Monday, January 8, 2018

Tips for Freelance Writers: Dos & Don't for Conducting a Sports Interview

Edie here. Today I'm excited to be able to introduce you to a man who's become a good friend. Del Duduit is an award-winning writer and a master of the sports interview. Besides the value you'll see in the post below, I recommend you follow him on social media and through his blog!

Dos & Don'ts for Conducting a Sports Interview
by Del Duduit @DelDuduit 

Over the past several months, I have conducted interviews for three projects currently in the works. Each one has required me to gain personal access to famous athletes. This has not been easy, but it has been fun.

I have talked one-on-one with some of the biggest names in the National Football League as well as Major League Baseball.

Doors have opened up for me, but not without some work and prayer. There is an art and skill needed to land the “big interview.” But beforehand, you have to find a way to talk to them in person. Consider establishing a relationship with your local newspaper or radio station. Offer to do some freelance reporting for them in exchange for a press credential.

Here is a list of dos and don’ts when you receive three to four minutes of time to spend with a famous person.

Look the part: Wear business casual attire if you plan to talk to a professional athlete or other famous person. I usually wear a sport coat and khaki-type slacks.

Do your homework: I always read articles about my subject ahead of time. I try to find a common ground and go from there. If this is not possible, know some history about your subject. EXAMPLE: When I once interviewed Boston Celtics Legend Larry Bird, I found out where he liked to play golf. The publisher I worked for had played that course a few times and had some comments I relayed to Larry. That broke the ice, and we had a nice conversation.

Ask for a few moments: When I enter a clubhouse before or after a game, I find the person in charge of the media and ask for directions.  They point me the right way, and I approach the player when a good time presents itself. I always ask for a few moments first. Most of the time they say yes, or they suggest a better time. Honor their requests. EXAMPLE: I approached Albert Pujols when he was in the middle of a video game prior to a baseball game in Cleveland. “Can I help you?” he said. I responded, “I’d like to talk to you when you get a moment.” He replied, “What about?” I countered and said I wanted to discuss his faith. “I’ll be done in a few minutes. That okay?” he said. I agreed and waited for him to finish. We had a productive 10-minute talk.

Address them in a professional manner: I always say Mr. or Mrs. They might tell you to call them by their first names, and that’s okay if they make the suggestion.

Have your questions ready: Have at least five or six questions prepared. If there is not enough time, get to the more important ones first. If the interview goes well and your time is extended, develop it into a conversation.

Respect their time: When players tell you they have to go, they mean it. Wrap up the interview with something like this: “I understand you have to get ready. I just have one more question….” See the previous suggestion.

Get them to open up: This can be accomplished with words like: “Tell me about a time when you (fill in the blank)” or “what do you remember about (fill in the blank)”, or even, “What impact did this have on your life and how?” These are great ways to extend the interview and get them to reveal a personal side.

Thank them: This is a must. These athletes are in high demand, and if you can get a few moments with them, be sure to tell them you appreciate that window of time. Hand them your business card. You might be surprised and get a response. That has happened to me. EXAMPLE 1: I interviewed Brian Dozier of the Minnesota Twins about his testimony and gave him my card. About two months later, I went back down to Cleveland to follow up. He remembered me and gave me his email.  That is always a good thing. EXAMPLE 2: I gave my card to Pittsburgh Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle after we talked. The next day I received a text from him, and he thanked me for the interview. We stay in touch now on a regular basis.

There are also some things you must NEVER, EVER do.

Never ever ask for an autograph: The same goes for a picture, unless it’s brought up by the famous person. This is the golden rule in the clubhouse of a professional ball team. If you do this, you will have your credentials revoked. The environment is for working media and not for fans. EXAMPLE: I spent some time with Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers. The interview went so well he said to me, “Let’s take a selfie.” It’s fine to snap a photo under this scenario.

Do not be star-struck: Never tell them you are a big fan. You are there to interview. Treat them like a normal person, because they are like you and me.

Never chit chat: This is their place of work. Get to the point because they have a job to do.

Do not violate the rules of the clubhouse: Most teams have a posted time you can enter the locker room and places where you are permitted to go. If there is a question, ask someone in charge.

Do not take over the conversation: They do not want to hear about you, or your experiences. Ask questions without commentary. Your time is limited and you want them to talk—not you.

Do not let the media push you around: They have a job to do, but you are there for a reason too. Hold your ground. EXAMPLE. I went up to DeAndre Hopkins of the Houston Texans and asked to speak to him about his testimony. He jumped at the chance because I had done my homework and knew he is a man of faith. As we talked, some national TV reporters shoved microphones and cameras in his face.  They began to interrupt me and ask questions about the game. He stopped them and told the reporters he was talking to me first and to wait. That was cool.

Remember you are in their environment and their office, so to speak.

If you are able to land an exclusive interview, different rules come into play.

Getting one-on-one interviews takes work, some phone calls and several emails. A few weeks prior to the visit, you need to find the person in charge of the media and contact them. If you are able to state your case and tell them why you want time, you might have a chance.

Over the past year, I have asked for three “exclusive” interviews, and been approved every time. When you make these requests, tell the person in charge you only want a “few minutes” and tell them the reason you need to talk to the athlete.  EXAMPLE: I know quarterbacks in the NFL are in high demand and are “off-limits” to most media unless you are affiliated with a big TV network. I crafted an email to the media director with a request to talk with Andy Dalton of the Cincinnati Bengals for an article. I kept it brief and told exactly what I wanted. Within a few days, I was approved and told when and where to be. I was there!

You can land the big fish, but you have to be patient and follow through to the end. If you do not hear back on a request, don’t give up. Do not be a pest, but assume your email was overlooked. There is a good chance it might have been. EXAMPLE: I wanted a notable person to endorse or write the forward to my book. I made contact with his office assistant several times over the course of about three weeks. I followed up each week and eventually talked with this person I wanted the endorsement from. He agreed to put his name on my book!! Don’t give up.

Once you have the fish on the line, don’t jerk it, but slowly reel them in and hold the interview. Then you will have a great story and won’t have to fall back on the fisherman’s tale about the one that got away.

Think big!


Del Duduit is an award-winning writer and author. He lives in Lucasville, Ohio and is represented by Cyle Young, of Hartline Literary Agency. You can follow his blog at and on Twitter @delduduit.


  1. Great article, Del. I learned a lot. I'm so excited to see what God is doing in and through you. I love the new picture too. I'll take your advice and think big in the areas I write.

    1. Thank you, Cherrilynn: So many doors are opening up -- just hope I can get through all of them -- LOL. Love you.

  2. Del, I loved the seasoned and practical advice in this article. Thank you. As someone who has interviewed over 150 bestselling authors, I see the experienced counsel in this article. Well-done.

    Straight Talk From The Editor, 18 Keys To A Rejection-Proof Submission

  3. Excellent article full of practical advice. Useful not just for procuring interviews with star athletes. Thanks, Del.