Introducing Jackie Redmond

The DNA of a Sportscaster

By Mike Reid

 Jackie on the steps

Jackie on the steps

“Don’t judge a book by its cover.“ It’s a lesson we’re taught early on as children. Nonetheless, as we get older we fall into the habit of making broad generalizations: people who have this job are like this, or people from that neighbourhood are like that.

Even a country as diverse as Canada is not immune to the tendency to generalize people, places and things. So let’s explore a simple sports word, ‘Sportscaster’. Remove all of our preconceptions of what that word means and take a walk with Jackie Redmond. 

 Model Strut, Solider Focus

Model Strut, Solider Focus

She walks across the street with the poise and grace of a model hitting the runway. 
Her bright blue eyes catch the sun, and then find me. She smiles.
I start walking towards her, and before I’m close enough to touch her she says: 

Jackie Redmond:  "Can you ******* believe the moves going on in the Jays' clubhouse right now? My twitter feed is on fire right now!“ 

Jackie and I have known each other for a few years now. Like most driven people, she’s a workaholic with a ‘Rise and Grind’ attitude, and as a result my nickname for her is: The General. We greet each other with our usual high-fives and a salute.

In an effort to get at the DNA of this sportscaster, I’ve asked Jackie to tell me about her childhood, her journey and herself. Toronto, Ontario is where she lives, but her story didn’t start there. She was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia and raised in London, Ontario – she considers all three home. 

Jackie: "Dude, I grew up in hockey rinks. My sister and I both played hockey, if my team wasn't playing there was a good chance I was watching my sister’s team play at a tournament. When neither of us were playing, we were watching a Leafs game with my dad."

 Jackie taking a break 

Jackie taking a break 

The first pair of skates she wore were figure skates. However, by the age of 7 she was playing for her local Tyke team the London Devilettes.

Jackie: "My mom cried when I quit figure skating to play hockey, but a girl’s got to follow her heart."

Growing up, Jackie loved getting into hockey gear more than getting into a dress. Today, she straps on her high heels (or a pair of classic Converse) and goes to her dream job as a sportscaster. 

Her journey from hockey rink to sports anchor desk was not an easy one, and she credits much of her success to her family. 

Jackie: "My parents are amazing, I’m grateful to them. They have always supported me for exactly the person that I am. It inspires me to make them proud by going after my goals. 
Jackie is definitely not your prototypical sportscaster. She wants to change what it means to be a female working in sports."

 Jackie taking a moment

Jackie taking a moment

Jackie: "I’ve always said I want to be more than just a girl who throws to a panel. I want to share my opinion, debate “with the boys” and have a say. A lot of people tell me that is an impossible goal, but I know that there are tons of passionate female sports fans out there who know the game and have something to say. If I can achieve my goals then maybe we can start to eliminate this idea that women don’t know sports."

Her path to becoming a sportscaster was not a straight line. While working odd jobs she applied to internships until she was accepted. For over two years she worked for free, first as crew, then as an unpaid reporter at London’s RogersTV. Her friends thought she was crazy to spend so much time working for free, but Jackie was working on her dreams. 

Jackie: "I look at where I am now and it’s because of the valuable experience I gained. It prepared me for when opportunity knocked."

She was offered a job at London radio station Bob FM. She took that opportunity and treated every day like her proving ground. 

In 2011, she took a chance and applied for DRAFTED: The Search for Canada’s Next Sportscaster. Later that year, after a grueling and emotional process, Jackie Redmond became the nation’s newest sportscaster. She effectively beat thousands of people in a job interview that lasted 10 weeks and was broadcast in front of the entire country.

 Jackie as a Judge on Drafted 5 | Photo by Peter Chatterton

Jackie as a Judge on Drafted 5 | Photo by Peter Chatterton

Winning DRAFTED garnered her a one-year contract at theScore Television Network (now Sportsnet 360), and a one-year contract as a spokesperson for Gillette Canada. This made her the only woman to win DRAFTED in its five-year history, and Gillette Canada’s first female spokesperson. 

Jackie: "Adversity makes you better. When things go wrong I’m always looking for the lesson because 9 times out of 10 there is something to learn. I think success is about growth. If you’re consistently working hard to get better and get closer to your goals then eventually you will get there. It’s all about the process."

Recognizing that struggle can be a positive force isn’t an intuitive connection, some people never accept the notion at all. For Jackie, it’s something she had to discover. 

Jackie: "It took me a long time to learn that the beauty of the struggle is the growth you find within it. It’s like that quote, “Adversity has the effect of eliciting talents, which in prosperous circumstances would have lain dormant.”"

 No coke, no smile, all sports.

No coke, no smile, all sports.

As someone who is immersed in sports at work and who loves watching sports at home, Jackie has to consciously make an effort to do non-sports things.

Jackie: "Few people want to become the sports equivalent of a cat lady."

I tease her by painting her a mental picture: Jackie at home, surrounded by TV monitors playing different sports, her iPad filled with stats, while she tweets about breaking news. There would be empty ice cream containers and chip bags everywhere. Friends would call her to go out, but she would respond, “I can’t, the game is on.“ 

Jackie: "Actually, holy crap dude, that would be amazing! And, you know I love potato chips… mmm chips.

I laugh as she literally closes her eyes when she says, “mmm… chips.” I ask her what still surprises her and what makes her laugh.

Jackie:"The one thing that still surprises me about Toronto is that in a city where you walk everywhere, nobody knows how to walk! Keep right and pass on the left, walk like you drive people! Oh wait… nobody knows how to drive. Ha-ha. So many things make me laugh; cheesy one-liners are always a good time. Self-deprecation is the best, but generally, it’s life’s little nuances: awkward dates, falling, putting your foot in your mouth– the little things."

People can accurately surmise that she loves sports, especially hockey and football. I’ve also learned that she enjoys challenging herself, loves supporting women, loves surprising people and has a hilarious obsession with potato chips. 

 Jackie in the light

Jackie in the light

As we walk through the streets several people double-take or lean towards their friend saying: “Hey, that’s Jackie from Sportsnet”. A few people come over and tell her she’s great on this show or that program, and one person gets a selfie with her.   

Jackie: "What people don’t know is that I’m actually really shy. (Ha-ha) One-on-one I’m okay, but I’m super shy in large groups. Although for some reason, if it's for work it doesn't bother me."

She’s not your usual sportscaster, and that’s okay. Jackie Redmond isn’t trying to be your usual anything. 

She’s just being herself. Her cheering for the Toronto Maple Leafs - watching trashy television - dropping F-bombs - crushing bags of chips - debating WWE matches - going to fashion shows - anchoring sports television - self.  

Jackie: "My favourite quote is, “It’s never who you are that gets in the way, it’s who you think you’re not.”"

Jackie Redmond is a sportscaster with Sportsnet. She co-anchors Sportsnet Central, co-hosts Aftermath, is a producer and host on Misplay and is a proclaimed potato chip enthusiast. You can follow her on Twitter: @Jackie_Redmond and Instagram: @JackieRedmond

Makeup: Nadine Natour

Photography: Mike Reid
(Unless otherwise indicated)