Lynsey Hooper: “Don’t Be Scared of Messing Up Your Hair”

Currently in Prague taking some time off from her busy schedule, freelance sports journalist Lynsey Hooper joined InQuire for an exclusive interview. As a graduate of Loughborough university, Hooper has done work for the BBC Final Score and Match Day Live. She discussed being a female journalist in a male-dominated sport and encouraged females to get more involved in the medium.

What encouraged you to get involved in sports journalism?

I think sports was always engrained in me, my family, especially my grandfather and my uncle, are very football mad, and it was infectious. I don’t know where it came from, but I’ve enjoyed it from a young age. I used to sit and listen to football results with my grandfather on the radio. On top of my love for sport, I developed a fascination with radio. When I was 14 I had my own radio show locally and loved it. I never considered of combining my two passions, sport and radio.

In the early 21st century, there weren’t that many female journalist role models, especially in sport, and I didn’t think it was a job I could do; but then I started getting positive responses to my application. It all went one way from there.

Who is your biggest female inspiration?

I used to be a long-distance runner, which is why I ended up going to Loughborough university, and I’d run for county cross country. My heor is Paula Radcliff. While I was at university, she broke the world record in the marathon. She went to my university and I ended up having the same coach as her for a short period of time. She is someone whose drive, determination, dedication, and passion were incredible. If I had the application that she had, then I’d try to do all that she does. My ultimate goal was to have been an Olympian of some sort, but I was one of those people who was good at a few sports, but I wasn’t excellent at any. I quickly realised that I should probably focus on something else in sport, which is why I focused on sports journalism.

How do you think you empower women?

I hope in the most blatant sense that just by hearing my voice, maybe not even knowing it’s me, but hearing a female talk football or seeing a women’s face will empower women. Especially someone knowledgeable, for a long time men have been seen as experts in sport and women have been seen as the arm candy. I’m hoping that in the next ten years that will change. It’s created this space where people feel more comfortable. I think equality may still be far off, but we are getting closer every day.

In my own, small way, I hope I have managed to help with that in the UK. I set up this all female podcast called the off-side rule, which has been going for six years to promote women having a voice in football. I really hope that has encouraged more women to get involved. Individuals should start listening and enjoying football content that is provided by women.

In regards to your role, what is the biggest obstacle in your career?

When I was starting in television, there was a preoccupation with looks. I hated the fact that, as a broadcaster, I was being judged so much on my looks. I don’t think men are judged in that way as much. Not for a minute am I saying that if you enter the media that it’s not important to present yourself well; but we don’t all have to have a certain type of look to be understood or appreciated. We are brought up on fashion magazines and TV shows that tell us we have to look a certain way. I think I had a crisis of confidence at one point, I didn’t know who I was trying to be. I remember crying about hair extensions and thinking ‘why am I doing this’? I do, however, see a lot more people on television now that don’t tick the old fashion boxes. I think we are seeing so much more diversity as well. It’s nowhere near perfect, but occasionally you have breakthroughs.

Why and how should women get more involved in sport?

The first thing is letting go of inhibitions. Don’t be scared of looking sweaty or messing up your hair. Let yourself go and don’t feel that pressure. If you’re interested in sports media, put yourself forward and say yes to opportunities. Don’t be scared. I want to say to young women; don’t always think you have to tick the check list of a job application. You don’t have to one hundred percent meet the criteria.