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July 13, 2021

Helping Athletes Amplify Their Voice | The Magic Boost

The Magic Boost, a summer-long experience for 16 aspiring track & field storytellers representing all platforms of new media, is underway.

Over the course of eight sessions, the Magic Boost Class of `21 will be exposed to the wisdom and experience of numerous in-the-field experts to refine their skillset as the next generation of track and field storytelling.

For our second session, we were joined by Michelle Sammet, who has years of experience as a communications consultant and content creator with SPIKES and World Athletics. With so many calls for athletes to own their own stories in today’s ever-changing media landscape, Michelle joined us to share how writers, photographers, videographers and graphic designers can help amplify the voices of athletes through their work.

Some highlights from Michelle’s presentation:

  • Why do they need our help as storytellers?

    • Athletes are our biggest assets

    • Brands are investing more in “influencers” and away from athletes

    • Stats are not everything; people need stories

  • Question Posed: Why don’t athletes recognize what makes them stand out?

    • B/c it’s their day-to-day life. Their first year is full of excitement and newness and then they are like “that’s just the way it is.”

  • Many athletes are drilled to look ahead and they forget to look back. When working with an athlete, help them on their timeline to develop the narrative. This will show what will stand out and make it a unique story. Bad and good moments matter.

  • We went through a great exercise together, which can be found on page 5 of the PowerPoint in the drive. Encourage you to do it if you have not, but how can you look at future stories, encounters this way?

  • “More Than” Make sure your athletes see/know they are more than an illness, an athlete, a record, a time, a stat, etc. Reiterate that they are more than that one single element as it will pull you together.

  • Utilize Social as a research tool:

    • Verify social media claims

    • Confirm with the athlete you have their consent on the content

    • Don’t echo stories. Don’t be lazy, continue the story

  • Overall, you might need to play the patient game. The beauty of storytelling is to be patient, do the research and find where you can go deeper. Be the person to get the full story.

    • Think back to our first week of the Article-Info-Story Concept

  • Collaborate:

    • Listen when you are in a conversation and/or interview. What message does the athlete convey? Showcase them how they want to tell the story.

    • Don’t force your ideas on an athlete. Be careful with prewritten stories or you might have to rewrite them.

    • Harness each other’s strengths – visually, words, creative

    • Know where it will be going. Who is your audience? Is it only social? A specific outlet? A certain audience? Do stats matter? Do you need to educate a newbie track audience?

    • Share assets/stories with athletes so they can get the story on their channels. It also helps your relationship.

  • Athletes are not used to seeing their own worlds. It is quite surprising and empowering. Giving them a voice.

Elizabeth Hernandez ran Division II Cross Country and Track at Cal Poly Pomona, where she was also editor-in-chief of the campus newspaper. Now in graduate school at DePaul University, Elizabeth is a graduate assistant coach while she studies sports journalism. Here’s what she took away from the session:

“Like borrowing a book from the library, any story is precious and must be handled with care. When someone shares a story, a vault of emotions unlocks. Dreams and nightmares may intertwine during an anecdotal exchange. In sports writing, athletes’ stories may appear routine or familiar but each story is unique. 

Today, athletes can share their stories in seconds with their followers on social media. A writer must recognize the importance of stringing the pieces together and providing context beyond what the fans see.

“Once we started letting [the athletes] tell the stories in their own words or assisting them… they became a lot more powerful and people started to really buy into that,” Michelle Sammet said. “We don’t need another platform that talks about athletes; we need a platform that lets athletes speak for themselves.”

Sammet emphasized that people remember the stories over the numbers that come with an athletic performance. Stories of overcoming hardships or falling short of a goal are relatable. Fans could relate to an athlete’s story as opposed to their training regimen. Psychologically, people crave relatedness and by amplifying athletes’ voices the fans can build connections with them.

Tiara Williams is a former Division I heptathlete who started Real Talk to gain experience toward her career goal of becoming a sports broadcaster. Here are some takeaways from her.

  1.  As athletes, we don’t often recognize what makes us stand out and it’s because when we are in that position we are surrounded by teammates with common roles. It leads us to believe we can only stand out when it comes to performance, which is not true.
  2. When preparing for an interview it is important to ask pre-interview questions, to help learn the person and understand their story the way they want to tell it. Show the content you are creating so people can understand the purpose.
  3. Relationships with athletes can help you develop the full story.
  4. Don’t echo what someone else has already put out, find a way to continue the story.
  5. While studying or watching film, focus on the questions interviewers as to get a certain quote or response.

Stay tuned for more updates from The Magic Boost’s class of 2021.

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