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Author Interview: International Day of Sport for Development and Peace with Sports Broadcast Pioneer Andrea Kirby

Cristen Iris

As stated on her website, "Andrea Kirby was not a professional athlete. She had no connections in the television industry. But, in 1971 [she] talked her way onto a start-up television station as a sportscaster. This first break led to a bigger one in sports-rich Baltimore. Here she made an impression on a network producer who hired her. As the first full-time female reporter in ABC Sports history, Kirby was a regular on College Scoreboard and Wide World of Sports with the world as her office."

When I learned about International Day of Sport for Development and Peace, Andrea sprung to mind. Her perspective as a world-traveling sportscaster and someone who interviewed athletes from many different countries is interesting to me. I hope this interview entertains and empowers you and helps you see athletes and diplomacy in a different way.

Andrea, how did you become interested in sports?

At a young age, I enjoyed the sounds of a sports crowd while I played under the bleachers at Friday night football games. There were no sports for girls in small town Alabama, but after moving to Memphis, I was introduced to girls basketball which I played throughout my school years. Even as a lifelong amateur, playing a sport made me feel alive.

What drew you to sportscasting?

I was in my twenties when I witnessed a young woman on an Atlanta television station giving football predictions. Shocking—a woman sportscaster—I decided to do the same. Jane Chastain, the trailblazer, was the Jackie Robinson of women sportscasters.

How did sports and sportscasting help you develop as an individual?

Working at something I loved kept me grateful, and the athletes who modeled commitment held me to my highest standard. And broadcasting gave me a platform to tell stories of people of all races and religions. I’m a better person for all of it.

As a former world-travelling sportscaster, what connections have you seen between sports and diplomacy?

In 1979 when the USSR was still a communist country, I spent three weeks with an American crew covering the Soviet National Games. Surprisingly we made friends with the Russian television crew, sharing food, joking in broken English, and watching the international competition. When the Games ended, our preconceived notions of the Russian people were gone, It’s likely our new Russian friends thought better of Americans, too. It was a miniscule bit of diplomacy, but powerful.

What was your favorite thing about working around athletes as a sportscaster and later with them as a media trainer?

The athletes I met over the years were often down to earth, fun to be around, and respectful of me as a professional. As a media trainer, I became more of a mentor and a friend, a very different gift. The ultimate compliment came from a client who dubbed me “the athlete whisperer.”

Why do you think the UN’s International Day of Sport for Development and Peace is important?

We’ve all seen pictures of kids and adults in third-world countries finding a way to play a sport, even with few resources. The United Nations does have resources and is committed to making an impact with them.

When President Nelson Mandela took office in in South Africa 1994, his goal was to heal a painfully divided country following apartheid. Mandela used sport to do this. In honor of the UN’s International Day of Sport for Development and Peace, I recommend the film “Invictus,” Mandela’s story of using the sport of rugby to bring two races together.

 

Andrea Kirby headshotAbout Andrea Kirby

Andrea Kirby is a sports media pioneer who went on to media coaching after interviewing Patrick Ewing in his last basketball game for Georgetown University. Her clients over twenty years included players, managers and coaches and executives in Major League Baseball, theNFL, NHL, and the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

Talent Coaching for broadcasters was the next natural move for Kirby. As the talent coach for ESPN, she worked with Robin Roberts, Linda Cohn, Rece Davis, Stuart Scott, Andrea Kremer, to name a few, plus former athletes and journalists becoming broadcasters. Among them were Phil Simms, Jim Kaat, Joe Theismann, Jeremy Schaap, Digger Phelps.

Visit Andrea's website to connect with her and sign up for updates about her forthcoming memoir In Deep Water with Big Fish (https://www.akirby.media/).

 

CI Communication Strategies

2021

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