This week I had the pleasure of interviewing Kristen Hewitt, a 2-time Emmy Award winning television reporter and producer for Fox Sports Florida and the Miami Heat. In addition to her television work, Kristen finds time to write a popular parenting blog called “Mommy in Sports.” Read on to find out more about her big break into on-camera work, the embarrassing breastpump incident that inspired her to start writing about parenting, and her new series of digital shorts about athletes and their kids.
Q: As someone who didn’t get into sports until later in life, I’m always curious how other people became interested in sports. How did you become a sports fan?
A: Sports were always around when I was growing up. I played everything, or at least I tried everything. I tried tennis, softball, and gymnastics, but I was a drop out of every sport. I even played one year of basketball in 6th grade and I scored two points all season. I figured out that even though I couldn’t play sports, I could follow them.
In my family, my mom was the athlete. She was a skier, figure skater, softball pitcher, and tennis player. When I was little, I would watch Wimbledon and Detroit Redwings games with my mom, who is from Detroit. We lived in Minnesota, so I would also watch Vikings games with my dad.
I didn’t really start loving sports until I moved to Orlando and the Magic came to town in the ‘90s. I became smitten with basketball. A friend of mine down the street had season tickets, so I went to all the games. When we got Shaq and went all the way to the NBA Finals in ’95, I fell in love with it. That’s why I work in basketball primarily.
Q: When did you decide to turn your love for sports into a career?
A: I knew that I wanted to work in TV since I was 13 years old. I loved Good Morning America and wanted to be just like Joan Lunden. For a long time, I thought I would work in news like Joan, but then I fell in love with the Orlando Magic when I got to college. At that time, I worked in a bar and all these sports anchors and the Magic players used to come in. Through them, I ended up getting an internship with the Magic. I fell into it and stuck with it for the next 19 years.
Q: Your career started with behind the scenes producing and editing and eventually transitioning to on-air talent. Can you take me through those stages of your career?
A: Anyone that wants to work in TV has to start off working for free. My first internship was for the sports department at WFTV, which is an ABC affiliate in Orlando. Then I was hired by the Magic to work in the Jumbotron room on funny video clips and editing segments for an NBC affiliate show “One Magic Place”.
After college, Sunshine Sports (now Fox Sports Florida) hired me as a production coordinator. I learned how to do live truck shots, hire a satellite crew, and air college games. I worked my way up to assistant producer in the TV truck. Then I met my husband and I moved to Miami, where I was a producer for “Inside the Heat.”
I had always wanted to be in front of the camera, but it took me until my late 20s/early 30s to feel like I had the confidence to put myself out there. It’s a hard industry and you need to have a thick skin to take the criticism. On top of that, South Florida was a really hard market to break into. I decided to do some practice stand-up reporting, so I could put together a resume tape to hopefully get a job in West Palm Beach or Naples.
I ended up doing a stand-up at Shaq’s birthday party, like you would see on Entertainment Tonight, for my resume tape. An executive producer for the Heat saw it and put me on-air for the 2006 NBA Finals. That was my first time on-camera, and I couldn’t believe I was on a court near Magic Johnson, and Michael Jordan. I definitely jumped in the deep end and just tried to survive.
Q: Now, you run a successful blog “Mommy in Sports.” What made you want to start blogging about your experience as a working mom?
A: It all started when I was at Spring Training in Jupiter, Florida. My second baby was six weeks old at the time and I breastfed. I got there and I realized I had forgotten a crucial piece to my breastpump. I literally asked a legendary reporter and the PR guys to find me a baby store. I had to leave the shoot and drive to get the part. I was running through the hallways near the clubhouse back at the shoot and I dropped the pump and it fell apart. One of the Marlins pitchers helped me put it back together, luckily he was a dad! Then I went into the interview room behind the curtain to pump and the manager walked in on me. I was so embarrassed.
It was such a crazy story I ended up writing it up in a Microsoft Word document and sending it to my husband, who was on the road with the Heat at the time. Then I sent it to Tim Reynolds at the Associated Press and I asked him if would be embarrassing if I published it, because it was so personal. But he said, “This is awesome!” A fan of mine on Twitter actually recommended that I turn it into a mommy blog. That’s how Mommy in Sports was born. Through a breast pump malfunction at Spring Training.
Q: You’ve recently started working on digital shorts, including interviews with athletes about parenting. What caused you to pivot and what do you hope will come of it?
A: I have 2 series of digital shorts: Playtime, where I ask athletes about parenting in 5-6 minute longer form interviews and then I have shorter 2-Minute Drills. I’m creating the content now in the hopes of finding a future platform for it. I’ve been getting some pretty big names like Chris Bosh and Jason Taylor. It’s fun to hear that they don’t give their kids an allowance, or they give their kids $20 from the tooth fairy. I like to share the stories of these extraordinary athletes, they really are are all just ordinary people, and I want to show that personal side.
Q: What’s the top piece of advice you would give to other women balancing a career and home life?
A: Balance is elusive. All these articles that say you can have it all is crap. You can’t have it all. You can’t have a perfect body, eat a Whole 30 diet, see your kids 8 hours a day, and make $150,000 a year. Once you become a parent, you have to decide what’s important to you, and build your life around that. My kids are the most important thing to me so I’ve built a career and a lifestyle around that.
For example, I made the decision not to travel. Seven years ago, I was in New York and I considering signing with an agency. They were trying to get me to do ESPN Regional work that would have required me to travel, but I decided not to pursue it. Most people in my position crave national work, but I’m the opposite. I’m exactly where I want to be. It took me seven years to get pregnant, so I’m different than most people. I prefer being with my kids as much as I can, but still have my toes in the broadcasting world.
Q: What is one storyline in any sport that resonated with you this year?
A: The Olympics were just so thrilling to me, especially with Katie Ledecky and Michael Phelps. When you talk 2016, that’s the story of the year for me.
Q: If you could have dinner with any athlete living or dead who would you choose and why?
A: Chris Evert. I would just love to hang out with her. When I was a little girl I wanted to be her and I dressed up as her for Halloween. She’s the epitome of class, grace, and sportsmanship.