Page last updated at 12:15 GMT, Wednesday, 19 October 2011 13:15 UK

Getting sportspeople involved in School Report

Sir Chris Hoy talks to a School Reporter
Athletes like cycling legend Sir Chris Hoy have been involved in School Report

With the countdown to London 2012 gathering pace, many School Reporters will be interested in interviewing sportspeople who will be involved in the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

There is no real set 'official' route to follow when it comes to tracking down an athlete or sportsperson. You will probably have to try different approaches, just as professional journalists do in real-life.

It may well take a bit of research, a lot of perseverance - and a spot of luck never goes amiss either!

And try to remember a couple of things:

  • it's not just about big names - don't overlook the exciting up-and-coming athlete in your local area
  • there's much more to London 2012 than athletics - there are 26 sports in the Olympics and 20 in the Paralympics, so there's plenty of other avenues

Here are some tips and suggestions about how to get hold of athletes in the run-up to London 2012 and beyond.


Unless you are exceptionally lucky, you are not going to get a sportsman phoning up to say they are available for an interview in your school any time you want.

BBC Sport researcher Zak Oomer is an expert in chasing athletes for interviews. Here's his advice:
Try to ensure you are very clear about why you want that athlete and what you are hoping from them in the interview
Learn some background information on the intended target, especially their successes
Highlight what they will bring to the interview in terms of insight
Make sure that you are contacting the right agent/representative
The biggest problem is usually time and schedules. With current athletes that is always the case. With former ones you have more scope as their schedules tend to be less busy, but if they are high-profile, they could be even more busy...!

It's going to be down to the School Report team to track down the athlete; in journalism, we often call this "chasing".

So where should you start?

Many professional athletes have agents to look after their financial and media arrangements, so these are the perfect people to help set up interviews with your target.

So now try to track down the agent for your interviewee. You can go about this in a number of ways:

  • it might be as simple as a Google search: type in "the name of athlete" + agent and see what comes up. If it looks like you've found one, then start tracking down their company website for contact details
  • UK Athletics has a list of the agents for some athletes and Paralympic athletes although this is not comprehensive
  • ask around in your local area to see if anybody knows who your athlete's agent is. It's low-tech, but you never know what it might produce!

You could also try governing bodies for the relevant sport. Virtually every sport will have a press office to help with enquiries - look for a 'contact us' or 'media' section.


Of course you don't always have to go through an agent. If you have a direct route, try that first.

Paralympic swimmer Ellie Simmonds
Paralympic swimmer Ellie Simmonds with School Reporters

Perhaps you have a personal connection to the athlete, whether they are a relative or a friend (or even a friend of a friend!), or perhaps they used to go to your school or someone you know trains at the same hockey club, swimming pool or boxing gym as them.

And why not pick the brains of the PE department at school?

Don't be shy about using your personal contacts to get an interview - it's good journalism!

And if they live and train in the local area, keep your eyes and ears open. You might bump into them in the supermarket so be ready or perhaps they are booked in for a local event already!


Before you start chasing your target, take some time to think what it is you want to talk to them about.

Work with your School Report team to write a brief proposal: this could be something you then send by email, or it could just be to clarify your thoughts before you phone your target.

Key points to include:

  • When and where you want to do it (but be prepared to be flexible)
  • Why you want to speak to that particular person
  • Whether you plan to film or record the interview, or take photos
  • How the final version is likely to appear (eg online report, radio, video)
  • And it is also probably worth explaining what School Report is - they may know nothing about it!

Even at this stage, it's worth having some questions ready. The agent could answer and say "OK, he's in the office with me now - shall we do it straightaway?"


Try to find out about your athlete's plans and commitments during your pre-interview research.

There's not much trying to set up an interview if your athlete is away on a warm weather training camp or competing on the other side of the world so try to find out things like this in advance if you can.


Diss High School students
Pre-arrange the interview time - and make sure you stick to it!
Provide the interviewee with topics to be covered in advance
Try to use a phone with a 'speaker' function if you can
Tell the interviewee that they are on speakerphone and introduce yourselves
Take it in turn to ask questions and note answers
Write up the results as a group

Professional athletes are busy people, with full-time training regimes, travel to competitions and races and sponsorship and media commitments to juggle - not to mention a family and social life!

So it's likely that you might need to fit in around their schedule, rather than the other way around.

While it might be great to have the athlete come to your school, you might have to be prepared to travel to their training camp or a convenient location to conduct the interview.

Another option worth considering is a phone interview, especially if you have the means to record the sound. There are some tips for phone interviews in the box on the right.

And as a last resort, you could try emailing your questions and getting your interviewee to reply by email.

The problem with this is that you can't ask extra or 'follow-up' questions, but it's certainly better than nothing.

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