It’s been one year since Kim Adams (MSJ14) witnessed history firsthand.
Adams was a correspondent for the Big East Digital Network (BEDN), and in that role, she traveled the country following the conference’s men’s and women’s basketball teams through March Madness. Her final stop? The confetti-covered NRG Stadium floor in Houston, where Villanova took down North Carolina in a national championship game for the ages.
Today, Adams is a freelance reporter who has appeared as a college basketball color analyst and sideline reporter on Fox Sports 1, Fox Sports 2, SNY and ESPN 3. She took time to reflect on covering Villanova’s victory, her career aspirations and how Medill helped prepare her for a career in sports journalism.
How would you describe the experience of covering the Final Four?
The experience was unbelievable. March Madness and the Final Four are my favorite events in the world, so just to be in the building was amazing. When I first walked into the arena for the open practice day, I was a few feet from broadcasting legends like Jim Nantz, Bill Raftery and Tracy Wolfson. Later I met Dick Vitale and was on his Periscope broadcast for about a minute talking about why Villanova would win the championship. I also met Allen Iverson. During the games I tried my best to take everything in and enjoy the moment. I had to keep reminding myself that I was really there.
Covering Villanova specifically made the experience even more special. Afterward I interviewed Kris Jenkins (as well as other players) in the locker room about his game-winning final shot, which was pretty awesome.
What did you learn from the experience?
I learned so much just from observing and working alongside the best reporters in the industry. I felt that I became more skilled at interviewing in the locker room setting. At times I was one of about 15-20 reporters in the pack so you have to be aggressive and quick to get your answers.
What were you thinking as Villanova’s final play developed and in the immediate aftermath?
I’d watched Kris Jenkins all season, and when he released the ball, I knew it was good. When it dropped through it was absolute pandemonium. Media members were not allowed on to the court until the net cutting, so I ran over as close as I could get and got some good iPhone footage of the players celebrating on the court and running into the stands to hug their families. I was then allowed on the court while the team cut down the nets and watched One Shining Moment. It was a pinch-me moment.
You’ve been able to play a wide variety of roles covering Big East games, including sideline reporting and color commentary. What do you see as the biggest differences between those two roles?
The preparation is the biggest difference. I spend a lot more time preparing when I’m doing color commentary than when I’m sideline reporting.
For color commentary, you have to be familiar with every single player, their stats, the team strengths and weaknesses, etc. Before broadcasts I call both coaches, watch film of both teams and spend hours studying game notes and creating my own notes and charts.
For sideline reporting, I don’t dig as deep into individual stats or watch game film. But it is beneficial to talk to the coaches or sit in on a practice if you have time.
However, I actually find sideline reporting is the more challenging of the two. As the color analyst, once the ball is tipped I’m just talking about basketball – a game I’ve been around since I was born.
The sideline reporter has to find stories that may not show up in the game notes and has a very short window of time to tell the story. You may have a minute of information but the producer wants the hit to be 20 seconds. You have to prioritize the information and make sure you’re emphasizing the most important words.
In my opinion, the biggest perk of sideline reporting as opposed to color commentating is getting to do coach and player interviews. That is my favorite part of the business.
Looking forward, what do you want to be doing one five or 10 years down the road?
In five years, I’d like to be an NBA team reporter for a regional sports network or an NBA or college basketball sideline reporter on a national network. Working as a sideline reporter for the NCAA Tournament is a dream of mine. However I want to stay well rounded. I want to keep growing as a color analyst. I would love to be in studio as an analyst. March Madness is my all-time favorite sporting event and you don’t see any women in the studio. That bothers me.
In 10 years, I’d like to be getting close to broadcasting live on the biggest stages: The Final Four, the NBA Finals, the World Series. But again, I never want to limit myself to just a sideline reporter. I’d love to be on a show like Inside the NBA or First Take and provide analysis and opinions.
How do you think the Medill Sports Media specialization helped prepare you to get where you are today?
I was lucky enough to be at Medill when the Sports Media specialization launched. The experience that stands out the most was the Washington, D.C. trip. I learned a ton from watching a live taping of ESPN’s “Around the Horn,” having a discussion with the Washington Post sports video group and having an intimate chat with one of Medill’s most distinguished alumni, Christine Brennan. I still have a great relationship with Christine since first meeting her on that trip.
The Beyond the Box Score panels were also great. I was on campus for the chat with Chris and Doug Collins and picked up some helpful tidbits on preparing for color commentary from Doug. The following year the panel featured several highly successful female reporters, including Medill alumni Rachel Nichols and Cassidy Hubbarth. I had graduated at this time, but watched online and learned a lot from their insight on breaking into the business and career experiences they’ve had.
I also had good timing and started at Medill when College GameDay came to campus. I got to tour the set and production truck and talk with the on-air talent. I woke up at 4 a.m. to get a spot for the taping and attended the game that night. It was a long day but definitely worth it!
Finally, I got a private tour of the ESPN studios and campus from my mentor, Steve Weissman, a SportsCenter anchor who now works for the NFL Network and the Tennis Channel. He also helped me brainstorm how to break into the business and gave me tips on creating my reel.
What advice would you give someone considering a career in sports journalism?
I’ve only been in the business a short time, but the biggest thing I’ve found so far is that you have to take the initiative. It’s a very, very difficult industry. No matter how talented you are, it’s unlikely that someone will discover you early on in your career. Every job or assignment I’ve landed was never posted. Either I reached out to someone introducing myself or my name was referred from someone who worked with me in the past.
In the beginning, you have to take any opportunity that comes your way regardless of pay. I worked a bunch of games for free in my first year because I needed the experience. It can be very frustrating at times and you have to make a lot of sacrifices, but don’t let anything deter you from chasing a dream.
Follow Kim on Twitter at @Kim_Adams1