Tune into any professional sports highlight reel today and you’ll notice a slight difference from the coverage you likely had no choice but to watch as a child. Is that a woman’s voice you hear dissecting the performance of your favourite hockey team? It sure is! And what a brilliant analysis of Steven Stamkos’ dominant, almost god-like play last night.
Ten to fifteen years ago, this would have been a different story. An industry ruled by male sportscasters, spotting a female in the same position would have made for a slow and boring drinking game. Today, however, women like Jennifer Hedger of TSN and Martine Gaillard of Rogers Sportsnet are gracing our screens and bombarding us with more sports knowledge than we could ever dream of attaining.
Although University of Miami broadcast journalism student Catie Staszak has not yet reached official sportscaster status, her lifelong ambition to enter the industry is within grasp. Staszak, who works as an on-air personality for the university’s student-produced television station and weekly sports segment, SportsDesk, is set to graduate next year and is currently the president of USPORT, the university’s undergraduate sport professionals’ organization.
“Luckily for me, many female sportscasters have already paved a way for me in the sports industry,” says Staszak, a competitive horse jumper and rider who has qualified for and competed in several national championships. “I will enter the full-time job market next year with confidence, knowing that women are now more readily accepted in the business.” She believes the stronger female presence can be attributed to more equal employment opportunities and more sports-related program offerings at universities. She adds, “There has also been a surge in the amount of 24/7 sports networks on television, meaning there are more job offerings. Women have been capitalizing on these opportunities, and that's exciting!”
Recently, Staszak has assisted with the implementation of Women in Sportscasting (WinS), an organization with the aim to provide a one-stop shop for women to post their portfolios and for prospective employers to find new talent. The creator, Chris Stafford, is in the process of producing a regular podcast that will be hosted and produced by the women themselves to hone their production and broadcast skills.
Despite the gradual increase of women in sportscasting, Staszak says, “I get funny looks all the time from people when I start to talk with them about sports. This is especially true when I am talking about or debating a sports issue with men.” She adds, “At times, it’s frustrating that people continue to hold on to dominant gender ideology and the stereotype that women are not interested in sports and have no knowledge about sport-related issues.”
But how did she get to be so sport-savvy in the first place? She gives the nod to her father, Ray Staszak, who once played for the Detroit Red Wings in the mid-1980s. “Sports often bring out the best in people,” she says. “The way I see it, who wouldn’t want to talk about sports for a living?”