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Sky Sports: Making The Most Of Your Work Experience

Mitch Waddon

Mitch on the famous Soccer AM set

After doing work experience at Sky’s iconic Soccer Saturday and Soccer AM, Falmouth University student Mitch Waddon writes about some of his highlights…

My time at Sky Sports has been demanding, rewarding and immensely fun. There has rarely been a dull moment and I’ve had the chance to carry out a wide variety of duties – ranging from finding a Brazilian chef to cook everyone World Cup party food to dressing up as Roy Hodgson for a VT filmed at Brentford’s Griffin Park.

Whilst it may all sound like a great laugh (and trust me, it is) you should also never lose sight of why you are there. Make sure you remain professional no matter how bizarre the situation (I’ve also played a crying John Terry and, on another occasion, been covered in Champagne byAndy Carroll). Enjoy it – but remember, you’re also there to show that you can do a job.

Working hours can be long - if you work with Soccer AM or Soccer Saturday you can be sure of a late finish on Friday night. Depending on the required props and how segments are coming together, finishing after 11pm is not uncommon. Add in a 7am start on the Saturday and you can see why it takes a certain sort of dedication and commitment.

My advice would be to try your best to maintain that smile and drive during those long hours. It can be tough (believe me, I’ve been there) but it is during those long and difficult moments that you can prove your worth to the team.

Show day is always good fun, if not for the banter on the studio floor then for the interactions with the guests and the audience. Even if you haven’t had much sleep, the adrenaline of the occasion inevitably carries you through.

The guests during my second show were Burnley manager Sean Dyche and the band Kasabian. Both were incredible to work with. Dyche in particular pleasantly surprised me. He had always come across as quite a stern person but he allowed his personality and wit to show during his interview, across the various segments and after recording had finished.

And that brings me to my next point – remember that the show is live as well, so be careful what you say and to whom you say it. And don’t be surprised if you are asked to help by providing refreshments and collecting coffees. You are there not only to learn the way the industry works, but also to help out wherever you can.

You get to work with various celebrities and sports stars like this regularly, so it’s important that you don’t let yourself become star-struck – particularly with the presenters. After a few days you’ll find yourself accustomed to the recognisable faces in the Sky Sports corridors, and will quickly come to realise that they are simply employees doing a job. Most are very pleasant to work with and will appreciate being treated like everyone else, rather than as the superstar you know from that show on the television.

I’ve had a few people ask me what some of the well-known personalities on the show are like, including Rocket and Tubes. I can reveal a hard fact about each: Rocket takes sugar in his tea, and Tubes very kindly got me breakfast on Saturday morning.

They are, as is everyone else in the office, very down to earth and genuine. It is hard to think of them as celebrities when you work with them and experience them on that kind of level. They’re humble and enjoy the banter as much as the next ordinary bloke you’d meet down the pub.

So to summarise – the most important advice I have to offer if you get a placement at Sky Sports is to enjoy it and remember why you are there. Jobs are hard to come by today, so work hard and earn the praise of the team you work with. They remember the hard workers, which will be in your benefit should the opportunity of employment arise.

If you want to read more from Mitch, check out his blog, where he muses about sports among other things. You can also follow him on Twitter, @MitchWaddon

Telegraph Media Group – Work Experience (Sport)

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Location: London

Closing date: Ongoing

Group Sport is the fully integrated department, publishing the stand alone Daily Telegraph Sport supplements, the Sunday Telegraph Sport supplement and the online content on the Sport channel at www.telegraph.co.uk/sport

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Breaking Into Sports Journalism

Interviewing Mo Farah

Vaishali interviews  double world and Olympic champion Mo Farah

Sports journalist and presenter Vaishali Bhardwaj describes what it takes to break into the industry…

I did a microbiology degree at Imperial College London but, after three years of training, realised that it wasn’t for me – I wanted to pursue a different career path. I‘d always loved watching and playing sports, so sports journalism seemed like a logical move.

I didn’t have any relevant experience at this point, so the first thing I did was apply for internships and work placements so that I could get a better understanding of what to expect.

Anyone who has been in a similar position will know that applying to internships is hard enough when you DO have the relevant degree – so it was certainly a tough process for me. I carried out a lot of research and I scanned websites daily for appropriate roles.

Eventually I was fortunate enough to secure internships with BBC Sport, The Guardian and The Times sports desk. For all three I had to go through several stages of interviews before being offered anything.

It was tough – but I think the main thing that helped me succeed was being able to show editors just how passionate I was about sport. I talked to them in-depth about the sports I love, and because I also kept a blog at the time, I was able to demonstrate an interest in journalism.

Needless to say, these placements were worth it. They taught me to write balanced, concise and accurate sports stories. I also made some excellent contacts, and perhaps most importantly, I learned to adapt to the often unsociable hours that journalists work. In other words, I had obtained enough exposure to sports journalism to know that I wanted to pursue a career in the field.

The internships also provided me with a direct means of finding more work. Having that experience on my CV, alongside the knowledge I had gained, meant I was able to land work experience at FourFourTwo magazine. This then led to a regular writing slot on their website – which soon became a more permanent role covering Spanish football.

I also got invited to a local radio station in London, where I began presenting and producing a Premier League football show. This, in turn, helped me land appearances on several international podcasts and get more work at national radio stations such as talkSPORT.

There had been a knock-on effect: the more I did well in my roles, the more other companies wanted to me to write, present or produce for them.

While my career sounds as if it has been a relatively simple journey so far when I sum it up in a few short paragraphs, this certainly hasn’t been the case. Don’t be fooled – breaking into sports journalism requires hard work, bags of optimism, determination and a willingness to work for free – at least in the early stages. 

Pursuing this career path also means you need to be very open to looking at new ways of enhancing your skill set all the time. For example, I realised early on that I needed to gain all of the traditional abilities that journalists need – everything from a solid understanding of media law to a mastery of shorthand. I therefore enrolled onto a long-distance NCTJ Diploma in Journalism course while I worked.  

This undoubtedly equipped me with the tools to succeed in the trade, but I have also worked tirelessly to teach myself even more – such as editing audio and video content, or even learning new languages – to ensure that I have as many skills as possible to succeed in a highly competitive industry.

You really do need to be willing to put in a lot of hard graft if you want to make it. For me, working and completing a post-graduate course at the same time has single-handedly been the most challenging part of my career so far – but it’s all been worth it because I love my job. If you are truly passionate about sports journalism, then every effort you make to succeed will pay off in the end.

Seeing an idea for an article or a video feature come to life from the research stage through to publishing is immensely fulfilling. Even better are the memories of the times when my career has given me the opportunity to interview some of my favourite sports personalities.

I still remember being one of a few journalists chosen to ride along the London streets on an open-top bus with athletes Tyson Gay, David Oliver and Andy Turner ahead of their Aviva Grand Prix press conference in 2010. It was certainly a unique way to conduct an interview, and a real once-in-a-lifetime experience.

I also got to travel to France to speak with former Lille defender Aurélien Chedjou for FourFourTwo recently. After finishing my interview with the centre-back, he headed into the kit room and re-emerged with a Lille shirt, which he signed and gave to me. For someone who is passionate about sport, it is memories like these which make the effort worthwhile.

Vaishali Bhardwaj is a freelance sports journalist and presenter. For more from Vaishali, you can visit her website, follow her on Twitter @VaiBhardwaj, or check out her Facebook page.

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