English sportscaster and commentator Georgie Heath believes the more women in sport media work together, the stronger the power of women’s presence will be in the industry.
Recently, Heath had received a rejection for a role and says a message from gsport Founder Kass Naidoo empowered her to keep forging ahead.
She hopes that more women in the game can stand together and support each other to make a positive change in sport.
In recent times, Heath has been putting in hard yards which afforded her the opportunity to write at the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup in 2019 and commentate at the inaugural Fairbreak Invitational.
With vast experience in the media space, Heath advises young women and girls to never be afraid to reach out for assistance and to understand that they have a major role to play in sport.
Speaking with Tlamelo Kganakga, Heath chats about the importance of taking care of your mental and physical wellbeing and reveals her aspirations.
Georgie, thank you for chatting to us. Please introduce yourself to our readers.
I’m Georgie Heath – Sports journalist / commentator / broadcaster and dog lover!
When and where did your love for sport begin?
When you’ve grow up in a sports-mad family, there was never really just a start more like something that has been there as long as I can remember! My godfather bought me a cricket ball as a christening present and I still have it on my shelf at home. It will NEVER be used but it’s a prized possession. Sport has always been such a big part of my life. To put it in perspective, my mum was actually listening to a test match when my brother was born!
I was always one of those kids who just wanted to do everything and be everywhere and play as much as I possibly could. I’ve always been very sporty and taken to any sport pretty easily (although dancing and gymnastics weren’t quite in my remit, haha) so I spent a lot of my time heading from one sport to another and eating meals in cars/on buses and doing my homework in the car! I’ve always watched/played/loved pretty much every sport going, so now being able to work in it is a dream come true.
What does a typical day look like in your life?
As long as it starts with a good cup of tea and walking Tuffers the sausage dog (yes, he is named after Tuffers the cricketer), it goes in any direction from there. But there’s always a bunch of Zoom calls of different formats and luckily the world is open again so I can actually go to live events and see people in person.
When it’s busy netball magazine time, it’s about chasing interviews and writing them up then also doing the same with athletics stuff. Plus, cleaning off my glasses for a proof reading session! Sometimes I head off to games and I’m buzzing for how much women’s cricket and sport in general is coming up so hopefully much more live stuff on the horizon, too.
But there’s often a hundred tabs open on my laptop as I balance various sports, publications and everything in between. Then I also have Women’s cricket chat podcast to think about, so I have interviews and research for this to do too. So basically, any day can be anything but it’s so much more fun than sitting at a desk doing a 9-5 job staring at spreadsheets. That’s not to say there aren’t days when I just want to sit and watch trash TV, but as a freelancer, that’s often very difficult to come by so it’s pretty full on.
What are some of the challenges you have faced and how did you overcome them?
I have been very open about mental health and my own struggles with this. A few years ago, I was admitted to an eating disorder hospital and given just days to live had I not had the help given. This is something that will always be part of me, and I still struggle with today but there are certain ways I deal with things. My dog is a huge help – he’s my companion if I’m home alone, a reason I have to get up and about, and I know that I have to care for myself to care for him. But finding my space in a job I want to keep pursuing has been a huge help too.
And, there is an incredibly supportive community across social media who actually really help me out when I’m struggling or feeling down or wanting to turn to those dangerous old coping ways. Then we can’t ignore how difficult it can be to be a woman in the sports world, but I like to think I’m pretty good at holding my own in this space. We women are powerful, strong and resilient people and I like to channel this into my works, my life, and everything I strive to achieve. It’s also a very difficult world in which to be heard, but I keep plugging away and slowly I am working my way to where I want to be in the long run. It’s a marathon not a sprint and my long legs were definitely built for marathons rather than sprinting so that’s lucky!
What’s your advice to young girls in terms of taking care of themselves mentally, physically and emotionally when getting into sports media?
I would say never be afraid to ask for help and never be afraid to talk to someone. Reach out and don’t ever feel alone. Remember what incredible things you can achieve and set yourself those small goals. Some days when I feel rubbish it’s just the really small things that are an achievement. The world of media is a harsh place and there’s no denying that, but you don’t have to navigate it alone. Find those people in your life. Also – get out there and do what you enjoy! It’s not all about work so if you want to go and play sport instead of writing about it then make sure you make time to do that!
Some of the hardest times in my life I’ve completely turned in and pushed everyone away and it’s not healthy and doesn’t get you anywhere mentally, emotionally or physically! Lean on others and don’t forget that they are always in your corner. If you really are struggling with anything there are also professionals you can reach out to. It’s not weak to seek help and it’s okay to admit when you are not okay.
What do you love most about your job?
I get to watch sport and call it work so that’s got to be up there, haha! It’s tricky to pick what I love because things change all the time and I’m fickle in my fancies! But it’s being able to share the stories behind the stories that often really grips me. Yes, we can see match reports and celebrate big milestones etc, but sometimes there is just that little nugget that you might discover that really hits you in the feels so that is great. But I think I love being able to have such a wide scope and talk about something I love so much. I’m not going to say it’s always easy and always just watching sport, but it definitely beats sitting at a desk!
What are some of your highlights?
I can’t look past how incredible my recent trip to Fairbreak was. Not only the people I met, the stories I got to share and the performances I got to witness, but also the atmosphere as a whole. The tournament had a different feel to anything else I’ve seen. It really was about celebrating the women’s game and its unstoppable rise and being able to see what players from 35 countries could all achieve and show on a global stage was incredible.
I’ve also been able to interview some amazing names from the world of sport including England Netball legend Serena Guthrie, England cricket captain Heather Knight, legendary broadcasters like Natalie Germanos and even won an ICC competition to write at the men’s World Cup final at Lords in 2019 so that was pretty cool.
There have been so many amazing names I’ve been able to talk to and I just love nattering away with them and hearing their stories and what they have overcome to get to where they are. I also still get such a buzz when I see my name in print. My first piece in the Telegraph this year was the back page of the Sunday Telegraph and I didn’t even realise until a friend of my mum’s sent me a picture of it. So that was pretty cool. I immediately ran to a corner shop and the shop keeper thought I was bonkers when I was on the floor taking a picture of it, haha!
Let’s chat more about your time at the Fairbreak Invitational. What was that experience like and what do you think it did for women’s sport/cricket globally?
Honestly, what an experience! It’s almost surreal to think I was part of it, and it is something I will never forget. There were a few raised eyebrows ahead of it and people questioning how it might work and the balance between full member nation players and those from associate nations but holy wow it was incredible. I loved it. Yes, there were long days and hard work involved but it was so worth it when we saw what it was doing for the game. I was honoured to be part of it as it was my first really big commentary gig and it seemed to be received so well which helped combat my imposter syndrome and worries that I might not be able to give it the quality of coverage I know it deserved.
It was also such a great way to hear and share stories from all over the cricket world and actually make some great friends who I know will be in my life for a long time. This was both players and other people working at the tournament – the likes of Lesego Pooe and camera queen Claudia Lamb plus the rest of the media team and obviously organisers Shaun Martyn and Geoff Lawson to name but a few.
The players were such legends and such good fun to be around. I loved catching up with them around the hotel and then seeing them go out and boss it on the pitch. I spent a lot of the weeks feeling like a proud mum!
Looking back at the last 5 years, has the coverage of women’s sport changed both online and print?
100% and it’s fantastic to see. You can see it just by looking at TV schedules. One day I turned on the TV and there was domestic women’s cricket on the main Sky Channel plus women’s tennis at the French Open. Plus, a huge article on the web talking all about the build up to the Women’s Euros which will be in England later this summer. It’s great to see.
We are by no means anywhere near where we should be with the coverage, but it is definitely moving in the right direction and it is accelerating. I really feel we are making such incredible strides and I love seeing it. Female sports stars are becoming household names and teams are gaining the following that we have only seen of male teams in the past. All that adds up and builds to where we want to be. We just have to keep talking, sharing and building. I love it and I love being part of it.
Social media, although often getting a bad rep, is so good for this too. Sometimes I can log in to Twitter and see floods of celebration and videos of amazing things from women’s sport. Those little things add up. Like I said, it’s a marathon but one for which we are trained and ready to take on.
What do you do for fun?
It all depends on the weather but if I can get outside either to play sport (I’m a big lacrosse player so I do this every weekend then often end up in the pub) or just get to a pub, see friends or take the dogs. But I love to explore too – roaming around London is a great one but I am a sucker for a good night out doing karaoke, dancing like an idiot or just catching up with mates. It’s such a fast-paced world we live in so being able to see people is something to cherish. I’m a HUGE fan of travelling and also a sun worshipper but it’s tricky to get away because of prices and times etc. I love the cinema and one of my new year’s resolutions was to see something in the cinema every month, so I love that. If I had a dream that I want to do that would be fun I would be so keen to do a bungee jump or get my sky diving license! I’m always keen to find new fun things to do though, so suggestions are always welcome!
What is your greatest ambition?
Get me on that TV talking sports and everything around it. In all honesty I would LOVE to end up presenting/commentating and the ULTIMATE dream would be to take on the top job at Question of Sport or a presenting role at something like the Olympics. I’m thinking Gabby Logan/Clare Balding kind of vibes!
What is it that people don’t know about you?
When I was younger, I thought I was related to Heathrow airport! And when I left school I was voted most likely to marry a cricketer…sadly it hasn’t come to fruition….yet! Haha, I am also a Harry Potter nerd and still listen to the audiobooks to go to sleep.
What progress do women still need to make in the field of sport media?
It’s that age old thing of see it to be it. Even during my lifetime and my career so far, we’ve seen such a positive change and emergence of more women involved at the front of sports media and I love that. Just being part of that growth brings me a lot of pride. But we need to promote women in media as much as women’s sport itself.
It’s something that needs to spread worldwide – in England in particular it has really grown but it needs to be reflected across the world. The steps are being taken but I would love to see more initiatives offering these opportunities to women in the media. I know I would put my hand up straight away for any opportunity offered and any chance I might get to continue growing into the broadcaster/journalist/commentator I strive to be. Women in sports media are such a great bunch and always willing to offer each other help so I’d love to see this harboured by the authorities and organisations to really grow this incredible community and build on that talent.
How receptive are sports fans to women in your part of the world?
I think England is actually ahead of many when it comes to this. It isn’t often that you find a sport event without some kind of female voice/pen attached to it somehow but there are still lots of steps to be taken. I know of lots of people who have had a male counterpart chosen over them despite having equal qualifications/credentials and it can be tough sometimes.
Where I find it most difficult is finding a space as a woman talking about men’s sports. I recently received a Twitter message telling me I didn’t have a place talking on the men’s game and that I should stick to women’s sport and something like that is really sad to read. However, I’m not sure he quite realized my ‘Yorkshire grit’ having a mum from up North and all it does is spur me on to talk even more, write even more, and be involved in sports of all levels and for all genders.
There’s still a lot of work to be done but things are definitely moving in the right direction and there are so many males that are willing to support women in sports media and that’s also great to see.
What’s your advice to those who want to venture into sports media?
Reach out and never be afraid to ask. If you don’t ask you don’t get help and it’s about making those connections, searching out help and support where you can because you never know what door might be opened. We are all out here still figuring things out so the more of us work together, the stronger the power of women in sports media will be.
I recently had a rejection for a role and I received such a lovely message from Kass Naidoo offering her support and advice and to know that I have such amazing people in the industry, also in my corner is just what we all need to keep pushing forward and breaking down barriers.
I know that my DMs are always open, and I might not be right up there with the biggest names but I am always keen to help anyone out wherever I can. In the words of High School Musical: “We’re all in this together.”
And always remember – you are a super star and you got this!
Photo 1 Caption: English sportscaster and commentator Georgie Heath believes the more women in sport media work together, the stronger the power of women’s presence will be in the industry. Photo: Supplied