Female broadcaster takes on a growing role in the sports world

The field sprawled out before Kendall Smith. It radiated out in every direction, a limitless expanse of green where the football players would later face off. A roaring crowd encircled the field, so tightly packed together that each screaming fan seemed no more than a noisy speck of color.

The excitement was contagious ─ but Smith wasn’t catching on. She was too fixated on the broadcasters on the field. As each one put on his or her most winning smile to begin filming, a realization struck Smith.

“Just seeing that made me realize that I want to be a sports broadcaster,” Smith said. “It’s so cool, and I love sports, and they’ve just always been a part of my life since childhood.”

However, the path to fulfilling this dream has not been easy, especially because men refuse to take her seriously as a female sports broadcaster.

“When guys come into a room and they start talking about sports, they all start bouncing ideas off of each other, but the first day I work with a team of people in broadcasting, I’ll say something and most of the time they’ll laugh or snicker,” Smith said.

On more than one occasion, Smith has tried to join a conversation about a sports topic she’s interested in only to be dismissed.

“They’ll kind of look at each other, and then they’ll look back at me and say, ‘Well how would you know? You’re just a girl, you’re probably only worried about if your nails are chipped or if your hair is perfectly straight,’” Smith said.

Make no mistake — Smith certainly isn’t a tomboy. She still enjoys traditionally feminine activities like shopping and makeup, but she also watches ESPN religiously and attends every football and basketball game she can, sometimes traveling as far as IU from her home in Charlotte, North Carolina, to watch a game. For Smith, the key is to find a balance between her girly and sporty side.

“If it’s a Tuesday night at 7, you can bet I won’t be anywhere but my couch to watch it (ESPN). But at the same time, I might be watching the IU basketball game and screaming, and painting my nails at the same time. It’s that kind of contrast,” Smith said.

However, not everyone seems to understand this balance as well as Smith does.

“You’ll always get that card where they think all you care about is makeup,” Smith said. “But then I’ll keep on talking about it, and then they’re like, ‘OK, this girl knows what she’s talking about.’”

Experience has taught Smith to ignore what critics first say to her, because with a little time and persistence she can often change their minds.

“Guys in sports don’t have to gain other guys’ respect, because they just think that guys know so much about sports already, and that girls are kind of just flouncing around all girly … but I feel like after the first day, after you establish that you know the facts, they respect you,” Smith said. “It’s just that girls definitely have to gain respect while guys already have that respect.” 

But things are looking up for Smith; she believes that the role of women in sports reporting is rapidly increasing, and can only go up from here.

“They [female reporters] used to be considered a joke, but now the respect for them has grown immensely,” she said. “They participate in more games, sidelining, because people believe that they have the capabilities, unlike 20 years ago when they were almost a non factor.”