June 13, 2012
Interview Techniques For Quinnipiac Student Athletes
Quinnipiac University’s intercollegiate athletic teams
generate a high level of public interest and media coverage.
The Department of Athletics and Recreation is aware that its image
affects the reputation of the entire University and urges you to
always be cooperative, yet exercise care when making statements to
the media. The department has an open policy of allowing any
student-athlete to express him or herself to the media. Therefore,
it is expected that you repay this trust by using good judgment in
the statements you make. In general, when speaking to the
media be confident, courteous, and prompt. Do not hesitate to
say, “I’d rather not discuss a topic,” and avoid
discussing any complaints or criticisms you have to the media.
The main way you will deal with the media is through interviews.
Most interview topics are about your team and you. Interviews
should be looked at as part of the educational experience offered
at Quinnipiac, helping you develop communication skills that can
assist you not only in the classroom but in future professional and
Interviews can be a very valuable part of a
student-athlete’s life at Quinnipiac. They can serve as
a great learning and growing experience for you. As a freshman, you
may be nervous about speaking to media representatives. However, by
the time you graduate, you will have become relaxed, confident, and
articulate. This growth and personal confidence can be carried with
you throughout your life. The more interviews you do, the
better you will become at handling them and the more fun they will
We encourage you to make yourself available to the media,
especially because student athletes have been tremendous
representatives of Quinnipiac University. We ask the media to
direct all interview requests through the sports information
office. You should never agree to any interview unless the
arrangements are coordinated through the Quinnipiac Sports
Information Office. Never give your phone number out to the
media. These rules were established in an effort to reduce
disruptions to your schedule and also to avoid having someone
contact you who may attempt to gain information for other purposes
outside of media information. If you receive an interview
request, ask the media representative to make arrangements through
the Quinnipiac Sports Information Office. We will contact
you and work around your athletic, academic and social schedules.
You’ll be asked to come to the sports information office, or
meet prior to or following a practice at an appropriate location,
at an agreed-upon time to be interviewed in person or to conduct a
phone interview. In addition, following the conclusion of
games, coaches and athletes are expected to make themselves
available for interviews within a reasonable period of time
(generally after a 10-minute "cooling off" period). These post-game
interviews occur in various forms: a press conference in
front of a group of media, a one-on-one interview with a reporter,
or a live interview on radio or TV.
View the media as friends, not adversaries. Organize your
thoughts before a scheduled interview. Often a comment that
seems innocent looks different when reported in the media.
On rare occasions, the general tone of the interview may be such
that you may not be comfortable continuing the interview.
Should this occur, excuse yourself, then notify the Media Relations
Office. The longer you are on a team, the more likely it becomes
that you will develop a personal relationship with some of the
media representatives regularly covering your team. While we
encourage these relationships, remember that regardless of what is
said, a reporter’s first obligation is to report the news.
Do not say it if you do not want to see it in print or hear
it on radio or TV. You have many more opportunities to
deal with the media than other students at the University.
Because media interviews may be a new area of responsibility for
many student-athletes, the following tips may help you to know your
rights and responsibilities when dealing with the media:
- Pause before speaking. While it is never wise to keep the
media waiting for any extended period of time, an athlete has a
right to pause before speaking. Practice saying,
“I’d like to think for a moment before answering your
- Do not feel obligated to answer every question. Not every
question can or should be answered. Often, for whatever reason, an
athlete has no answer to a question. Practice saying,
“For some reason, I can’t come up with an answer to
your question.” In the face of loaded and unclear questions
that fail to provide fair options, the athlete has a right not to
answer. Practice saying, “I don’t know” or
“I don’t think I can answer your question” or
“I don’t understand what you are asking.”
After telling a reporter that a question cannot be answered,
nothing else needs to be said.
- Be prepared to provide an opening statement. An athlete
has the right to begin every question-and-answer session with an
opening comment. This allows for the introduction of
important ideas, feelings and perceptions that the athlete wants
understood. Information of this type sets the tone for the
interview. It sets the agenda and previews subjects the media
might want to probe. Practice saying, “Before I answer
any questions, I would like to say...”
- Call reporters by name. It is a matter of common courtesy
to refer to a reporter by his or her name. Such a practice
personalizes comments by emphasizing that a relationship exists
between the athlete and the reporter. Such a practice is a
right, not a responsibility. Many athletes may not know names
or feel comfortable in this role.
- Show appropriate emotions for the circumstances. After a
difficult game or practice, an athlete has a right not to smile and
appear happy. No athlete is expected to enjoy talking about a
loss, a disappointing performance, or not playing. Learning is not
always a happy task. At the same time, frowns, sarcasm, and
mean looks never add anything positive to an answer.
- Select and employ your own words. Just because a reporter
selects certain words does not mean those same words have to be
repeated in an answer. An athlete is never obligated to
answer a question using someone else’s words. Athletes
have a right to select their own words to explain thoughts and
feelings. Unclear, offensive words and negative language
should never be repeated or included as part of an answer.
- Defer certain questions to other people. In media
interviews, an athlete should never speak for someone else. Certain
questions are best answered by other people. In this type of
situation, an athlete has a right not to comment on things outside
personal experience, knowledge, and expertise. Defer all
third-party questions to other people. Practice saying,
“Maybe you should ask Jimmy that question” or “I
wasn’t on the field when that happened; you need to ask
someone who was” or “You’ll have to ask
- Speak slowly and be yourself. Many questions can be
answered quickly. Still, an athlete has a right to answer
questions slowly. At the same time, simple words should be
selected for usage. These words should be familiar to both
athlete and reporter. In addition to translating common-sense
principles into clear messages, the athlete is expected to think
and communicate along certain lines.
- Never “bad mouth” an opponent or the
referees. Nothing is to be gained from saying bad things
about an opponent. The public does not like “trash
talk.” Most people admire a student-athlete who shows
respect for his or her opponent and focuses on his or her
team’s performance rather than dwelling negatively on the
opponent. Also, any negative comments about officiating will be
interpreted by the public as excuses.
- Avoid saying “you know” during an interview.
This is perceived by the public as an indication of stupidity. You
are not stupid. You are a bright student-athlete. Do
not let perceptions cloud reality.
- Be cooperative. Reporters need your comments for
stories. If you make yourself available to answer their
questions, they will appreciate it because it makes them look more
- Do not be defensive. Attitude is everything. Stay
calm; remain in control in all situations.
- Think before you answer. Reporters are often in a hurry
because of deadline pressures. Do not feel rushed or goaded
into giving quick answers. Speak clearly with the proper
rhythm. Avoid clichés.
- Listen to the question carefully. Make sure you
understand the question before you answer. If you do not
understand, ask for clarification or have the interviewer repeat
the entire question.
- Personal appearance counts. Maintain good eye contact
with the reporter and do not worry about the camera. Keep
your voice strong and animated. Also, dress
- Say “Thanks.” Your final actions in the
interview may leave the strongest impression with the
reporter. Make every encounter a memorable one
– chances are you will receive more favorable stories in the
- Act ethically. Never lie to a reporter. It is
unethical for an athlete to be untruthful with members of the
media. An athlete should always answer questions
honestly. Beyond this, the athlete is under no obligation to
volunteer additional information.
- Provide short answers. Short and simple answers are the
best. They are easy to quote. Answers with a central
theme that is clear can prevent an athlete from rambling for
minutes. When answers drag on, the likelihood increases of
being misquoted, words or phrases taken out of context or saying
something that was not intended for the media. Adhere to the
25-second rule in media interviews. Effective interviewees
answer in sixty words or less. They employ language that is clear,
direct, and constructive, all set to a deadline. Their
answers reflect a singular viewpoint and maintain consistent
reasoning while avoiding contradictory information.
- Say what you mean at the beginning of an answer. Audiences
normally remember the first thing said, not the last. Deductive
patterns of arrangement are mandated during media interviews.
They are the signature of an effective communicator. Here, key
ideas are placed at the beginning of each answer where they appear
isolated. Details are presented only when there is need,
interest, and time. It is wise to speak to a set number of points.
Normally, no more than three points should be stressed during any
answer. It is important to remember that straightforward
questions deserve straight-to-the-point answers.
- Avoid jargon. Effective communicators speak English and
not sports-specific terms. Whenever possible, stay
conversational. Avoid highly specialized language few people
living outside the white lines understand. If jargon is used, be
willing to explain it.
- Practice modesty in victory and self-control in defeat.
In victory and defeat, the good communicator controls emotions and
- Never speak “off the record.” This type of
statement can be interpreted as an open admission that the athlete
is not always open and honest with people. Athletes who
attempt to speak in private tones appear to be dishonest and
manipulative. Besides, there are no such things as
“off-the-record” comments. Sooner or later,
restricted information will be reported by the media and become a
matter of public record.
- Never say, “No comment.” No comment is a poor
answer. This type of statement can create suspicion and
mistrust in the minds of the audience. If an athlete has
nothing to say, no answer should be forthcoming. Simply say,
“I’d rather discuss something else.” If the
reporter persists, politely end the interview.
- Never joke with a reporter. While questions may appear
funny, answers should always be serious. The tendency to joke or
match wits with a reporter is an open invitation to trouble.
An athlete never knows how an answer will appear in print or sound
on the evening news.
- Keep your cool. Athletes should never feel intimidated by
cameras, bright lights, tape recorders or microphones being pushed
into their faces, being interrupted, differences in opinions,
offensive language, stupid or accusatorial questions, statements of
so-called facts, or reporters leaving in the middle of an answer.
They should “keep their cool” when pressure
mounts. On a different subject, question-and-answer sessions
are not the time to get angry, argue, attack the officials,
question a coach, or joke and display humor.
- Act professional at all times. Whenever possible,
concentrate on being the “good guy” who is above
pettiness and unprofessional behavior. Such a pose builds integrity
and enhances credibility in the eyes of the audience. Most
audiences are sophisticated enough to recognize rudeness in any
- Never embarrass a reporter or ridicule a question. If a
question is poorly worded or has been asked before, an athlete
should be patient. Practice understanding. Attempt to
understand why the question is being asked and answer the best you
can. It is never wise to point out the limitations of a
- Do not spend too much time talking about a negative or a loss.
Negative comments make headlines. Audiences assimilate and
remember negative information more accurately than positive
information. Whenever possible, share positive accounts and
information. Therefore, when the game ends, an athlete should
be encouraged to direct attention to (a) communicating the progress
made and (b) the job of the team in the coming days. Words will
never change the score or alter a game performance. Whenever
possible, voice optimism with regard to the future.
- Be alert to reporters’ needs. It is always a good
practice for athletes to look at reporters, measure their response,
and adjust accordingly. For example, if they appear to be
having problems writing down answers, speak more slowly. When
reporters shake their heads, frown, appear frustrated, it might be
best to repeat key words to ensure accuracy.
- Support teammates and your school. Honor the natural
bonds that exist in relationships. You should respect and
always support your teammates. Remain sensitive and never
make negative remarks regarding others’ performances.
Finally, never appear on camera wearing another team’s
letters, logo, or colors. It may be an accepted practice, but
it is in bad taste. Pride is expected and is demonstrated
through the way an athlete speaks and appears in public.