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Feb 22 / Christopher Leone

A sportswriter’s true test: Getting out of your comfort zone

Christopher LeoneI don’t believe in turning down a good opportunity to write. You shouldn’t either.

That philosophy is part of the reason why, after my NASCAR writing career began at Bleacher Report in June 2008, I’ve ended up on many motorsports-centric websites, many of which I wrote for simultaneously. In a cluttered media landscape, there’s no substitute for exposure, and one of the best ways to make sure that people remember your name is to ensure it’s everywhere.

But the biggest reason behind that philosophy is this: The greatest test of your talent as a sportswriter is to take an assignment on a sport you don’t know well and turn out a respectable article.

When I was asked to write about soccer as a part of my Sportswriting Internship, I accepted, not knowing a lick about it. Sometimes it wasn’t bad. For example, projecting standings based on the possible outcomes of a given week’s games isn’t so bad. But trying to write about players I’d never heard of? Not so much.

That’s the point when your instincts need to take over. It can be done.

It’s about researching quickly, taking in as much information as you can and identifying vital storylines. Six or seven tabs open at a time is a given. Don’t be afraid to ask people you trust to point you in the right direction, and don’t let yourself get frustrated. That’ll only make the process more painful.

The truth is, any time you’re approached with an opportunity to write something for B/R, even if it’s not on your favorite sport, it’s a good opportunity. If you approach it with the right mindset, it’s a fantastic test of your talent and chance for self-assessment. The only way to learn something is by getting out of your comfort zone, and if a guy who writes about cars driving in circles switching to the Beautiful Game isn’t an example of that, I don’t know what is.

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Christopher Leone is an intern in the Winter Class and a NASCAR Featured Columnist. Follow him on Twitter @christopherlion 

One Thing You Need to Know is a series in which we ask our interns to write about just that: One thing they’ve learned in the B/R Sportswriting Internship that they would pass along to other aspiring writers.

  • Bill Pivetz

    Great outlook. I took part in the Sportswriting Internship and was asked to write about soccer as well. I knew some players, but not to the extent necessary to write a good, educated article. I loved your line about having six or seven tabs open at once because that’s exactly how I was. I loved the internship because it allowed me to break out of my comfort zone and expand my horizons.