We continue our Women’s History Month Interview Series today with a do-it-all type. Kari Van Horn is many things. In addition to reporting, Kari is also the Producer and Content Editor at Yahoo! Sports. If nothing else, you can say one thing about Kari Van Horn…she loves her sports!
1. How big of an impact did sports have on your life growing up?
It had a huge impact. I am a product of the entertainment industry. Both of my parents have been in the business since they graduated college. So, I really had no choice. My father was a sports broadcaster and my mother was a newsroom anchor writer. I moved to different cities growing up as my dad was covering different teams. I, myself, growing up became an athlete; i played five different sports in high school, played travel ball, competed globally. I can tell you, with a brother who is playing collegiate baseball right now, it definitely had a huge impact.
2. Both of your parents are well decorated in your field; Emmy Award winners for their broadcasting work. Did they guide you into following them or did you just naturally gravitate to the field as well?
It definitely wasn’t forced upon me at all. In fact, they actually didnt like my decision to go into the industry. There were several times where they kind of tried to scare me away from it. But, they got to a point where they said, if this is what you want to do than we’re not going to hide it from you. So, I have seen the good, bad and ugly. I really have them to thank for preparing me for what I am doing now because I really knew that I had to have a thick skin if I wanted to be successful in this industry.
3. Aside from your parents, who has had the biggest impact on your career thus far?
I was fortunate enough to grow up in Souther California where most of my friends are now professional athletes. In graduating high school and preparing for college while they were preparing to be drafted. I go to see the processes that they were going through while I was also becoming a college athlete. I really loved sports and thought that there was nothing else I could ever see myself doing so i wanted to align myself with their careers so I decided to go into sports media.
4. What teams did you grow up rooting for?
I moved around a lot and usually most kids develop their sports preferences from their parents. My parents preferences were pretty strange; living in Southern California without a professional football team, I grew up rooting for the Colts. My father grew up in Indianapolis and when i was eight years-old I went to a game and had one of those amazing, star struck moments when I was looking up at the banners. I saw Peyton, and my cousin had went to school with him at Tennessee and so I thought he was an amazing, hes my idol, and eight year-old me fell in love with the Colts.
For baseball, I was very torn between Angels, Dodgers and Braves. The Braves because I was born in Atlanta and my father covered them for the first four years of my life. I remember hanging out in the press box and all of the players being really nice to me. At nine years-old, I went to an Angels game. The sun was shining, we were so close to the infield and I remember Ken Hill was the pitcher and I remember he took the mound and I remember he had number 98 on his back and I just fell in love. Plus, it didnt hurt that Disney owned the team. Living ten minutes from the stadium, I was supposed to be a Dodgers fan but it was really hard to grasp any real connection with them because any player that you fell in love with during that era, they traded.
5. What is your favorite sport to cover and why?
Baseball is my favorite sport, hands down. It has had such a strong influence on my life with my dad being a professional scout and a college coach and going to my brothers games and myself being a softball player, there really is nothing like it. The commodore of the players, the relationships with the fans. I think it is a perfect Ven Diagram of love, friendship and animosity.
6. What is the most memorable interview that you have done?
The Lakers practice roughly an hour before the funeral service for Dr. Jerry Buss. They had Gasol, Nash and Kobe available to us. Kobe hadnt spoken out in the days leading up to it. I was fortunate enough within the 100 person scrum, I was fortunate enough to ask him the third question and I had asked him if he had already written what he was going to say at the funeral, which he had not. That was a big piece of information because everyone that morning kind of assumed he had already written what he was going to say but we learned that he was going to be speaking from the heart.
7. Perhaps the only media market comparable to the one here in NY/NJ is the LA/California market…describe what it is like to work in such a competitive and active sports media market.
I would say it is absolutely thrilling. You are on the edge of your seat 24/7/365, you cannot escape it or get away from it. It makes you want to wake up earlier to get on top of it before everybody else. There is always something to cover, there is always somebody saying something. Being in LA, it is the entertainment capital of the world, it is focused and centered around drama.
8. Just based on your experiences in your first few years in the business, what advice would you give a young girl looking to pursue a career in sports broadcasting?
I would say it is an absolute challenge, but an exciting one at that. Nothing ever comes easy to anyone in the city of dreams. Anyone who has ever been successful has had to make sacrifices. I have three major things working against me; the fact that I am a female, my race and my age. With all three of those factors working against me, I do find it rather challenging. I am always the first to work and the last to leave, introduce myself to everyone that I meet, remain quiet in times when people are acting out.
9. If you were hosting a dinner and could invite any three women in sports, who would you choose and why?
Some of the women who are my idols are people who I got to see work alongside my mother and my father, one of them is Robin Roberts. She has gained probably double the popularity that she had in the past five years, starting with her role on Good Morning America. Before that though, when she was just doing sports, I saw what he had to go through. She is such a warrior and a pioneer and a trend setter. The way that she carries herself is unmatched. I admire her and the work that she has done and try to copy her work ethic because not only is she a household name; you’ll never hear a negative thing about her.
Another would be Shelley Smith, she is one of my mentors. I love when she is able to come to Los Angeles to hear about her week. Her week is what women in my position dream to eventually have. On a Monday she can be In Dallas covering NBA, next day in New York to cover a series, then have a half a day off before flying to Oregon to cover college sports. The work that she puts out is fantastic. The notes and preparation that she puts out is incredible.
Lastly would be Tina Thompson. She was the first overall pick of the WNBA and she is the all-time leading scorer as well. She is one of the most lovely people you will ever meet. She went to USC as well, graduated, and one of the most successful careers for a woman in all sports. She is super approachable. She has been able to turn her career into a business. Her brand is what I want my brand to be; strong, witty, and caring. Even though I know her, I would still want her at that dinner table.
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