Any girl who has kicked a soccer ball, bumped a volleyball or shot a free throw has probably wondered what it would be like to turn sports into a career. And in today’s world, aspiring female athletes, broadcasters and coaches can set out toward their dreams with confidence, thanks to women like Ann Liguori. As a pioneer for female sports broadcasters, Liguori was the first female sports talk show host at WFAN Radio in New York, a post she held for 22 years before. She now continues as the station’s golf and tennis correspondent at The Masters, the US Open Golf Championships, the US Open Tennis Championships and at special competitions such as The Olympics. Having interviewed hundreds of sports’ greatest athletes, from Wilt Chamberlin to Billie Jean King, Liguori knows what it’s like to tenaciously pursue her goals and come out on top.
So What’s the secret? We’ll let her tell you!
Girls Gone Sporty: When did you know you wanted to go into sports reporting?
Ann Liguori: I grew up playing sports from the time I could crawl. Our backyard where I grew up in Brecksville, Ohio (suburb of Cleveland) became the field for all kinds of sports for the entire neighborhood, from football to baseball to kickball. I was the fastest runner and one of the best athletes at the time and was often one of the first picked for games. In High School I played four sports per year as well as participated in marching and symphonic bands, playing the flute. I earned four Varsity letters per year for a total of 16 Varsity Letters in high school. We were allowed to “double” in sports so in the spring, I would play a match for the boy’s tennis team, because there was no girls team at the time, and then run a 100 yard dash, do the long jump and run in the 440 yard relay for the girl’s track team. I was an all-around “jockette” and loved every minute of it!
When I was three-years-old, I can remember watching broadcast pioneer Ruth Lyons host her variety and interview show on a television station in Cincinnati, Ohio (where I was born and lived until moving to Cleveland when I was eight years-old). She interviewed the most fascinating people and it obviously made a huge impression on me at a very early age, as my Mom tuned into her show daily and I happened to be in my high chair watching. From that moment on, I knew what I wanted to do with my life — host shows and interview people! And as an athlete and lover of sports, I developed my career in sports broadcasting and sports journalism.
Girls Gone Sporty: How did you get your start, and what trials did you face?
Ann Liguori: As a naturally-gifted athlete, I was thrilled when I got to high school and there were actually sports programs that girls could participate in, thanks largely to Title IX! In junior high, there were no organized sports teams for girls at the time at my Junior High! It was a bitter pill to swallow, but my Dad and I organized a girls track team that competed in various AAU meets throughout Cleveland and I started playing tennis in programs outside of school.
In broadcasting, there have been obstacles as a woman in the field of sports broadcasting throughout my career. It has been a process of changing the traditional/sexist mindset that still exists that “women don’t know sports and should not be on-air talking about sports.” Certainly back when I became the first female sports talk show host at WFAN Radio in New York, the first all-sports radio station in the country which started in 1987, I knew that I had to be flawless on the air and know my stuff even more than the guys on the air at the station, because I knew I’d be judged more harshly as a female hosting a live, call-in sports show. Hey Liguori, What’s the Story aired weekly for over 22 years on WFAN. I decided to end that particular show after 22 years to work on a variety of others.
Also, in selling my long-running Sports Innerview with Ann Liguori cable series that aired on sports networks throughout the country from 1989-2005, I was hosting and producing the series and selling the series to various sponsors. When I first started pitching it to advertisers on Madison Avenue, many executives looked at me like I had three heads! They were thinking, “You as a woman are hosting this sports show and selling it?!” It just wasn’t done back then and it’s still rare to this day! But, I own the rights to over 600 half-hour interviews with legends in sports and it’s one of the most satisfying areas of my career. These cable interviews that I did with everyone from Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams, Wilt Chamberlain, Jim Brown, Billie Jean King, Hank Aaron, etc., are now “treasures” and truly define my career, as well as my radio shows!
Girls Gone Sporty: What are some common misconceptions/preconceptions about female sports reporters, and how have you worked to overcome them?
Ann Liguori: I mentioned earlier that women in sports broadcasting have to be better, more knowledgeable, more professional and so forth., to overcome the stereotype that “women don’t know sports” or “don’t belong on a field talking about sports”or are in sports for the wrong reasons. Believe it or not, some people still feel this way! I do believe that women should always dress professionally and do their homework, know their stuff and leave no doubt that they truly do belong in the business for their knowledge and professionalism, not for how they look!
Girls Gone Sporty: When things got tough, how did you find the courage and strength to keep pursuing your dream? Did you ever consider quitting?
Ann Liguori: Because I stayed “independent” as a TV and Radio host, producer and journalist throughout my career, it was much more difficult than being with one network and earning a regular paycheck. In the early days, you were only as good as your last gig, so to speak, meaning, it was challenging to hustle week after week to earn your next pay check. And starting my career in Manhattan was exhilarating but expensive as far as living costs, to say the least! Selling my own television and radio properties is a lot of work but ultimately, most rewarding and profitable. But yes, in the early days, I did fight thoughts about leaving Manhattan and going back to Cleveland to find work there. When I first started my career, I was also dealing with the tragedies of losing my father to cancer when I was a junior in college and my 22-year-old brother to leukemia upon my college graduation and embarking on my broadcasting career in New York City. I’ll never forget when my brother Jim looked me in the eye and told me to “follow my dreams” when he was in his hospital bed, dying of leukemia. It was a most powerful moment on many levels. His strength and courage has inspired me to this day!
Girls Gone Sporty: How has your personal love of sports and fitness helped fuel your professional goals?
Ann Liguori: Competing in sports throughout my childhood taught me so much which I’ve carried into my professional life and into board rooms. And my daily exercise routine is a must for me in terms of feeling 100 percent and releasing stress!
If I have any advice for parents, it’s to connect your daughters to sports as participants! Playing sports teaches us how to win, how to deal with loss, adversity, competition, how to play as a team. It gives girls self-esteem, confidence and leadership skills. Participating in sports is healthy. Regular exercise is a must for healthy living.
Five years ago, I founded the Ann Liguori Foundation which raises money and awareness for cancer research and prevention and one of our main objectives is to teach young people about good nutrition and the importance of regular exercise. Sports and fitness have been a part of my life since I can remember. I live it every day! I talk about it and I encourage all girls and women to incorporate exercise in their daily routines!
Girls Gone Sporty: How do you manage to stay active when your schedule’s so busy?
Ann Liguori: I always make time to run, swim and bike. I do yoga twice a week and work out in the gym twice a week. I love to play golf and play throughout the world. I’ve turned the sport of golf into a career! When work and other activities take over your life, I remember that I wouldn’t be able to do the things I do, career-wise, without feeling healthy and stress free. I have to exercise daily to feel 100 percent!
Girls Gone Sporty: Do you have any words of advice for women looking to break into the sports industry, whether as a reporter/correspondent or in another capacity?
Ann Liguori: Yes! Learn as much as you can about all sports, the history of sports, the current state of sports, the business of sports, the personalities in the business, and so forth. Stay on top of all the news. Read everything you can get your hands on. Know more than the competition. Work hard on your delivery. Be focused and determined and don’t get discouraged with “No.” Navigate a career in sports that works for you. Never compromise your standards and follow your moral compass! Establish credibility and respect early in your career. Credibility and respect are the two most important assets for success. Dream big. Practice, Practice, Practice and work harder than anyone else to achieve your goals.
Girls Gone Sporty: What personal and professional goals are you currently working toward?
Ann Liguori: Professionally, I’m continuing to grow my multi-media company as a broadcaster, producer, journalist, author and business owner. I’m working on a new television series, a new book and expanding the distribution of my treasured Sports Innerview with Ann Liguori archives. I love covering Major golf and tennis tournaments for CBS Sports Radio Network and WFAN and consulting for a variety of companies. Personally, Scott and I travel the world, play golf and learn all about history and culture. I love spending time with my Mom, my sister Jean and her family, my brother Dan, Scott’s parents, his brother and family and our golden retriever Skye. I feel extremely blessed and love giving back! I’m proud of the work the Ann Liguori Foundation does in helping others.
Follow your dreams. Clearly desire and you’ll clearly acquire! And remember, “attitude” and “gratitude” are the two keys to happiness!
For more information on Ann visit her website at www.annliguori.com
Follow Ann on Twitter: @annliguori
Like Ann on Facebook: www.facebook.com/annliguori