Cover All Sports — With Thought

Winning or losing season, varsity or JV, mens or womens, all sports teams should be covered by the school media. The Washington Post provides models for writers, editors and photographers and the Society of Professional Journalists guides with a code of ethics.
Download Classroom Worksheets (PDF) 

Sports reporters and columnists capture the challenge and rivalry, the business and promotion, the ethics and sportsmanship of teams and individuals. They cover all teams, through the seasons, during the “building years” and the victories and championships. They face illnesses, tragic accidents and share the courage of athletes as they overcome obstacles. They observe, interview, record and analyze the statistics — and write on deadline.


The Washington Post’s SPORTS section provides a wide array of writers and photographers, statistics and scoreboards. Teachers of English, mathematics, social studies, visual arts and physical education will find many articles and layouts to stimulate discussion, serve as models and illustrate principles.


Whether searching the archives to read Shirley PovichGeorge Solomon or Michael Wilbon or turning to today’s D section pages, teachers can set students free to explore. They will encounter jargon and vernacular, numbers and scoreboards, the unfamiliar world of contracts and options, and local high school teams and athletes.


Post sports reporters and columnists include Cindy, Les, Adam, Jay, Mark and Emily. They are Jerry, Candace, Rick, Chuck, Samantha, Matt, Neil, Scott and Ava. And more. They write from the field or court, blog and tweet. They report the news and analyze the data. Add to this the gifted photojournalists who capture action, poses and emotions.


Post columnist Sally Jenkins is considered one of the finest sports journalists. Her father Dan Jenkins, a sportswriter and author of Semi-Tough, covered college football and golf with humor and biting observations. This father-daughter sports journalists demonstrate differences in style, agility with words and knowledge of sports.


This curriculum guide shares news and opinion examples of The Post’s coverage of championships won by the Capitals, Mystics and Nationals. Activities ask students to take closer looks at dominant photographs and captions and subheads as well as ledes. Students have two Think Like a Reporter activities and two KidsPost articles on lessons to be learned in sports. Our goal: to encourage students to read and to write about sports — with thought.


November 2019

Sports Media and Other Aids
Resource Graphic 

Introduce Sports Coverage
Journalism, Media Arts, Physical Education, Reading

Unlike most other sections of the paper, SPORTS is seasonal. Teachers might begin by writing the names of the twelve months across the board and work with students to chart the months spanned by each sport — baseball, field hockey, football, basketball, golf. These may be limited to those in your school’s athletics program, or include collegiate and professional sports. Give students "Sports Identity" to guide their review of The Post's SPORTS section.

• What sports are currently “in season?”

• Do any sports occur all year long? 


Next, make a list of the reporters and columnists in SPORTS. After each name indicate the team(s) they cover, whether local, collegiate or professional. What do students discover about beats?

• Do any reporters or columnists cover only one sport?

• How might sports be covered beyond the dates of the “official” season?


The next step in this activity is to review their school's student media. What do students know about their newspaper, online news, yearbook and broadcast program coverage of sports? Use part two of "Sports Identity" to guide this discovery and evaluation step.


Classify Sports
English, Journalism, Media Arts, Physical Education, Reading

Sports could be classified as “spectator sports” and “participant sports.” Discuss what these terms mean.

• Which sports are considered “spectator sports?”

• Which are largely played without observers, more “participant sports”?

• Which sports have become more like “spectator sports” because they are broadcast?

• Which school spectator sports are so poorly attended by your students that they are “participant sports”?

• What might the athletes do to increase attendance? What might student media do to encourage attendance? Do these sports events require admission fees?


Learn Some Sports History
Ethics, U.S. History, Physical Education

Fred Bowen writes about sports every Thursday for KidsPost. Read his “In World Series history, great moments and great players stand out.”

Discussion questions might include:

• Why would players strike?

• How might the strike influence a World Series?

• Who have been some of the great baseball players of the past?

• Who are current stand out players in baseball?

• What other sports have had great players? What were their qualities?


Consider Sports Photography and Captions
Art, Journalism, Media Studies, Photography, Physical Education, Visual Arts

An earlier Post curriculum guide, Sports — In Word and Image, contains an excellent tutorial by Staff Photographer Jonathan Newton, “Out the Door Every Day: Sports Photography at The Washington Post.


In our current guide, we focus on the use of a strong, dominant photograph (portrait or candid), informative caption and subhead serving as a caption. Give students “The Story in Photographs and Captions.” The first page of this activity gives examples of smaller-size photographs and captions in a rail or sidebar that provide brief but pertinent information and photographs to illustrate considerations to get better photographs. The following articles demonstrate how a dominant photograph — portrait, posed or candid — combined with a brief, catching headline and informative subhead do not need a caption. The image and layout work together with well-chosen words to communicate to readers.

• “A Sport of Their Own” represents OPPORTUNITY, part of a Post series. In this series, Change Agents, “female athletes speak out, demand a more level playing field with their male counterparts even as they continue to train and excel in their sports.”

 “The U.S. women's soccer team files suit for equal pay and working conditions” represents EQUITY in the series. 

• “She had her leg amputated and 14 rounds of chemo by age 3. Now she plays varsity basketball." Compare the layout of the print edition with the online format. Which has the most impact when first seen?

• “Through the Flames: Almost a year ago, fire ravaged an equine center near San Diego, killing 46 horses. A filly and trainer are helping each other heal.


Teachers may also wish to share the In Sight visual narrative by Kenneth Dickerman and Matt McClain, “A Post photographer steps back in time to rekindle his love of sports.” As you view the photographs, discuss the angle, action, foreground and background, whether candid or poised, action or reflection.


A photographer’s visual perspective on wrestling is found in “A photographer’s childhood love for wrestling is realized with ‘Ring of Honor.’” Check out the photographs that could be taken at your high school matches. Where was the photographer?


With Thought, Plan Headline and Photograph Unity
Art, English, Journalism, Physical Education, Visual Arts 

Writing a short headline that conveys the essence of the activity, that works with the dominant photograph and that can be interpreted on more than level can be very challenging, but very satisfying. Give students "Down to Earth Unity." Examples from Washington Post SPORTS section front page coverage of the 2019 World Series illustrate this skill. The second page provides a front page for students to annotate.

Sports Lingo, Glossaries
Resource Graphic 

Write a Sports Story

English, Physical Education

Basics of writing a sports article are found in a previous NIE curriculum guide. Check out “Write a Sports Story” in INSIDE JOURNALISM: Shirley, One of the Best. While in this curriculum guide also review “Meet the Editor — Cindy Boren,” “Sportswriting by the Numbers” and “Classic Sport Stories in the 20th Century.”


In Sports — In Word and Image provides a handout with a variety of approaches to sports article ledes.   After reviewing these examples, teachers might ask students to find new examples of each type of lede or write their own about your school’s teams.


Give students “Loss, Caps and Options.” The examples of sports ledes in this activity include a first-year coach and a losing season, the business and contract sides of professional sports, and the impact of illness on a team and the athlete. Annotation of these ledes includes questions for students.



Is it Slang, Jargon or Essential Vocabulary?
English, Journalism, Media Arts, Physical Education, Reading

“Vernacular” is the language or dialect native to a region. It is also the language and expressions of a group. There is a vernacular of the tennis group, the soccer group and a vernacular that is native to other sports. 


“Jargon” is confused and unintelligible language. It can be very technical and sophisticated, but cannot be easily understood by the outsider. For example, computer experts are said to speak a jargon, but to each other, the words are clear expressions. So what is common, or vernacular, to the golfer, can be jargon to one who doesn’t know a tee from a putter. 


Explain these distinctions to students. Then find examples of the use of vernacular and jargon in sports coverage. Are sports stories written for fans and people who have played the sport? Do sports page readers expect a certain amount of jargon to be used? 


Go Beyond the Sports Section
Physical Education, U.S. History

Consider possible topics beyond game articles and team profiles. A stadium or high school field, parents and coaches, equipment and memorabilia, and racial and economic divisions can all be part of the story. Before giving students “Think Like a Reporter | Beyond the Sports Pages,” teachers may wish to read John Kelly’s column “For black baseball fans, Griffith Stadium offered a ‘separate but equal’ experience” [Print headline: “Let’s not forget Washington baseball’s segregated past”] This Metro section article provides D.C. history through a sports and baseball lens.


Other John Kelly’s Washington columns that relate to the World Series offer ideas for going beyond usual sports stories. If time allows, have students read and discuss how his focus might apply to your school.:

• “A 1924 pendant is a golden link to Washington’s last World-Series winning team

• “In October 1924, all Washington could think about was its first-ever World Series


An A or News section article by David Nakamura supplies a local history angle:

To host a World Series again, it took a team of the evicted


And this article by Michelle Boorstein, The Post’s religion reporter, takes readers behind the scenes to others that support a team:

“‘Bless these bats’”

Read About Sports

Think Like a Reporter — Ethics and Heart
Character Education, Journalism, Media Arts, Physical Education

This activity applies four principles of best practices found in the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics. Give students “Think Like a Reporter | Use Heightened Sensitivity.”


“Reporters of racial taunts against Arizona high school volleyball team under review” is reproduced in one of two resource guides to read and apply the principles.


For younger students, teachers may wish to use Fred Bowen's KidsPost article, "The champion Nats learned this lesson by heart: Never give up." 


 Do the Math
Journalism, Mathematics, Physical Education

Teachers may ask students to brainstorm ways that mathematics is part of sports.

Examples will include scores, points won per goal, number of wins/losses, batting average, individual points per game, weights, lengths, distances, averages, heights, speeds, stadium attendance, jersey numbers, “purses” or winnings, number of players on a team, team and individual standings, minutes per quarter, half and number of innings.


After student ideas are exhausted, the SPORTS section can be checked for examples and additional math applications. This could be done as an e-Replica activity with pairs or small groups of students given different days to compile their examples. Teachers could repeat this activity in different seasons or give students dates to explore that are in different sport seasons.

Contracts, Salary Caps and Tickets
Business, Economics, Mathematics

From the first set of sports cards to Big Four and Young Guns, collectible cards intrigue collectors. Will young fans be so lucky to have a cap, card or shirt signed by a player — any player, but especially one who goes on to be a Hall of Fame inductee? And can parents persuade that child to keep it in mint condition for future profit?


Ask students to think about the business side of sports

Select one of the following to read about in the media and to research in one specific case. What are the benefits (potential profits) and downsides (loss, injuries, taxes) 


After completing the research write an explanatory essay with one illustration or informational graphic to visually present the information.

• Team merchandise (caps, T-shirts, hoodies, jerseys)

• Collectible trading cards

• Season block ticket ownership (by individuals, by businesses)

• Player and team salary caps

• Team ownership

Non-athlete careers in sports

• Equipment and training manufacture, technology use, team uniforms

• California’s Fair Pay to Play Act

• Sports medicine (trainers, therapy, techs)

• Contracts and agents

• Personal and financial advisers


Teachers may share one or both articles from a previous Post curriculum guide, 2018 Winter Olympic Games that deal with how athletes support their quests for Olympic gold and to what extent countries may profit from hosting Olympic games.


Read Sports Books
English, Physical Education, Reading, Social Studies

If you have reluctant readers in your classrooms, teachers may consider having a bookcase with enticing titles — to be read or browsed when other work is completed. Who knows, maybe one of the titles and first chapters will encourage reading the entire book. In the sidebar, teachers will find some classics of the sports genre. These can be appealing. For younger readers works by Matt Christopher, Mike Lupica (Travel Team, Heat), Gary Soto (Baseball in April), Jake Maddox (Digging Deep) and Alex Morgan (The Kicks series) are good starters. Don't forget books by Fred Bowen who writes a weekly sports column for KidsPost.


Post NIE Guide Editor | Carol Lange
Post NIE Guide Art Editor | Carol Porter


Resource Graphic 
In The Know 

 Defense In many team sports, defense is the action of preventing an opponent from scoring. The term may also refer to the tactics involved in defense, or a sub-team whose primary responsibility is defense. Similarly, a defense player is a player who is generally charged with preventing the other team's forwards from being able to bear down directly on their own team's goalkeeper

Status student-athletes must maintain in order to play Division I and II sports, according to NCAA standards. High school students must register with the NCAA Eligibility Center and meet certain academic requirements regarding core courses, GPA, and standardized test scores in order to compete at D-I and D-II schools. D-III schools maintain their own admission standards and do not require registration.

Free agent Professional athlete who is not under contract and is free to auction off his or her services and sign a contract with the team that offers the most money 
Homefield advantage

The advantage a team enjoys from being on its usual playing field


Jargon Special words or expressions that are used by a particular profession or group and are difficult for others to understand 
Offense  Also known as attack, is the action of attacking or engaging an opposing team with the objective of scoring points or goals. 
Recruitment Process by which a college or university woos a student-athlete by letter, phone, invitation to campus, and/or personal visit
Referee Official who watches a game or match closely to ensure that the rules are adhered to and (in some sports) to arbitrate on matters arising from the play
Salary cap  Upper limit placed on a salary paid to employees set and enforced by the government or another organization; ceiling implemented on spending in a professional sports league — there can be a maximum spending ceiling for a player, a maximum spending ceiling for an entire team or sometimes both. A “hard salary cap” means that teams can not spend over a certain amount of money per year or they will face consequences (financial or draft picks).
Scoreboard Either a large board on which the score in a game or match is displayed or collection of game/match results in a publication 
Slang Type of language that consists of words and phrases that are regarded as very informal, are more common in speech than writing, and are typically restricted to a particular context or group of people
Spectator sport

An athletic event that many people find entertaining to watch; something that people watch other people do without becoming involved themselves.

As opposed to “participant sports” that are more recreational. Some like golf and tennis are both.


Spectator sports require venues or stadiums in which fans may observe a game or event. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway hosts a 400,000 single day attendance for the Indy 500. Broadcasting of sports events has increased the audience and enhanced the “viewing” potential.

Spring training “Most reporters look forward to it their first season and then after that ... not so much. It started when the season was shorter and as the season grew, it seemed to sort of stay the same. I think it's too long; the players should be able to show up in shape. But in the old days, guys would show up in awful shape, so they'd put them in rubber suits and make them run off the winter fat. A lot of guys worked jobs in the offseason because they had to, so they weren't in game shape. You get the idea. There once was a reason for it. I think these guys ought to show up in game shape. They also ought to have their visas well in order and have all surgeries taken care of during the offseason. Never happens.”

— Tracee Hamilton, TWP, March 15, 2012, Q&A

Statistic Fact or piece of data from a study of a large quantity of numerical data; summary of data
Title IX 1972 law requiring institutions that receive federal aid to treat men and women equitably regarding number of scholarships, teams, and resources offered 

Sources:, The Washington Post, online dictionaries and glossaries

ANSWERS. Down to Earth Unity

1. A. practical, unpretentious, modest; B. help someone face reality, to help someone who is euphoric become more realistic. 2. A. First base and third bases, his hits have saved games, and he has stayed with the team all his career;   B. He was at bat. He is a key player for the team.  3. A. The Houston Astros won 4-1 and the Nationals missed several opportunities to win, going “0-for-10 with runners in scoring position.” B. From the euphoria of winning the first two of seven games away from home, they had to face the reality that they could lose the game and the championship.

District of Columbia Public Schools Academic Content Standards 

The District of Columbia has adopted the Common Core State Standards in reading and mathematics. In addition, DCPS has adopted new learning standards in arts, health and physical education, science, social studies, technology and world languages.


Physical Education. Exhibits responsible personal and social behavior that respects self and others. (Standard 4)

Accepts differences among classmates in physical development, maturation and varying skill levels by providing encouragement and positive feedback. (S4.M3)


Physical Education. Recognizes the value of physical activity for health, enjoyment, challenge, self-expression and/or social interaction. (Standard 5)


Explains the relationship between self-expression and lifelong enjoyment through physical activity. (S5. M4 Self-expression and enjoyment)


Academic Content Standards may be found at

Maryland Academic Content Standards 

English. Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships and nuances in word meanings. CCR Anchor Standard 5


Physical Education. Exhibits proper etiquette, respect for others and teamwork while engaging in physical activity and/or social dance. S4.L1.B1


Physical Education. Examines moral and ethical conduct in specific competitive situations. Sr.L2.B1


The Maryland Voluntary State Curriculum Content Standards can be found online at

Virginia Academic Content Standards 

Mathematics. Students will build upon prior knowledge to relate concepts and procedures from different topics within mathematics and see mathematics as an integrated field of study. Through the practical application of content and process skills, students will make connections among different areas of mathematics and between mathematics and other disciplines, and to real-world contexts. Science and mathematics teachers and curriculum writers are encouraged to develop mathematics and science curricula that support, apply, and reinforce each other. (Mathematical Connections)


Physical Education. The student will demonstrate appropriate behaviors in all physical activity settings and the social skills needed to be a contributing member of society.

a. Explain the importance of and demonstrate communication skills in the physical activity setting.

h. Explain the importance of conflict resolution for current and future health and fitness. (10.4 Social Development)


Academic Content Standards may be found at

Common Core Standards 

In high school, students encounter a wider variety of units in modeling, e.g. acceleration, currency conversions, derived quantities such as person-hours and heating degree days, social science rates such as per-capita income, and rates in everyday life such as points scored per game or batting averages. 


They also encounter novel situations in which they themselves must conceive the attributes of interest. For example, to find a good measure of overall highway safety, they might propose measures such as fatalities per year, fatalities per year per driver, or fatalities per vehicle-mile traveled. Such a conceptual process might be called quantification. 


Reason quantitatively and use units to solve problems. Use units as a way to understand problems and to guide the solution of multi-step problems; choose and interpret units consistently in formulas; choose and interpret the scale and the origin in graphs and data displays. (CCSS Math Content.HSN.QA1)


Common Core standards may be found at