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Women Who Wow Us: Karyn Bryant

07/26/2017 | Featured Columns & Series

Sports have always been a big part of life for television host Karyn Bryant. During her childhood and teen years, Bryant's involvement year-round in sports taught her the values of confidence and teammwork. Now, sports aren't only a part of Bryant's personal life, they're also her career! Byrant works for FOX Sports, who supports Girls on the Run as a national partner through FOX Sports Supports. Below, Bryant shares how she's helping to change the world of sports broadcasting as the anchor for MMA H.E.A.T and host of UFC Tonight and how the skills she learned playing sports have helped her in her career.

What sports did you play growing up? Why do you think being involved in sports is important for young girls?

I always enjoyed playing sports as a kid, and I stayed busy year-round. Soccer, basketball and baseball were my three main interests, though I had to switch to softball in high school. I’m not exactly sure when I started, but most likely around age 7. I played those three sports all the way through high school and ended up with 10 varsity letters; which was the most of anyone in the class, male or female. I think being involved in sports is incredibly important for young girls. The physical development and health benefits are obvious reasons; but sports can certainly help girls develop confidence, belief in themselves, an understanding of the benefits of teamwork, a competitive spirit, pride and so much more! I also like the idea that sports may encourage girls to make friends with people outside of their usual social circle.

You have a young daughter. As a mom, what do you do to inspire your daughter to get out and exercise? Do you have favorite activities you do together?

I have always encouraged my daughter to play sports, although it hasn’t always worked! She’s not nearly as competitive as I am, and we’ve had to try several different things to find something she was willing to stick with - right now, that’s tennis. As a mom, I try to emphasize a healthy lifestyle which includes lots of exercise, so we go for walks and bike rides together, hit the courts and even jump around on the mini trampoline. I hope that I inspire my daughter through my own actions rather than preaching to her too much. Whenever possible I have her come to my tennis matches so she can see how much fun I’m having, and also so she can see how my hard work at practice leads to success in the matches. She knows how much I enjoy sports; so hopefully as she grows up they will become a bigger part of her life. 

We hear you are an avid tennis player. How has continuing to stay active in sports benefitted you as an adult?

I started playing tennis only a few years ago, but I absolutely love it! As a kid I could whack the ball around a bit, but I never really had formal lessons. The great thing about starting basically from scratch as an adult is that I can really appreciate my own growth and improvement. Too often we settle into a routine when we’re older, and we don’t always push ourselves into uncomfortable situations where we might not be good at something. Not being great right away reminded me to be humble and to be open to my coaches’ suggestions. 

How long have you worked in sports? Did you always know you wanted to work in this industry?

I started working in sports in 2006, when I took a job as part of the commentary team at Showtime Championship Boxing. I was with them for 3.5 years, and then switched to covering MMA. I did not always know I would end up in sports, as most of my work before SCB was covering entertainment and hosting other kinds of shows. I have always been a sports fan though, so I’m not surprised!

The sports industry for years has been predominately male. Why do you think this is and where do you see the future of females in the business headed?

I think the sports industry has been predominantly male because the athletes we mostly see on television are predominantly male! Other than Olympic gymnastics and the occasional figure skating show, women’s sports generally don’t get as much coverage as the NFL, NBA and MLB. Times and attitudes are changing; but certainly it’s not that surprising that guys want to see other guys breaking down the X’s and O’s on the gridiron. That being said, I absolutely do believe women’s roles will continue to increase as the audience comes to understand that we can be just as analytical, even if we’ve never scored a touchdown. Women are in the anchor chair more often these days, and I’d like to see that extend to play-by-play and color commentary jobs in the future. 

What have you noticed about working in the UFC as a female? What kinds of obstacles have you had to overcome in your career?

Well, the biggest obstacle I’ve tried to overcome during the course of my career has definitely got to be racism. But I’m not sure that’s totally possible, to be honest. Sometimes it was plainly obvious that I had the skill set, but not “the right look.” When I first started covering the UFC, some fans would leave pretty upsetting comments on my videos. I’ve heard every racial slur in the book, and I was also subjected to sexist comments. But between the delete button and perseverance, I eventually shut down the bulk of the haters. There’s always going to be someone who doesn’t like me, but I don’t let it stop me from doing my own thing. 

With household names like Ronda Rousey and Holly Holm, the UFC really used some of its women athletes to grow the league. What do you think this says about the UFC as a young league really trying to break into the sports scene?

It’s funny that female fighters have become some of the most popular because there was a time when UFC President Dana White said they’d never be in the UFC! I think the UFC’s willingness to promote women shows that we are taken seriously as athletes and can hold our own with men. The UFC knows that times are changing, and that women no longer have to stay in “traditional” roles. They also understand that their fan base is a lot more open-minded than some other sport’s fans. 

As a female, do you take it upon yourself to help other women who work in sports or want to work in sports?

There is definitely a sisterhood among the few women who cover the UFC. Though we may work for competing outlets we’re protective of each other when the social media trolls attack one of us, or when we’re in the media room and we need a Band-Aid because our heels have caused a blister! I have spoken about the sports industry to students in both college and high school, and I’ve spent hours on the phone with some female fighters who were scheduled to come in for analyst auditions as well. I’ve learned a lot over the years, and if I can help someone avoid some bad mistakes I’m happy to!

What advice do you have for young girls who want to pursue careers in sports?

My first bit of advice would be don’t get into sports just because you think you’re cute and you think the male audience will like you for that alone. I do believe women in sports are held to a higher standard; so DO YOUR HOMEWORK! Don’t pretend to know what you don’t know, and don’t be afraid to ask questions about what you don’t know. Don’t try to be in the “boys club,” because they rarely let you in and you may alienate your female coworkers in the process. Most importantly, be yourself! When the right job comes along you’ll be the perfect match. 

 
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