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Rachel Nichols

...in her own words
Povich
Center
About
SNCPB

I don't remember ever wanting to be anything else, becoming a sports journalist was always my dream.

About This Project

In his 1973 book "No Cheering in the Press Box," author Jerome Holtzman chronicled the lives of the greatest sports journalists of his generation. Four decades later, students at the University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism are updating his work with a series of interviews with the best sports journalists of the last 40 years.

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The chapter was produced by Marissa Morris.

About Rachel Nichols

Rachel Nichols knew she wanted to be a sports journalist from an early age and after stints at newspapers is now doing that for a television audience.

BORN: October 18, 1973
HOMETOWN: Potomac, Maryland
EDUCATION: Northwestern University
OCCUPATION: NBA Reporter, ESPN
TWITTER: @Rachel__Nichols

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I played soccer for number of years as a kid and was fairly good at ice skating, like doing tricks.

But the truth is I was always even more captivated by watching sports than playing them. I loved the storytelling of it – for me it was like watching a movie, but it was happening live in front of you, with heroes and villains, challenges to be overcome and a beginning-middle-and-end.

It probably didn't hurt that I grew up in the Washington, DC, area at a time when the football team was winning multiple Super Bowls. The whole city was obsessed with every moment of every game of every season and the idea of following teams like that – and maybe even getting paid for it one day – seemed very exciting.

I read the Washington Post religiously growing up, so that whole sports section felt like the coolest clubhouse imaginable to me, and anyone who worked there was a role model.

In particular, I can't say enough good things about Christine Brennan, both as a role model from afar and then, later, a mentor. She was the first woman to ever hold the paper's NFL beat, she was the most respected voice in Olympic coverage – and she is also just a terrific person.

There were so many more role models, though – from Mike Wilbon to Tony Kornheiser to Tom Boswell and a host of others.

I first got started writing for the sports page of my junior high newspaper. Same for my high school newspaper, and my first big internship was before my freshman year of college, at USA Today's sports section.

Earlier in my career, I worked as a reporter for the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel and the Washington Post.

From what people have told me, I was one of the first women to hold the Washington Capitals beat for the Post. And regardless, I'd want to make very clear that it wasn't nearly the landmark achievement that Christine Brennan's NFL beat breakthrough was, just because hockey was not as central a beat to the paper.

But bottom line, I was young, and female, and there were a number of people within and around the organization who had never had a woman regularly assigned to and traveling with the club, and they made it crystal clear to me they would prefer me not be there.


When you're trying to distinguish yourself as a young journalist and prove to your bosses and the newspaper's readers that you deserve a big opportunity, it's tough to also have some people on the team going out of their way to make it harder for you.

When you're trying to distinguish yourself as a young journalist and prove to your bosses and the newspaper's readers that you deserve a big opportunity, it's tough to also have some people on the team going out of their way to make it harder for you.

All that being said – by the end of my first year on that beat, things had swung 180 degrees. Even those who had been most openly hostile toward me were acknowledging how hard I worked, how prepared I was and how much I knew.

I distinctly remember in my third year on that beat, a player who had just been traded to the Capitals made some sort of casual but blatantly sexist comment to me, and the three closest other players to his locker all immediately wheeled around and made it extremely clear that "we don't act that way around Rachel." Of course, you'd like that to be the standard regardless. But in this instance it felt like a real win.

There are so many moments throughout my career that have stood out. I've been at multiple Super Bowls, Final Fours, Olympics, NBA Finals, World Series, etc.

When the stakes are that high, you get such a rush being present for all the drama there. Other events are meaningful because of their time and place – I was at Yankee Stadium covering the team's playoff run in the weeks after the Sept 11 terrorist attacks, and I worked the Boston Red Sox playoff run after the Marathon Bombings, and both are assignments I'll never forget.

As for interviews, I've been so fortunate to talk to so many big athletes in big moments – I think interviewing LeBron James over the years has been fascinating, because I first sat down with him when he was still in high school and have interviewed him nearly every year since then.

Getting to check in with someone and see how they are changing and developing as a person as they age between 17 and 30 would be pretty interesting no matter who it was, and that is only multiplied when the person is one of the most gifted athletes on the planet.

My main advice for young journalists is practical: intern, intern, intern. It will make THE difference in what kind of job you can get out of school, what connections you have in the field and will also just help you try out different jobs and cities and determine what you really want to do with your life.

My second advice is for anyone, but particularly for young women is that "No" is a complete sentence. Try to say 'yes' to whatever you can – it's good to experience things in life!


My second advice is for anyone, but particularly for young women is that "No" is a complete sentence. Try to say 'yes' to whatever you can – it's good to experience things in life!

But when the answer is really 'no,' and you can't or don't want to do something, have confidence in how you feel. You don't need to explain to everyone else why, and hope your reasoning is good enough for them and seems justified. Just answer and move on.

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