of the sports business/journalism crowd were so noble. Here are two refreshing reminders about what you should really aspire to. And no, it’s not tweets, likes, and shares or some sort of viral sensation. It’s quality work that gets recognized and noticed.
Don’t just say something to say it. Mean it. Be you, not an imitation of anyone else. I hope you get as lucky as I did.
— Scott Van Pelt (@notthefakeSVP) July 5, 2018
The same advice you should give anyone about their future…be yourself and enjoy the ride because if you try to be who you're not, you'll be miserable. https://t.co/cb19shfYI4
— Jared Stillman (@JaredStillman) July 4, 2018
Find your niche. If you want to report on game play, you better be damn good. Write to write. Write when you don’t feel like it. Seek out smart people to make you better. Be patient. Be persistent. https://t.co/68deEXJHAT
— Maury Brown (@BizballMaury) July 4, 2018
A few sports business titans with great advice, not just for your career but life in general. Be real, be you, be authentic, and genuine. That’s the best way to really enjoy yourself and what you do.
My first paying job as a writer was the sports beat for a small town weekly. The pay was tiny, the experience was enormous. I learned more about writing in three weeks than I ever learned in school. https://t.co/vNXkOHQyXn
— Stephen King (@StephenKing) July 7, 2018
Always make the extra phone call/send the extra text or email. Many of the most impactful stories I've written were the result of that "extra" call made at the end of an exhausting day.
— Ian O'Connor (@Ian_OConnor) July 4, 2018
Two of our favorite writers with perhaps our favorite words of wisdom. Hustle harder, go the extra mile, and take pride in what you do.
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After reading this entire thread, one common theme is abundantly clear: teamwork — and, more importantly, being a team player — is the backbone of any successful career in the sports industry.
Let’s keep the conversation going. Comment below with your favorite pieces of advice for succeeding in this business!