Through my involvement with the Chiefs, I get to meet some very interesting, super talented women. One of those women happens to be Rachel Santschi. When I met her, she was a sideline reporter for the Chiefs, while also appearing at various other Chiefs events. Now she lives in San Antonio and works for the Spurs. She’s just the kind of versatile, smart, go-getter type of woman we admire here on Model Behaviors, so I asked if we could pick her brain about her profession and about her experiences as a prominent woman in a male-dominated field. Lucky for us, she agreed!
Please read on for Courtney’s interview with Rachel.
MB: When Toni asked me to interview you, the first thing I wondered was, “How does someone become a sports reporter?” It seems so glamorous, almost as fantastical as becoming a Hollywood actress or a rock star. Add on top of this, women sports reporters are few and far between. So I’m wildly curious, how did you get into this line of work?
RS: Growing up I was always a part of a sports team—volleyball, basketball, softball, and track, plus in college I was on the OU rowing team. As much as I wished, I just wasn’t athletic enough to play sports professionally, so I turned to my next strength—public speaking and journalism. For some reason, I always excelled in debate, speech, and rhetoric class. I knew in high school that I wanted to do something as a reporter, but I hadn’t quite figured out which direction to take it.
After high school I attended Oklahoma University and was a part of their news show, “OU Nightly,” and their sports show, “OUr Sports Pad,” which both aired live throughout the state of Oklahoma. Senior year, I co-anchored the sports show and loved every minute of it. I also interned at a news station that same year, KFOR, and learned a lot about writing, editing, and the broadcasting world.
Upon graduating from OU in July of 2012, I received an amazing opportunity from the Kansas City Chiefs as a part-time reporter, covering community events, human-interest stories, emceeing different events, and much of the off-the-field reporting. However, the day I started, the current reporter who was covering the football world and all the X’s and O’s put his two-week’s notice in, and I quickly had to fill some big shoes. After a year, I’d learned more about football than I ever thought possible, worked some long and crazy hours, overcame lots of obstacles, and finally worked my way to becoming a full-time employee.
My role continued to grow, change, and expand every month while in Kansas City. I became the sideline reporter for their preseason games, hosted an off-season show, co-hosted the pregame show, and wrote articles for kcchiefs.com daily.
After three seasons with the Chiefs, I received some offers from other professional sports teams. One that stood out to me was a fantastic opportunity to work for five-time champions, the San Antonio Spurs.
Currently, I’m living in San Antonio, working for Spurs Sports & Entertainment, covering all aspects of the four different franchises and reporting during the Spurs home games. I’m also the spokesperson for Silpada Designs Best Trends segments and just started breaking into the modeling industry.
MB: That’s such an incredible story! Especially what happened after you started working for the Chiefs. Crazy circumstances can lead to crazy-awesome opportunities.
I just finished some public speaking training a few months ago, and it does not come naturally for me. How has your confidence grown or shifted through your years of reporting? And what advice do you have for people who struggle with speaking in front of others?
RS: My confidence has definitely grown through the years! My first time on camera I was extremely nervous and so afraid of messing up. Now, I still get nervous, but I know that it’s okay to mess up and just try to recover gracefully. Every time I’m emceeing an event or doing a stand-up on camera I continue to gain confidence and improve. I’ve always been a little outspoken though. As a kid I would stand on the coffee table and give speeches or sing or act out a skit to whoever would listen. However, I still have moments of stage freight and get nervous and shaky, but that’s okay. It’s common and I believe it’s always good to put yourself in challenging positions and push yourself to grow, learn, and do more.
For those who may not love speaking in public, I have a few tips that may help.
- Don’t look people in the eye. Look to the corners of the room, just over everyone’s heads. Sometimes when you make eye contact with the audience, you lose focus and completely lose your train of thought. If you focus on looking just above their heads and scanning the wall, it will keep you on track and eliminate distractions.
- Practice in the mirror. As vain as it sounds, practicing in front of a mirror will help you figure out what looks best and what looks awkward or unnatural.
MB: Love those tips! So, sports reporting is a notoriously male-dominated field, especially in football and basketball, which are the two sports you’ve worked with the most so far. What sort of challenges does this present for you as an individual and as a professional?
RS: Many times people naturally treat you differently in the office or don’t think you’re capable of achieving as much as a male—in many industries, not just in the sports world. If you want to make it, you have to work harder, learn more, do more, and prove that just because you’re a female, you are still strong, knowledgeable, and more than capable of succeeding at the job. Side note: I love Sheryl Sandberg’s book which talks about this issue, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead.
In the sports world, some people tend to think that because you’re a female you don’t know as much, that you can’t know as much. For me, the biggest challenge is overlooking those with that kind of closed-off mindset as well as blocking out the cyber bullies on social media. People will try to knock you down and celebrate in your failures. You have to learn to not let them get to you, push on, and continue proving them wrong.
I think we’ve come a long way as females, and I’m so proud of all the women in the sports world who are helping tear down that stereotype and prove that women can coexist in this male-dominated industry.
Already so many woman have broken through that glass ceiling and made history—just recently Stephanie Ready, Jessica Mendoza and Jen Welter are a few who have made a difference and I am thrilled for them and proud of their hard work.
MB: I’ll definitely be adding Sandberg’s book to my Goodread’s list! Also, Toni and I were squealing with excitement when the Jen Welter news hit the Internet. It got me thinking. Growing up in Texas, high school football is a huge part of life here—whether you’re a player, a cheerleader, a parent, a fan, or even if you despise it. It’s an undeniably large part of the culture. I wondered what would happen if high schools hired female football coaches, how that would affect the male psyche. In a few recent interviews, Welter mentions they were worried men wouldn’t respond well to a female coach but that her time with the Cardinals end up being a fantastic experience with the men appreciating her coaching style. What kind of effect do you think this would have on impressionable teenage boys (and girls)?
RS: This is a tough question. Change is always uncomfortable, but I think we’re slowly making moves in the right direction to include both genders in that kind of a role. For me, I always liked having a coach who could relate to me, a coach who played the game. I think that’s what’s more important is having a female coach who knows the game, has played the game and can give her players inside knowledge. As long as they have a great sports mind I think that’s all that should matter.
MB: Thank you so much for your thoughtful, introspective answers. I can’t wait for your post later this month on the hottest games to watch this football season! My final question is… now that you’ve been doing this for a few years, what is your favorite part about your job?
RS: Oh boy…it’s hard to narrow it down. There are a lot of favorites. I think I love the most that every day is so different. One day I’m interviewing the players, the next I’m on the sidelines, another day I’m out and about in the community. No two days are the same. Plus, I’m a spokesperson for Silpada Designs’ Best Trends videos and just began modeling in the Austin and San Antonio area so things get busy, which is just the way I like it. I like being on the go, being involved in lots of different experiences and not just being in the office every day sitting at a desk.
As a reporter, I think I love sit-down, one-on-one interviews the most. I enjoy talking with people, learning their stories and discussing the experiences that shaped them into who they are today.
Overall, I have a pretty good gig. 🙂
Thank you again to Rachel. Keep your eyes open for more from her this month. Until then, be sure you follow Rachel on Instagram and Twitter for exciting sideline updates and an insider’s look of what it’s like to be a sports reporter!