Sam Squiers: Storyteller Of Women In Sports
“I just wanted to add to the women I’m looking forward to seeing in Rio. I can’t believe I didn’t mention Shelley Watts who is boxing for Australia and hoping to bring home our first women’s boxing gold medal. She is an incredible woman who has worked so hard to get to this stage. It’s a difficult qualification process for Aussie boxers and she is such a determined woman.”
Brisbane Channel Nine sports journalist, Samantha Squiers, shot off this email while in Europe covering the Tour de France and Women’s Tour de France. That she was still thinking about the question more than a week after our interview was hardly surprising.
Sam, as she is better known, is one of those individuals who never stop breathing life into their great childhood passion. And for her, that passion is sports. Whether it be track, pitch, pool or mat, she loves each one equally and enormously.
“Sports is in my blood,” she told woman with drive. “I grew up in a country town where I was always running up the street, riding my bike or climbing trees. I started off with netball then basketball, softball and soccer. Those were my main sports.”
“In my spare time, I also played cricket and touch football. Then I picked up golf and surfboat rowing. Last year, I got into marathons. I have run two in the last 10 months and will run another next year.”
Have you caught your breath yet? Because there is more. Between playing and reporting on sports, Sam is also editor and writer for Sportette, an online publication she founded two years ago to tell the stories of women in sport.
“Sportette is about changing the landscape for the next generation of women in sport,” Sam said. “It takes a deeper look at the perceptions of women in sports and challenges them. If, in my own small way, I can help a little girl see a future in sports, then I would have done my job.”
Within a few months of its launch, Sportette was given the thumbs-up by athletes, journalists and the public. And when sports organisations began getting in touch with Sam to talk about launching women’s leagues, she knew that Sportette was fulfilling its mission.
Having played so many different sports, did you ever have a childhood ambition of turning professional?
No. It was never really put to me as an option. Being from the country, we did not have much exposure to sportswomen apart from swimmers and athletes. And since I am into team sports, neither was an option. What everyone was telling me, though, was that I should be a sports reporter. There were not many women in that line either but it felt like a natural path for me. Being a sportswoman would have been great but I am a lot happier reporting on the amazing women who have so much talent.
You were a sports journalist for nine years before you started Sportette. What sparked the idea?
I had started writing opinion pieces on women in sports and when the publication I was writing for shut down, I struggled to get my pieces published elsewhere. My husband suggested I start my own site but I said no because I was too busy. He repeated this suggestion every time I got another rejection letter until I finally went, all right let’s do this.
Channel Nine recently received a letter of complaint from a female viewer about its sports programs being “inundated and dominated by women”. You responded beautifully to that letter on Sportette. But how did you feel when you first read it?
I laughed. And then I thought, I have to write back because it is so wrong. The reality is that when I stand in front of the camera, people do not see a passionate sports fan or the hard work I have done to get here or the people who have tried to bring me down. All they see is gender.
Women have been in the system for a long time and we are still fighting our way to the top. (Tweet This) No one gets there without a hell of a lot of hard work. Every single one of us works so bloody hard and sometimes harder because we do not get the instant credibility that is given to men. We have to prove that we know what we are talking about. That this letter came from another woman was a bit of a shock but a good reminder that these opinions are not limited to men.
Do you have a personal story on gender-based credibility?
I was once co-hosting a big sports event with a young guy who confessed he knew nothing about sports. We agreed that I would take the lead in the interview with a former sports personality. First, that personality remarked on my gender. When I began the interview, he expressed surprise that I knew what I was talking about. And then he turned to my co-host and answered the question. The rest of the interview continued that way. But here is the thing – I do not think he even realised what he was doing because the perception of men having more credibility in sports is so ingrained in people’s minds.
Did you call him out?
I contemplated doing that but I was interviewing him in front of thousands of people so it would not have been a good move. I would if I see him again, though!
If you could play a professional match against another athlete or in a team, what and who would it be?
I love Serena Williams. She is powerful, eloquent, does not take any crap and represents everything I love about strong women. I do not know if I would be brave enough to play against her so I would rather have her over for dinner instead. I would also love to go for a run with Caroline Wozniacki. She has done a couple of marathons and she is besties with Serena so that is my way of getting close to her!
The 2016 Olympics begin this weekend. Who will you be looking out for?
Our swimmers, Cate and Bronte Campbell. I absolutely love these girls. Cate just broke the “supersuit” world record in the 100 metres freestyle last month, which is insane. And Bronte is the world champion in the 100 metres freestyle. Another incredible swimmer is Emily Seebohm who is heading into her third Olympics.
I will also be watching the women’s rugby sevens because they are world champions. This is the rugby sevens debut in the Olympics and our team is putting rugby on the map for girls.
Then there is our track cyclist and flag bearer, Anna Meares. She has had an incredible run from breaking her neck to winning a gold medal in the 2012 Olympics in London. She is just fabulous!
Main image credit: Tim Fearnley Creative
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