Journalist Sam Squiers has always been passionate about women’s sport – however, she realised quite early in her career that the media outlets she has worked with have not always shared the same passion.
So, in 2014, Sam decided to build her own platform to give women in sport a place to amplify their stories and it was there, from that bravery, that Sportette was born. Through a lot of blood, sweat and tears, Sportette morphed and became a think tank and consultancy for sporting organisations wanting to improve their approach to gender equality. Sam says “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 sport 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.”
After over a decade working with some of Australia’s leading media, Sam’s expertise in women’s sport is now highly sought after by organisations such as the NRL, Golf Australia and Queensland Rugby League. Sam also hosts the podcast On Her Game, which is an array of raw, open and honest conversations with elite female athletes about their triumphs and failures. It gives these incredible athletes a place where they can speak, unedited as not ‘just athletes’ but as first and foremost women – who just like every one of us goes through the same issues of loneliness, feeling less than, relationship breakdowns, mental health… The list goes on…
Sam has single-handedly amplified the voices of female athletes and changed the way the media and world look at female athletes forever. By pivoting Sportette, and launching On Her Game Sam has become the storyteller for women’s sports.
In case that wasn’t enough Sam is also the author of a picture book called, Princesses Wear Sneakers, and is the proud mum of two little girls who love pink as much as they love being active.
With the Olympics just launching the past weekend we thought it was the perfect time to sit down with Sam and chat to her about her career, picks of what to watch on the Olympic lineup and her thoughts on some incredible female athletes who have been in the news lately.
Tell us a little more about your career background? And where did your love of sports come from?
I’ve been obsessed with sports from a very young age. No one in my family is particularly sporty but I was the odd one out playing every sport under the sun and filling my week with as many sports and training as possible. I knew I always wanted to be a journalist and actually wanted to be a foreign correspondent. I studied Journalism and International Studies and lived in Germany for almost two years, while there I had an internship at Deutsche Welle (Germany’s international broadcaster), it was at the height of the US invasion of Iraq, such a fascinating time for international news, yet from day one I found myself in the sports department. When I returned to Australia I worked at WIN News then Sky News, Channel 9 Queensland where I worked for 5 years as the Weekend Sports Presenter and Senior Sports Reporter. I came back to NSW after I had my first daughter Imogen and contracted for 2 years while I had my second daughter Elle and now I’m back working for Fox Sports News and have my own women in sports podcast “On Her Game with Sam Squiers” with Listnr.
We’re guessing you’ll be watching the Olympics with total elation, is this like Christmas for you? What are your favourite Olympic sports to watch?
This is like Christmas and no one likes to have to wait another 12 months for Christmas too, the delay has made me even more excited! I’m also excited that this is my 4yr old daughter’s first Olympics, she’s never experienced it before. I don’t know if I should say this publicly but we may have told her that ABC Kids shuts down over the Olympic period so she has to watch it with us. She’s accepted that and is watching it with us. We had the gymnastics on yesterday and the next thing we know she pulled out a thick exercise band on the ground and started practising her own beam routine. Never underestimate the power of messages we send to little kids!
How important do you think it is that Australian athletes Madeline Groves and Liz Cambage spoke their truth prior to the Tokyo games. And in doing so do you believe this will give other female athletes a louder voice?
Maddie and Liz are two really strong and brave women and I commend what they’ve done. They used their voices to address very separate issues and I think it’s important all women in sport do find the courage to call out things they feel strongly about. They’ve both used social media to speak out and it’s given them a platform to say exactly what they want, rather than snippets of what they say in the media. I still believe there’s a lot of unconscious bias when it comes to reporting on women in sport and we’re not used to women’s voices being used to express strong opinions, so when they do speak about something that’s challenging or difficult or uncomfortable, it’s shot down or not believed. I hope other women in sport find the courage to speak up and know there’s power in their own voices. Nothing changes unless someone takes a stand. There’s power in a collective voice too, if you feel strongly about an issue, it’s likely you’re not the only one.
What does ‘On Her Game’ mean to you?
I’ve always been passionate about women in sport throughout my career. I would always try to sneak women’s sports stories into bulletins and always be ready for a fight when pitching women’s sports stories in the early days. I used to write opinion articles and I would find many of my women’s sports articles would get rejected and I was told “our audience isn’t interested in women’s sports” which I knew not to be true (unconscious bias again). After another rejection, my husband Ben kept saying “you should just start your own women’s sports site”. So that’s how Sportette was born. I launched it in 2014 while working for Channel 9 and would work on it in every spare moment I had. It was called the “Storyteller of women in sport”. It then grew to consult with sports organisations, businesses and brands on how they can better support the women’s game. It started at a time when no one was talking about women in sport, now mainstream do talk about women’s sports more (not enough though) but I pivoted the business to look at new mediums to push women’s sports and podcasts were the perfect platform for female athletes to share their journeys, thoughts and opinions in a safe, encouraging environment. Usually, an interview and story are cut down to a couple of minutes, but with podcasts, there is the ability to hear directly from the athlete in an engaging longer format that isn’t subject to harsh edits which can disrupt the context of their stories. I’ve been working with Listnr for the past two years on “On Her Game” and I’m proud of the podcast we’ve produced and the powerful stories it’s told.
What is one thing ‘On Her Game’ did for a sportswoman that you didn’t expect?
It’s provided a platform and environment to be totally honest, open, raw and vulnerable, a place for women to speak their truth. The stories told on “On Her Game” and the issues raised have been so incredibly powerful. I’ve felt honoured that the athletes we’ve had on the show have trusted me and the podcast to tell them. My guests have spoken about their triumphs but also challenges, they’ve been raw and open about issues all women can relate to, not just sportswomen, an episode can have you in bellyaches of laughs one moment and then a mess of tears the next. These stories, these women are just so powerful, uplifting and inspirational.
If you could have a billboard with anything on it, what would it be and why?
“Be strong, be brave and be a game-changer”. It’s the theme of my children’s book “Princesses Wear Sneakers”. I want all girls to feel empowered and to be strong and brave gives you a superpower to tackle anything in life, to be a game-changer, well that’s being creative, being inventive, being inspirational. The only other thing I would add on that billboard is “…be kind”. If there’s anything I want my own girls to aspire to be above all else in life is kind. Kindness is the world’s greatest superpower.
You’re a female in the VERY male-dominated field of sport, what has been the most important lesson you’ve learned about challenging the status quo in your career?
I’m always proud that I’ve never tried to be one of the boys throughout my career. When I first started in sports journalism there weren’t many female reporters and it was always a saying that was awarded like a badge of honour “she’s one of the boys”, but being a female gave me the ability to see things and connect with different people differently and that became my strength. There’s the saying “a woman trying to be a man is a waste of a woman” and it’s so true. I’ve also learnt to trust my voice and my opinion. I still remember people challenging me early on in my career saying “you really think that one day women will be playing a professional sport like men and people will pay to watch them and they’ll be on TV?” like it was a completely crazy idea and at that moment I remember feeling so confused and doubting my own vision but then saying confidently “yes I do” and yes they laughed. Some have since come back to me and said “I remember when… you were onto it then Sam”. Trusting your views and opinions against others has been a process but something that’s so important in order for sports to progress.
In 2020 you released a book called ‘Princesses Wear Sneakers’, can you tell us more about the book and where the motivation to write it came from?
When I had my first daughter Imogen in 2017 I really wanted to read her some books which had strong themes about sport and girls but struggled to find any anywhere. I was really shocked. I’ve always believed the messages we’re sent early in life have a role in shaping who we are. So to find there weren’t many books featuring girls and sport left me stunned, so I wrote my own. I noticed with my daughter and the young girl living next door to me at the time, that little girls were obsessed with princesses, so I thought if I could weave the worlds of princesses and sport together, girls will be sent subtle messages about sport. PWS redefines the stereotype of a princess just as women in sport have redefined the idea of an athlete. It teaches girls to be strong, brave and game-changers. They don’t have to choose between being a princess or being sporty, they can be both! I think it’s also important for boys to read the book so boys can grow up seeing girls as sporty, strong, brave and able to make daring rescues of parents who have been kidnapped by a dragon!
Where can listeners find you online?
I’m on Instagram @samsquiers @princesseswearsneakers just beware of the spelling of my surname – it’s a bit tricky! You can purchase Sam’s book Princesses Wear Sneakers here www.princesseswearsneakers.com