Women Who Wow Us: Jody Jackson
FOX Sports Arizona reporter and anchor Jody Jackson started her love for sports young — both in the stands as a fan of South Florida teams and as a dancer and baton twirler down on the field. At a young age, Jackson set a big goal of wanting to be a reporter and has boldly pursued her dream, now working with FOX Sports for 17 years. Jackson shares how sports have impacted her life and how she stays positive in her career.
How long have you worked in sports? Did you always know you wanted to work in this industry?
I have worked in sports since 1995 when I got my start in sports radio. I always knew I wanted to be a reporter from the time I was 8 or 9. I used to pretend to do news and sports reporting in the car or at home and I was always watching sports on TV.
You coached for Girls on the Run this spring. How did you get involved with the organization and what inspired you to become a coach?
We had our first PTO meeting in August and the school talked about bringing back GOTR, but it had been gone for a year. My daughter is a 3rd grader and that is the first year these girls can be a part of the program. I was a little hesitant because my schedule is difficult, working primarily nights and traveling half the year. I’m glad I did not let that stop me — it was such a gratifying experience. I became the site liaison and head coach, and we had 19 girls that signed up and prepared for their first 5K. The day of the race was awesome. The girls did a fantastic job and now they can say they completed a race, hopefully the first of many!
As a child, what sports did you play growing up? Why do you think being involved in sports is important for young girls?
I played softball, soccer and tennis. It’s so important to be a part of a team and work toward a goal. Win or lose, you create memories with a group that bonds you with others forever. There are so many lessons to be learned — discipline, sacrifice and caring about your teammates.
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?
As a family, we like to hike around here, as well as up in Sedona or at the Grand Canyon. My husband and I are pretty active and we enjoy playing sports and challenging ourselves. In fact, we just joined some friends on a softball team. It’s like we’re 25 again — hopefully, no pulling a hammy. I think that sets a good example for our kids. My daughter, Caitlyn, has plenty of activities like volleyball, dance and baseball. I try to be part of those by attending her practices when I can. Caitlyn loves to swim, so sometimes it’s as simple as playing around in the pool. The Girls on the Run 5K was our first race together and it was fun for me to see her reach that goal.
For years, the sports industry 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 sports in general used to be viewed as a male activity. I’m guessing that 60-70 years ago mostly men attended games. As our culture has evolved, more and more women enjoy going to games and watching them on TV. There are women who come up to me every day who tell me how much they enjoy seeing a woman speaking knowledgeably about their teams. I’ve always said, male or female, you have to prepare and know the subject matter. It’s always the greatest compliment to me to be acknowledged for the job I do and how well I do it, and not just that I’m a woman doing it. I don’t want to be good at it “for a woman” but rather compared to the gold standard in the industry, male or female.
How has your experience as a female athlete helped you succeed as a woman working in the sports industry?
Athlete might be a stretch for me, but I will say I was pretty good at tennis and now I’m a decent runner. Back when I was a child and teenager, we competed nationally in dance and show corps performing and those were long practices, rehearsals and competitions — but I loved every minute. I had a great desire to be good at what I was doing, and that has carried over to my career. I work long hours and don’t mind the physically demanding aspects of the job. Even though I’ve never played baseball, football or hockey, I feel that I have a great appreciation for what athletes go through and how unique of a lifestyle it is. There’s no denying that helps when I’m interviewing players and coaches.
Because I have a great understanding of the game, I can think through certain situations and almost put myself in the player’s or coach’s shoes. Would I have made that call, or had the instinct to execute a certain play? I may not have their athletic ability, but I can think the game.
Where did you find your inspiration to become a reporter?
I always wanted to be covering sporting events. Early on I saw Gayle Gardner and Linda Cohn anchoring sportscasts on TV. I spoke with Linda once from a hotel in Tampa when I was covering a Dolphins/Bucs game. She was encouraging about the business in general and I’ll never forget her kindness in taking the time to talk to me.
As a female, do you take it upon yourself to help other women who work in sports or want to work in sports? If so, how?
There are many young women who reach out to me for advice and I am glad to share my thoughts on the business with every one of them. I tell young women that if you have a passion for the job and are willing to work hard, the sky is the limit. Recently, when I was speaking to a class at ASU’s Cronkite School, a student asked a question about former players getting hired more and taking opportunities away from reporters. My response was that you absolutely do not need to see sports from that vantage point to be a good reporter. If you are a good anchor or reporter you will always have plenty to tell people about. To be an analyst, yes, it is valuable to have the experience of playing the game. It was surprising to me that a young person would feel threatened by that. Don’t put a road block where there isn’t one. There are enough challenges in getting a job in this business. Think positive and go after what you want.
What advice do you have for young girls who want to pursue careers in sports?
See above! I would also say always be prepared and do your research. These jobs are hard to get, and it’s competitive. You have to earn everything through hard work and showing the ability to do interviews and tell stories. Most people are surprised to know we don’t use teleprompters or have cue cards. If you live the day-to-day of the teams you are covering you don’t need any of that. You gain the knowledge and the understanding that you need by being observant, taking notes and asking good questions. Then, talking about it on TV comes naturally.
This may seem obvious, but working in sports television you will work nights, weekends and holidays. My first Mother’s Day, I was in San Antonio covering the NBA playoffs. Last Mother’s Day, I was in Atlanta for baseball. There’s a lot of emotion when you are on a 10-day trip and you feel out of touch. It’s not easy as a wife, mother and daughter to juggle the day-to-day tasks, but it is worth every moment. In some ways I feel it has made my children strong and independent. I’m so proud of how mature they are. My husband makes it his priority to get them to every activity or social event they are a part of. He coaches them in every sport they play. When I’m away, I make a great effort to stay involved even it’s just via FaceTime and when I’m home they know there’s nowhere I’d rather be than watching them play sports or just be a part of whatever they are doing. I hope I am showing them that you can have a family, be a good parent and still have a career that you love.
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