Beatrice Go shares her experience of putting on the headphones to commentate at the FIBA Women’s World Cup in Sydney through the ABC’s WINS program.
“Confidence is for the now, hope is for the future.”
That was the mentra I received when I was visiting a church in Singapore – not knowing that it was something that I would hold onto in my next adventure.
The next day, I flew toSydney for the 2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup.
I went there as a part of the ABC’s International Development’s Women in News and Sport (WINS) program to learn more about live commentary and putting what we learned in the program into practice during the World Cup games.
Sports commentary was something that I never imagined doing. I was a multimedia sports journalist throughout my career and in the Philippines, where I live, the sports broadcast pool is dominated by seasoned commentators, who are mostly men. Without mentorship and industry role models, it’s no surprise confidence would be a struggle for me in learning this new craft.
But the missing links were exactly what WINS provided during our 10-day live commentary program, and kickstarted the process for me to dream for more in my sports media career.
The front-row seat
We were a team of six women from the Philippines and Indonesia, countries that will be co-hosting the 2023 FIBA men’s basketball World Cup with Japan. We had the opportunity to be mentored by veteran sports commentator Peter Longman and Patricia Hizon, a pioneer of Filipino women’s sports broadcasting.
Personally, I’ve put more effort into learning about commentary this year thanks to WINS and some leaders in the industry. Earlier this year, I did online sessions with Peter, where I sent him voice memos of my commentary of different sports on Youtube via email, then he would reply with extensive and encouraging feedback.
But it really is a different story when you take your seat in the commentary box. I realised that this is where the magic happens and it was surreal to be in that spot at an international event for the highest level of women’s basketball. It was the first time I was able to see the players’ faces up close, play around with the stats provided and experience sporting action from multiple angles.
Though it was an empowering experience and I prepared for the live commentary, I didn’t have the best first day. I struggled to identify the players and I couldn’t sustain my energy as my confidence spiralled down when I made a mistake.
It would have been easy to see myself as someone very raw and not cut-out for broadcast, but Peter and Patricia saw potential instead. They helped me focus on getting the basics right – identifying the players, the score and the play – and reminding me to keep my energy up even if I made mistakes while calling.
I wasn’t alone in going through this process of refining skills in this intense environment, everyone in the team had things to work on. The beauty of it was that we all got better after every game because the process of working on our feedback didn’t stop. After ten days, all six of us came away from the tournament more confident and with our skills further developed.
“As I listened yesterday to you doing commentary on the final day, I can’t help but feel an enormous amount of pride and excitement that I can contribute to this amazing group of women” Peter told us on our ‘graduation’ day.
“You’ve all reached the point where you have the basic skills to do commentary. What comes next is more and more hard work, getting more experience and working on the skills that you now have and taking your skills to a higher level.”
Coming from a cut-throat working environment, where managers expect you to “have it all together”, it was reassuring to learn how Peter and Patricia developed in their own careers, and know that who they are now is a product of years of refinement and experience.
It is a testament to the WINS program, which is supported by the Australian Government through the Team Up program, as it really provides an avenue to equip women’s sports journalists with the skills needed in the industry.
The future of women’s sports
Even as part of the media covering the Women’s World Cup, I couldn’t help but notice this sense of safety in the room with other press, players and fans.
In the Philippines, women’s sports coverage has been under fire for broadcasting camera angles focusing on certain body parts of female athletes and featuring the personal life, drama and rivalry of the athletes more than the actual storylines of the sport itself.
At the World Cup, I admired how authentic and professional the FIBA marketing collateral was from the trailers, to the fan-engagement and the posters. The tournament was well-supported with sponsors, statistics, information, news and features of the players, and the major storylines of the competing teams.
The half-time shows were family-friendly and featured the culture of Sydney, as well as the talents of the next generation. The fans were there to truly support their national teams, one great example of this was witnessing a full-house when the Opals’ played and when the Chinese fans of Sydney came out to cheer for China’s games.
The press conferences were well-moderated and the journalists had a lot of respect for the players and their performances – refreshingly, no dumb questions were asked to trivialise the atheletes and the tournament. This was an environment where professionalism and respect was the standard.
But it should not stop there. We should aspire for this to be the floor, and not the ceiling for women’s sports. There is a lot of opportunity for the women’s sports ecosystem to grow as more girls dream to become professional athletes and the industry makes way for more voices for women in sport.
It gives the media more reasons to keep investing in women’s sports coverage and for women presenters to stay in the industry so young girls can also aspire to tell the stories of other women in sport.
I am definitely hoping to see a better future for women’s sport, but it starts with all of us in our roles in the industry to remain confident in working towards that goal and supporting each other when that confidence might waiver. Let’s not let fear cripple us to give up on achieving our dreams.