Sports fan or not, these reporters will keep you watching longer than you expected. As the industry has evolved, sports reporters have begun to dominate the sidelines, intelligently covering the games while keeping us distracted simultaneously. Yes, we’ve certainly been blessed to have them on our screens — now here’s a chance to get to know them even better.
1. Charissa Thompson
Before Charissa Thompson entered the world of sports broadcasting, Sports Illustrated magazine already had an eye on her. They offered her a modeling gig to appear in one of their body paint-themed swimsuit issues. However, eventually she showed Sports Illustrated how much more she had to offer the world.
Thompson got her start doing sideline reporting for college basketball and college football games on both the Big Ten Network and Fox Sports Net. Eventually she became an NFL reporter for NFL on Fox, a panel analyst for ESPN, and appeared on countless other popular sports shows. Thompson also expanded to cover world events, such as the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics and the FIFA World Cup in South Africa, solidifying her as an international star.
2. Heidi Watney
Heidi Watney is probably best known for the time she spent covering the Boston Red Sox. She did her fair share with them, hosting shows like The Red Sox Report and The Ultimate Red Sox Show, as well as working as an on-field reporter. But eventually, she did such a good job out in Boston that her likeness was coveted on bigger and brighter stages.
Watney ended up moving out to sunny Los Angeles, where she did broadcasts for Time Warner Cable Sportsnet, and later for the MLB Network. All that being said, perhaps the coolest thing to happen to Watney was when she was literally put into the baseball video game known as MLB The Show.
3. Jenny Dell
The sports fans of Boston were happy the day Jenny Dell agreed to report for the Red Sox. Watching the World Series is always fun, but it’s even better with someone like Dell popping up every now and then! She grew up in Connecticut, and attended UMass Amherst, getting a degree in hospitality and tourism management.
Although those majors had nothing to do with sports, she still managed to land a job as an admin for ESPN. Later on, the folks over at New England Sports Network began to notice her, and soon she was a full-on field reporter. And good thing too — all those hours spent at Fenway Park truly paid off for her when she married Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks.
4. Amanda Pflugrad
Despite her young age, Amanda Pflugrad has already made quite the name for herself in sports journalism. In her earlier years, she got her start as a host for the Travel Channel, where she spent a great deal of time traveling around in an RV.
Eventually she graduated to the world of sports and entertainment, landing gigs such as being a sideline reporter for the AVP Beach Volleyball Tour, women’s gymnastics, and other niche sports. Soon the big leagues called, however. Pflugrad then became a reporter first for the New York Jets, and later the Boston Celtics. These days, she’s still a courtside correspondent for the Celtics, and Bostonians certainly aren’t complaining.
5. Sara Carbonero
There’s a funny mythology surrounding Sara Carbonero and how she may have actually affected the outcome of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. At the time, she was dating Spanish goalie Iker Casillas (who she’s currently married to), and was standing right near his goal during the game. Some fans speculated that her mere presence distracted Casillas, ultimately causing him to give up a goal to Switzerland which lost them the game.
However, all theories aside, Carbonero has quite an impressive résumé, and had been in the reporting game for quite some time before the World Cup. She mainly does work for the Spanish network Telecinco — yet although she wasn’t born on American soil, suffice it to say that Americans are always excited whenever this sports reporter turns up on their screen.
6. Jennifer Hale
American audiences were first introduced to Jennifer Hale back in 2011, and they were more than pleased with the new arrival. The sports world was eager to embrace her into its loving arms, especially since Hale came in with a pretty strong résumé. Not only had she worked as a news anchor, investigative reporter, and author, but she also had multiple awards to her name as well.
These days, she works for FOX Sports New Orleans, where she covers New Orleans Pelicans basketball games. However, she’s constantly getting calls to do other prestigious gigs, including when she substituted for Jenny Taft on ESPN’s popular debate show Skip and Shannon: Undisputed.
7. Allie LaForce
Allie LaForce is certainly a force to be reckoned with in this world. Currently she’s a reporter for Turner Sports, where she frequently covers the NBA on TNT — and she’s accomplished so many other things in recent years that it’s hard to keep track!
LaForce used to be a big reporter for SEC college football games, college basketball games, and the host for CBS Sports Network show We Need To Talk. She even won an Emmy for her work as an anchor on Friday Night Touchdown, a high school football show. If all that’s not enough, she’s also the holder of 2005’s Miss Teen USA award.
8. Katie Nolan
Here’s one sports host who’s certainly not like the others. A current ESPN correspondent, Katie Nolan hosts Always Late With Katie Nolan, a show where she’s entertained viewers with all kinds of antics — including breaking a Guinness World Record for stacking the most doughnuts while blindfolded!
But the way she made it to the top was also unlike many of her contemporaries. In Nolan’s own words, “I got my job at Guyism by writing a blog about how women suck.” But she later continued to say that she regretted doing it, because she realizes now that all women are different in their own way, including herself.
9. Britt McHenry
Britt McHenry soared into her first sports reporting job for ABC and NewsChannel 8 not long after graduating from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. After a short stint serving as a dugout reporter for the San Diego Padres, she was hired by ESPN, where she appeared on sports shows like SportsCenter, Baseball Tonight, and NFL Live.
However, while her career is certainly impressive, her reputation took a small hit in 2015 when she was filmed verbally attacking a tow truck employee. Nevertheless, McHenry apologized for it and managed to continue to move forward with her work. These days, she works as a host for WTTG Fox 5, a network located in Washington D.C.
10. Lauren Gardner
Unlike many other reporters on this list who had eyes for the big city, Lauren Gardner found solace working as a sports reporter in her hometown of Denver, Colorado. After graduating from the University of Colorado, she first got her foot in the door of the industry as a cheerleader for the Denver Broncos.
However, she later realized she wanted to be doing other things on the sidelines. So, she somehow managed to land a job at DAZN, a Denver sports network that covers the Avalanche, the Rockies, and the Broncos as well. Afterwards, she would go on to cover all kinds of sports, from basketball, to boxing, to lacrosse.
11. Erin Andrews
Fox Sports reporter Erin Andrews is a legend of sorts in the world of sideline reporting. She’s known to be a trailblazer in the field, being one of the early female voices in an industry so dominated by men. Right off the bat, Andrews proved that she knew quite a lot about sports, and presented an image of strength and professionalism.
At the same time, she showed that you can be a professional sideline reporter and also excel in other fields — such as modeling. When she appeared in a now-famous photoshoot by GQ magazine, she caught the attention of people who weren’t even sports fans at the time. Suffice it to say they likely became fans not long after!
12. Samantha Ponder
It’s not unwise to get your professional career started while you’re still in college, and that’s exactly what Samantha Ponder did. While studying at Liberty University, she served as a sideline reporter for pretty much every sporting event that took place at that school.
Her performance during that time made quite the impact on students and fans alike, and that quickly led to countless other opportunities. Eventually ESPN came calling, and soon enough she was a reporter for ESPN College Football Primetime! However, this was just the tip of the iceberg, as Ponder would eventually grow to become a staple in the sports reporting industry for years to come.
13. Kristina Akra
One of the younger ladies on this list, Kristina Akra currently works as an in-game reporter for the Washington Nationals. However, before she got into reporting, she dipped her toes into another, rather different branch of sports — dancing. Akra was a professional dancer for the Miami Heat for a while, but then decided that she wanted more out of the sports industry.
She would later go on to cover college basketball for both the Big East and SEC Network, before eventually making the jump to Major League Baseball. She’s continually showing the world that she possesses a heck of a lot of sports knowledge in addition to those dancing skills.
14. Kristine Leahy
Kristine Leahy grew up in the windy city of Chicago during Michael Jordan’s prime years, which turned her on to basketball and sports in general. She pursued sports broadcasting with a vengeance, and it certainly paid dividends for her, considering her multiple accomplishments.
Leahy is probably best known as the host for American Ninja Warrior, but she also made a big name for herself on The Herd With Colin Cowherd, a popular sports talk show. Eventually, Fox Sports 1 gave Leahy her very own show: Fair Game With Kristine Leahy, where she’d interview various athletes. Unfortunately, the show was cancelled after a year, but this reporter is still grinding and finding new gigs!
15. Alex Curry
Sometimes in life it’s good to find one thing you know best, and stick to it. But when it comes to sports, Alex Curry knows quite a bit about a variety of them. For instance, you might have seen her getting a tan while covering the Pro Beach Volleyball Series on NBC Sports.
Or perhaps you’ve watched her on Fox Sports West, where she covers the Los Angeles Angels on Angels Weekly and Angels Monthly. Or maybe you’ve enjoyed watching her most as a host on Tailgate 48, a show run by the Big Ten Network. Either way, clearly she’s got her foot in more than a few doors, and the people are loving her all the more for it!
16. Rachel Nichols
No list about female sports reporters would be complete without Rachel Nichols, who undoubtedly inspired her fair share of uninterested viewers to start tuning in. She’s been around for over 20 years, first as a sportswriter for the Washington Post and Fort Lauderdale Suns-Sentinel. Eventually, Nichols landed a prestigious ESPN job in 2004.
Nichols has been praised a lot over the years, with Sports Illustrated once calling her “the country’s most impactful and prominent female sports journalist.” And yet with everything she’s accomplished, Nichols is still going stronger than ever, hosting ESPN’s The Jump, where she analyzes the hottest news stories going around the NBA.
17. Kaylee Hartung
Currently a reporter for ABC News, Kaylee Hartung’s footprints are all over the sports industry’s sweat-covered sidelines. She’s worked in the past for reputable sports networks such as ESPN, the SEC Network, and the Longhorn Network as well. However, getting her big break wasn’t a walk in the park.
She originally started off as an intern at NBC, where she served as an assistant. Later, she was promoted to associate producer, before finally getting the reporting roles she really wanted. However, after years of making a name for herself in the industry, Hartung announced in 2017 that she had reported her last game for ESPN, before joining ABC.
18. Melanie Collins
Melanie Collins had a clear-cut vision for what she wanted when she graduated from the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism. It didn’t take long for the world to notice her fire, and she soon landed a job at a handful of prestigious sports networks, including NBA-TV, Turner Sports, and the Big Ten Network.
Yet even though she had already reported for a handful of different sports, she was prepping to expand her range even further. Soon she was covering the NFL, the Winter Olympics, the FIFA World Cup, March Madness, and even the Super Bowl. Collins has pretty much done it all on the field, although these days her primary focus is covering NFL games.
19. Laura Rutledge
Laura Rutledge (formerly known as Laura McKeeman) confidently graduated from the University of Florida with a broadcast journalism degree, and didn’t waste any time jumping into the job market. It didn’t take long for her to land her first gig, serving as a sports anchor for CNN, where she was seen on shows like New Day and Early Start.
But the young star knew she wanted to be a reporter in the sports industry, so when ESPN came calling, she knew this was the opportunity she’d been waiting for. Soon she was covering all kinds of sports, from college football, to softball, to baseball, to basketball — and the list goes on. She even married an MLB star, infielder Josh Rutledge.
20. Molly McGrath
When Molly McGrath attended Boston College as a young woman, she had her sights set firmly upon the avenues of sports reporting — and helped make that dream a reality by majoring in broadcast journalism. She started small, first getting a production assistant job at ESPN.
Eventually McGrath’s talent was recognized on a larger scale, and she began doing sideline reports for the Boston Celtics. Her career flourished even more after that, with her landing a gig for Fox Sports 1, and later becoming an anchor as well. Although some fans love her for reasons that have nothing to do with sports, her professional accolades as a reporter in the industry are undeniable.
21. Jenn Brown
Jenn Brown is one of those special individuals who’s got it all (strangely enough, we seem to have a lot of those on this list). Brown was always an athlete, and was even given a four-year academic scholarship to play softball for University of Florida.
She was also listed as among the top ten athletes in Central Florida, so you know this lady is a sports nerd through and through. That knowledge certainly paid off when she pursued a career in sports reporting, including an eight-year stint for ESPN. She’s hosted events such as American Ninja Warrior, the X-Games, and countless college sports games.
22. Kristen Ledlow
It didn’t take long for Kristen Ledlow to land a job after graduating from college. WTXL-TV immediately hired her as an anchor to host the Good News Show, which served as a stepping stone for her to work in sports media, which she was more passionate about.
Ledlow soon worked as a radio host for ESPN Tallahassee, and eventually a full-on reporter for Florida State football games. Years later, NBA TV hired her to be a host on NBA Inside Stuff with basketball legend Grant Hill. Ledlow became well-known around the NBA, so much so that on one occasion, Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James felt chummy enough to joke at her while walking past her during one of her courtside broadcasts.
23. Michelle Beisner
What does anyone look for in a good sports reporter? A diverse background, that’s for sure. And when it comes to Michelle Beisner, she’s done quite a lot outside the world of sports reporting. For one, she actually danced on the sidelines while serving as a cheerleader for the Denver Broncos.
Beisner managed to score an acting role in the 1999 sports film Any Given Sunday, and if that’s not enough, she also ended up marrying famous football commentator Joe Buck. Clearly Beisner got to know him pretty well while reporting for the NFL Network! In addition, she’s appeared on other prominent sports networks such as Fox Sports, NBC, and ESPN, to name a few.
24. Cari Champion
Cari Champion grew up on the sunny streets of Pasadena, California, a place that encourages all kinds of basketball fandom. Champion loved the sport so much that her eyes were set on broadcast journalism from the very start. However, she didn’t wait to graduate from college before seeking a job. The young student managed to snag a prestigious internship position at CNN before anyone knew what had hit them.
After college, her impressive background allowed her to get gigs reporting for a handful of networks, before ultimately landing her a staple slot on the Tennis Channel. But her heart was always set on basketball, and eventually she was able to get her dream job working alongside Stephen A. Smith on ESPN2’s First Take, flanked by a fancy SportsCenter anchor position.
25. Niki Noto
Every sports reporter has a certain niche that works best for them. It’s not just those with cushy jobs in a network studio that have it made — and Niki Noto can certainly attest to that, since she thrives in a markedly different setting.
Noto is known for making her way into the crowd, getting rowdy with the fans, and simply embodying the exciting college sports energy for the viewers at home to soak in. This Atlanta-based reporter, who works for ESPNU and CSS, is able to do these things on the popular show known as ESPNU Road Trip, where most fans fell in love with her in the first place.
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