There are some pages in your yearbook that practically write themselves. Your sports pages are not those pages.
Because each new season brings a new story, you’ve got a ton of new stories to capture for your yearbook. Luckily, you can do that a little more easily (and a little better than before) with one change: use a survey.
A survey is a simple tool that will make your information collecting way easier. Send it to each team’s coach, have a “return by” deadline, and watch the information roll in. It’s so good, in fact, it’ll deliver all the basic information you need to produce the pages for your sports teams—and then some.
To get you started, we created a free survey template for you. But read on. We’ll walk you through how to use it and how it can help you make your sports pages the best your yearbook has ever seen.
What Your Survey Should Include
It’s best to start your survey with the basics, like the names, numbers, and correct spellings of all players and coaches; the schedule; and the key dates in the season.
This type of information isn’t “nice to have;” it’s the information you need to create a page for each of your sports teams. If that’s all you have time for, that’s okay. Everything else is gravy, as they say.
If you have more time and resources, though, go bigger.
Get the type of information only someone who is around the team every day would know. Ask about traditions, interesting storylines, and off-the-field lessons team members have learned. It’s this type of information that will get you the beginnings of a narrative.
When You Should Send Your Survey
The best time to send your survey depends on the type of sports pages you’ll be running in your yearbook. So, let’s break it down by type:
- Basic Yearbook Sports Page. When you’re running a basic sports page or spread, you don’t need to send your survey until after the season is over. In fact, it’s better that way. You can collect the information mentioned above along with the team’s results (scores, win-loss records, stat leaders) for inclusion.
- Magazine-Style Yearbook Sports Page. If your approach to the yearbook is inspired by great magazine journalism, you’ll want to send your survey before the start of the season. Collecting basic—and colorful—information that early will allow you to plan what games you’ll be going to, which players you’ll be interviewing, and how many resources you need to dedicate to the coverage.
How to Use Your Survey Results
The survey is the perfect planning tool.
If you’re planning to only use the information that comes back from the survey, you know exactly what you’ll be working with. You can create your page layouts, send out a photographer to a few key games, and wait to do the rest of the work until the survey is returned. In fact, that approach works even when you’re taking a more in-depth approach to the pages. The only thing that changes is assigning someone to cover the team for additional interviews and writing narrative copy.
(By the way: You should definitely compile all the key dates and coverage needs into your planning timeline and assign responsibilities. If there are any gaps in coverage, you’ll be able to spot these early on, and fix them.)
For those assigned to cover teams, though, the survey results are far more than just a planning tool. That person will learn a ton about the makeup of the team, the coach’s expectations for the season, and which players to keep an eye on. That’s great information. Use it when preparing for interviews.
Tracking Down the Coach
When you send out your survey, do it by email. It’s the easiest, most efficient way for someone to respond, and it lets you set yourself reminders to follow up. Also, let your coaches know why the survey is important, how you plan to use the information they provide, and how much their responding will help you give them awesome coverage in the yearbook.
Some coaches will fill out your survey immediately. Most others will wait until the deadline. And a few will forget to turn it back in. So, make sure you build some extra time into those deadlines.
Give all your coaches a few weeks’ notice about when their responses are due, and establish a relationship early with your school’s athletic director. That’s a good person to have on your side, if the information never shows up. (It usually does, though.)
When you get that filled-out survey, you’ll know you’re on your way to telling the right story for the right team. Use that information to guide your coverage, and you’ll be putting together seriously good sports pages for your yearbook.