CSN TOMBOY

TOMBOY: CSN's Siera Santos

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TOMBOY: CSN's Siera Santos

What experience had the biggest impact on your life and career in sports and why?

I’m often asked why I chose to be in sports broadcasting and the answer is not exactly brief. Most people aren’t familiar with my backstory. While I prefer to tell it face-to-face, here it is in a nutshell: Throughout high school, I had a lot of “problems” (that’s the gentle way of putting it). I didn’t graduate and instead got my GED while I was in a treatment center in Utah. That summer when I returned home to Arizona, I needed a healthy distraction and, although I had always been a casual Arizona Diamondbacks and Phoenix Suns fan, I started watching games every day and reading the sports section with my dad over our morning cup of coffee. When the NBA season started, I begged my dad for season tickets. This was the Nash/Stoudemire/Marion Era and tickets were incredibly expensive. While we didn’t get season tickets that year, we went to several regular season and playoff games. Next season rolled around and, once again, I pleaded with my dad to get us season tickets. He finally broke down and bought a half-season package. We went to nearly every other game. I knew at that point that I wanted to go to games for the rest of my life. I enrolled in community college for the spring with my heart set on getting a degree in broadcast journalism. Not only did Suns games change the course of my future, it also repaired my relationship with my dad.

Who’s had the biggest impact and why?  

It’s difficult to single out one person. Obviously my parents' unwavering support got me where I am today. If I had to name someone who is currently a mentor-figure in my life, it would definitely be Jesse Sanchez from MLB Network. He always checks in to make sure I’m OK (in both my career and personal life) and he’s given me invaluable feedback and advice. There aren’t many Latinos working in sports media at national level and he encourages me to embrace who I am.

What are some of the funniest moments you’ve experienced as a woman in sports?

When I tell people I’m a sports broadcaster, the immediate follow-up question tends to be: “Oh, so you like sports?” It’s tough to not respond with something sarcastic so I usually say, “Nope! I hate them!” I just don’t think it’s a question that you would ask a man in sports broadcasting. 

What was the most negative moment you’ve experienced? The one that got you fired up or perhaps made you think about quitting.

Overall, most of my interactions are very positive and the majority of athletes are professionals. But I did have an issue with one player who was unbelievably disrespectful. He had been inappropriate on two previous occasions and I dreaded having to crowd around his locker to do interviews with him after games. I stopped asking him questions and after one of the scrums, he said: “If you’re not going to ask any questions, move your ass to the back.” My cameraman was still rolling and the mic was still hot. It was caught on video. Eventually, the issue was resolved with the support of my superiors. However, the entire ordeal was embarrassing and made my job more difficult.

Have you had any teachable moments? i.e. someone made an ignorant comment, but had no idea you were offended – until you said something?

Double-checking the pronunciation of names that I’m not familiar with has been a priority. If you slip-up on a name, viewers will crucify you. Most male broadcasters will be forgiven for a mispronunciation, but it’s not necessarily the same for women.

Any awkward moments?  

Whenever an athlete crosses the line and tries to be flirtatious or ask for a date. It doesn’t happen as often as you’d think, but it’s still uncomfortable. 

What are you most proud of?

I’m often asked “Well, what’s next?” The truth is, I’m very happy with where I am. My end goal was to be a team reporter for a regional sports network and that’s exactly what I’m doing. I live in an amazing city and I love what I do. After I dropped out of high school, I never thought I would make it this far, much less graduate college. I’m incredibly grateful to be here and I’m proud of where I am.

A lot of girls look up to you and aspire to be on TV covering sports...What is the most important message you want to send to them?

Be someone that people enjoy working with and being around. Always be open to feedback. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you’re not 100% sure. Oh, and don’t post anything on social media that you wouldn’t want your grandma to see.

TOMBOY: CSN's Leila Rahimi

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TOMBOY: CSN's Leila Rahimi

What experience had the biggest impact on your life and career in sports and why?

This is going to sound like an odd answer, but surviving various challenges in our business. I’ve gone through everything from having to get a police escort to shoot video when I was a news reporter, only to be suspended from being on air because acquiring the escort made me late for a 5 p.m. deadline on a 10 p.m. show. That supervisor who made the decision was also sued for gender discrimination by a previous employee. In another market I dealt with a mass layoff after we’d have to hear about what happened in court proceedings regarding our station on Twitter. Then there was the simple, but not easy, task of shooting video every day with a 35-pound camera and 18-pound tripod for seven years in several different markets.

Who’s had the biggest impact and why?  

The person who has the biggest impact on your career in this business… is yourself.

What are some of the funniest moments you’ve experienced as a woman in sports?

When I was a “one-man-band,” where you shoot video, edit and report it, and I carried the gear around, I’d get a lot of “that camera is bigger than you are” discussion. I’d just laugh it off. I’ve had a guy accuse me of using my looks to get hired at a radio station because they didn’t get the NASCAR results fast enough (this is when we’d get updates from a wire service faster than the internet would refresh them). That made me laugh.

What was the most negative moment you’ve experienced? The one that got you fired up or perhaps made you think about quitting.

Various moments will make you question your employment in TV. You just have to keep going.

Have you had any teachable moments?  i.e. someone made an ignorant comment, but had no idea you were offended– until you said something?

Sadly I don’t have much of a filter, so when someone makes a comment and I get upset about it, they know pretty quickly. I’m the one who should probably look into that more on my end than the other way around.

Any awkward moments?

I’ve had people ask about my dating availability. I say I don’t want to lose my job. That makes it pretty self-explanatory. What frustrates me is when I’d be having a perfectly normal conversation with an athlete (aka, a coworker) and if I was talking to that person “too long,” I’d worry that someone would think something wasn’t right with the situation, that it would look suspicious. When in reality, we were probably talking about Target or something very basic like that, or someone was teaching me something about the sport they play, or there was a play during a game they wanted to describe, etc. Simply because I’m a woman and the athlete is a man, it could “look bad.”

What are you most proud of?

Again, I’d say surviving. This business is hard on relationships, personal lives, self-esteem, you name it.

A lot of girls look up to you- and aspire to be on TV covering sports…..What is the most important message you want to send to them?

The obsession with looks in our business has really increased since I started out. That may sound weird given that it’s TV, but I’ve been told I won’t get a lot of jobs because I’m not blonde. It’s true. I didn’t get some chances because I didn’t have a certain look. But don’t get discouraged. Don’t go changing because someone else wants you to. “Do you,” and know that the biggest asset is always knowledge. If you want to be taken seriously, read and watch as much sports as possible. That’s how you stay employed.

TOMBOY : Sarah Thomas has earned authority as an NFL referee

TOMBOY : Sarah Thomas has earned authority as an NFL referee

Sarah Thomas became the first full-time female official in NFL history and made history on Sept. 13, 2015 she made her professional officiating debut in a game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans.

Thomas' presence as an authority figure on the football field is something she probably couldn't have predicted as she hated referees during her youth. 

In a profile on Thomas by SB Nation, Charlotte Wilder wrote: "As a highly competitive high school and college basketball player, the Mississippi native would get heated over calls that she disagreed with, though she knew how to butter up the officials when she needed to."

[RELATED: Women in sports are not unicorns, they do exist]

Now, Thomas is one of the most recognizable referees in all of professional sports. 

Throughout her career as an official which began in 1996, Thomas has worked on officiating crews for Conference USA football, FBS bowl games, NFL games since 2015, and she became the first woman to officiate a game in a Big Ten stadium when she served as a line judge for a Northwestern-Rice matchup at Ryan Field.

“As women, the way we carry ourselves speaks a lot," Thomas told SB Nation's Wilder. "Field presence is what they talk about. But you can still be a woman, you can be attractive, and whatever way you carry yourself speaks volumes to the reception. A man may feel as if may he can have his way or whatever, but I just think that when we carry ourselves with confidence, and walk into a room with confidence, the atmosphere kind of changes.”

To read more about Thomas' fascinating story on how she became a referee, check out Wilder's full story at SB Nation