For several decades, the media’s interest in women’s sports has been so-so. However, more recently the number of fans who follow women’s sporting events closely is increasing.
Last year alone, headlines about the growth in women’s sports were frequent. In January, reports revealed that the highest-paid female athletes earned a combined $167 million in 2021, a 23% increase from the previous year. A month later, Nielsen estimated that sponsorship investment in women’s sports would see a 146% year-on-year increase.
Now, what is fueling this growth? Commercial interest, viewership, or even the prize money for these athletes are all reasons for the growth of attention in women’s sports. However, one of the most significant reasons is the increased media coverage women’s sports has received over the past decade. As a matter of fact, recent data shows that women’s sports received 26% more social media coverage this decade compared to the last.
Why is sports important?
Before discussing how media coverage has improved gender equality in sports, let’s first dig deep into why sports is valuable in every industry.
It promotes teamwork
The importance of teamwork in an organization is too hard to ignore. When employees work together, they can share ideas and responsibilities while reducing stress for everyone when completing their assignments. The advantage of sports is it provides everyone with an outlet to be strong, compassionate, and responsible with those around them. These are the skills any individual needs to be successful in their relationship, life, and career, and they are skills are that absolutely worth investing in.
More often than not, athletes learn how to support each other. After all, there is no shortage of trials and tribulations in sports. Athletes pick each other up on the courts and motivate others in the weight room. They learn to offer criticism or encouragement to help their teammates reach their potential. Often, these adventures are documented by traditional and online media for the world, increasing the likelihood for athletes to inspire their fans to do the same in school or at work.
Research shows that 73% of employees who played team sports say their team constantly learns and strives to improve their work performance. This is because sports taught them to be understanding of others, share responsibilities, and consider how their actions will impact those around them. Once in the workplace, these same employees learned to delegate tasks and be understanding of others when performing job duties. Sports teams are an excellent demonstration of how to employ delegation and sharing of responsibility throughout many levels of engagement.
The same data revealed that sports had prompted employees to communicate well at work. Like sports wherein athletes work towards similar goals, working individuals with a particular interest in sports understand that trying to accomplish similar tasks and communicating with co-workers is crucial in completing projects efficiently. Through effective workplace communication, employees can achieve success with less stress than they would otherwise have.
It creates good leaders
Strong leadership is essential in every organization. Through effective leadership, businesses can cultivate a sense of greater good, bolster teamwork, and inspire trust among employees, partners, and stakeholders. This is because good leaders can formulate and communicate innovative and strategic directions in a constantly changing business climate.
Now, you might be wondering how sports fits into the picture. Business leaders have a growing consensus that sports excellence can translate into business. Recent research reveals that stories of sports excellence can inspire women and lead to high emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is critical for effective leadership and building team members’ commitment to their performance. One of the most effective ways sports teaches individuals to be better leaders is by breaking down new techniques or skills into bite sizes.
When relaying it to the group, sports coaches often break down a new skill or tactic into individual parts. Athletes practice in layers by adding each new component until they are skilled enough to use it in live game scenarios. The same principle applies to business. Furthermore, by providing employees sufficient practice time, business leaders can increase the likelihood of using it for organizational success.
Like athletes, employees learn by doing. You can teach an employee a technique, but if they never try it in real-life situations, you waste both of your time. Giving employees the freedom to experiment and use what they know can empower confidence in their skills and improve independence. More importantly, sports prepares people to be leaders who can influence others, set realistic others, and solve problems efficiently.
It boosts employee engagement
Employee engagement is no longer a buzzword in business circles. Now more than ever, employees want to be involved in their work, feel a sense of belonging, and be enthusiastic about the organization they work for. Promoting a sense of belonging in an organization is essential to success.
Unfortunately, low employee engagement is a relatively common issue. Low employee engagement is a result of poor communication and the lack of employee engagement efforts.
Many companies use sports as a team-building activity, as it has many advantages. One such advantage of playing sports is that it promotes a sense of belonging and collaboration among team members. This, in turn, results in better work understanding and compassion between co-workers, generation of fresh ideas towards a specific situation, and improved employee behavior.
How is the media coverage affecting women in sport?
It is worth noting that the media exposure is only a part of what’s making women’s sports the hottest toast in the industry. Some of its popularity can also be attributed to the competitiveness of women’s sports. According to a North Jersey report, 38% of fans are tuning into women’s sports because it is entertaining, competitive, and demonstrates excellent levels of endurance and skill.
A case in point is the 2021 US Open matches between Rebeka Masarova, Ana Bogdan, Elise Mertens, and Rebecca Peterson, which lasted for over three hours. Now, you might be wondering about the social impacts behind the rise in exposure of women’s sports. Outlined in this section are reasons how increased interest in women’s sports are changing popular culture.
Gender norms are challenged
Gender stereotyping has been a common issue in sports. Despite recent progress, discrimination based on perceived or fundamental sexual orientation and gender identity of athletes persists. More often than not, women participating in sports can experience social isolation, negative performance evaluations, and bullying from their friends and even their family members.
Female athletes are more supported
According to one study, women receive less encouragement from family members and teachers to participate in sports than men. However, thanks to the rise of women’s sports, the social stigma in women’s participation in sports is slowly fading. Challenging gender norms in one area means that it is more possible to challenge sexist attitudes in many areas, and these efforts can be extended to women and girls across the globe.
It’s important to support young athletes, especially as girls are more likely to remain interested in sports once they participate in sporting activities at school. By encouraging girls to participate at a young age, the stigma and stereotypes can be challenged early. And as the number of popularized female athletes grow, they can inspire new athletes all over the world.
Women in sports media
Men have long dominated sports media. It is not uncommon for the few female sports broadcasters and journalists there are to be critiqued constantly over their looks and every word that comes out of their mouths. However, there has been significant progress toward more racial diversity and gender equality in the media, and in many other fields.
An uptick in female journalists comes primarily from the expanding visibility of women’s sports. Some of the most prominent female sports media personalities are the following.
A female sports broadcaster pioneer, Burke is a fan-favorite among NBA fans. She is the first woman to call a New York Knicks game on television and radio. Currently, Burke does play-by-play and color commentating for ESPN’s NBA coverage. Known for her sharp and dynamic analysis of the broadcasting booth, Burke also works on the sidelines and in her coverage for NBA Countdown.
Julie Foudy was a longtime markswoman for the US Women’s National Soccer Team before transitioning to lead analyst and color for ESPN. She was the voice of ESPN’s World Cup coverage during the historic 2015 World Cup victory of the US women’s soccer team. Foudy is known for her excellent analysis and deep knowledge of the game and top-level players, making her uniquely suited for the job.
Cassidy Hubbarth is a fixture on NBA Tonight on ESPN, where her energy and spirit balance Bruce Bowen’s stoicism. She takes on the morning basketball slate, combining game breakdowns with comprehensive analysis and wit. Hubbarth also hosts NBA Coast to Coast and moonlights with college football on ABC.
Like Burke, Linda Cohn is one of the pioneers in female sports broadcasting. Cohn has been a SportsCenter anchor for over two decades. She was the first woman in US history to be a sports radio anchor when ABC hired her in 1987. Regarded as one of ESPN’s icons, Cohn is a regular on “This is SportsCenter” commercials and has recently celebrated her 5,000th appearance.
With the rise of media coverage on women’s sports, broadcasters and journalists now have more opportunities to succeed. While progress is still not linear, its popularity has allowed these women to break boundaries and thrive in an environment where they were once outcasts.
How to become a sports journalist
Becoming a sports journalist is not an easy path, but it is one that is incredibly rewarding. This section provides a step-by-step on how to enter the field.
Explore the sports industry
Sports journalism is an expansive field. So, explore the sports industry to find your niche and become better at it. Improving your interest and knowledge in your chosen niche is vital to succeeding. While there is no one-size-fits-all formula, an excellent start is attending sports events, finding sporting communities, following top journalists online, and subscribing to sporting channels to enhance your knowledge of various organizations, activities, and athletes. You might also need to learn game statistics such as player rating, injury statistics, and win-loss ratio to write quality articles.
Earn an accredited journalism degree
Most sports journalists hold a relevant undergraduate degree accredited by the National Council for the Training of Journalists. These courses provide hands-on experience and educational opportunities to polish your sports journalism skills. You will learn how to cover stories ethically, use shorthand, and journalism law.
However, before you commit to a journalism degree, choosing the type of sports journalism that interests you the most is a must. Some of the areas you might consider include the following.
- Broadcast: This involves working in television broadcasting where you will cover live events and provide sports coverage and analysis. Depending on your employer, you might be assigned to the scene at a live sporting event or in the studio doing play-by-play commentary.
- Magazine: This sports journalism tackles writing short and long pieces about magazines. This might include human interest and feature stories that cover topical news stories about current sporting events.
- Digital: Digital sports journalism covers sports events for online platforms, such as social media and websites. This includes creating written, video, and audio content that provides updates about current events, developments, and exciting stories in the industry.
- Newspaper: This involves delivering fast-paced news, including local, national, and international sports. You will interview industry contacts, experts, and sports personalities and write the story on the same day.
Depending on your chosen academic institution, entry requirements are A-level grades or equivalent in English and a recommendation letter. Should you decide to expand your knowledge, you can also do a masters in sports journalism at a prestigious academic institution, such as St. Bonaventure University Online, where you will take intensive multimedia courses that teach you to produce sports coverage across print, digital, and broadcast platforms.
While applying for an advanced sports journalism degree, applicants will likely be required to submit a graduate admission application, official transcripts of records, letters of recommendation, a personal statement of interest, a detailed resume, and proof of English proficiency. Some online courses – such as the one at St. Bonaventure University – include sports reporting, sports feature writing, multimedia reporting, the business of sports media, and journalism ethics.
Gain work experience and build a portfolio
You must find work experience opportunities during your course or in your free time to develop industry contacts and to better understand the ins and outs of sports journalism. Depending on your chosen university, you might receive shadowing opportunities through a course where you will work with prominent news agencies and broadcasters.
However, if that’s not the case, contact sports broadcasters yourself. Most of these opportunities are unpaid and voluntary but can offer valuable assistance in helping you learn what it takes to work in the industry. Moreover, a portfolio also allows you to find an entry-level job where you can hone your skills further and develop industry contacts to advance your career.
Historically speaking, coverage of women’s sports has not attracted a similar level of media coverage and advertiser interest as men’s sports. However, this is no longer the case nowadays, with efforts to increase media coverage on the rise. By enrolling in a sports journalism degree, you can help promote this increasingly diverse field, and work towards a meaningful career as a sports journalist.