Coaches and media among top sources for feature recommendations
I hear the question often: "How do you choose the athletes for the covers of your publications?"
Well, it's not a science, but a number of factors impact who participates from year-to-year - magazine theme, cover shoot location, the month of the shoot, etc. – but I'd like to provide some insight into the process of gathering recommendations for not just suggestions of cover candidates, but suggestions for other features and coverage as a whole.
First, a little background.
Kansas Pregame started as an annual regional football preview magazine almost 15 years ago and expanded to statewide coverage just three years after its initial launch in 2006.
The publication was the product of combining my personal understanding of publishing – I published two weekly newspapers for nearly 20 years – with my love of high school football - I played collegiately and coached at three different high schools over the course of 10 seasons.
Over the years additional publications were launched including a statewide wrestling preview – Kansas Mat Preview – and a regional basketball preview – Kansas Hardwood. Social media coverage followed along with a limited web presence.
Last spring I recognized a personal dream when a buyer approached me wanting to add my two newspapers to his other media holdings in Kansas. As a result of the sale of those publications, I've found time to expand into other high school sports coverage launching additional publications and a new website.
Ten years ago we decided to change the cover of our football publication from a variety of action shots to a group photo featuring some of the state's top players from across Kansas.
We continued this plan when launching our Winter and Spring publications over the course of the last 12 months.
So, what are a few of the factors considered when choosing cover candidates and featured athletes?
The first consideration is my own personal research. I study statistics, watch film, look at all-league teams, and I go to a lot of games in person to see athletes in action. When I'm at a game, I'm generally watching the underclassmen thinking ahead to who will be the best players in the seasons to come.
But ultimately, feature choices come down to recommendations from people I trust, with emphasis placed in the following order:
1. Coaches - As a former player and coach I have tremendous respect for coaches. In fact, much like teaching, I see it as more of a calling than a job. I believe extracurricular activities are a positive complement to classroom education in developing the complete student-athlete. Extracurricular activities had a huge impact on me as a young person and I recognize how much it means to so many young student-athletes and parents across the state.
While character and academic performance aren't specifically a consideration when identifying the state's top athletes, I know they will be a consideration for coaches when making recommendations, and I think that's important as well.
2. Journalists - I've spent 20 years as a journalist and accuracy is very important to me. Virtually as important as a coach's recommendation are recommendations from my peers in the media. Over the last two decades I've developed relationships with some of the best sportswriters and broadcasters in the state and their dedication to covering the high school teams of Kansas makes them the foremost experts on the best players and teams in the state.
3. Teammates, fans and even parents - Over the years we've received dozens of feature recommendations from teammates, fans and yes, even parents. Yes, parents are inherently biased, but parents – and teammates and die-hard fans – also often have access to good film, detailed stats and even comments from opposing players and coaches. A courteous recommendation from a local advocate is appreciated, especially in situations where a busy coach may not have time to respond.
What's not considered when making feature selections?
Sponsorship - Our publications are distributed free through advertisers. Businesses, local booster clubs and civic organizations are just a few of the potential sponsors welcome to advertise with specific teams and features, but sponsorship is NEVER a consideration when choosing feature candidates.
Now, considering it's time to get to work on our second annual Winter Edition featuring basketball and wrestling who are the top high school boys and girls athletes in those sports in Kansas?
Feel free to email recommendations to firstname.lastname@example.org, message us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram or text or call at (785) 524-6019. And, we're always lookin for additional sponsors. If you'd like to feature your business or organization in our publications or on our website be sure to contact us for rates.