Imagine what it would be like to interview a player who does not speak English, but actually speaks Spanish fluently. It can seem intimidating at first, but these language barriers do not exist for Samantha Rivera, a bilingual sports reporter and anchor.
Rivera considered herself to be “painfully shy” during her childhood, so she never thought she’d be in a profession that demanded her to be on television. “I actually wanted to be a preschool teacher until I took a journalism class in high school that changed everything,” Rivera admitted.
The journalism class that Rivera took really inspired her as she now was an individual who wanted to work in the sports industry as a female, “When I realized I could keep writing about sports I loved watching/playing, I was set.”
As Rivera explained where her love of sports came from, she hinted that it has always been a part of her life. Rivera stated that, “I played various sports, but volleyball was my first true love. An injury in high school took me away from the sport, so when I realized I could still write about it in college, it was my way of staying around the game. My dad also raised my sisters and I as big Chicago Bears fans and grease monkeys, so he’d take us to local races all the time.”
Growing up, Rivera looked up to one powerful woman in the sports world: Jen Lada. She looked up to Lada not only for being a successful female, but also an amazing mother, something that resonated with Rivera, “Lada was a big one because I’ve always known I’ve wanted a family, so to see her succeed in our field AND be a badass mother has always been a great reminder that I can do it one day too.”
Rivera got her bachelor’s degree in journalism, public relations and advertising at DePaul University.
Her time at DePaul has given her so many amazing opportunities as a woman in the sports industry, and she can’t thank the university enough, “I could never say enough good things about DePaul and all the incredible opportunities it gave me. I initially went there so I could focus on print because while I realized my love for telling stories in high school, I never in a million years imagined myself on television. I was able to take a wide range of classes that ultimately helped me realize I could have a future in broadcast as well. The fact that we had so many professors who brought incredible experience from their field after being in it for years or still working in it, was so valuable. They always want us to succeed, and the support means more than they know. I actually got my first job out of college because of one of them.”
Crediting DePaul for her internship experience, Rivera notes that her internships happened due to a lot of networking on her part and forcing herself to share her work on social media so that she was able to land them. Rivera mentioned that DePaul had partnerships that helped her during her journey, “DePaul had a great partnership with Univision that helped me start a radio show with some other students in the College of Communication.”
Along with the radio show she started, Rivera had taken a FOX Sports public relations class that had given her real world experience with Major League Baseball (MLB) All-Star Week. With the work she had done with The DePaulia, the university’s newspaper, she was offered a sports marketing internship by someone who saw her work. The internship did not necessarily line up with her major, but she decided to take full advantage of it nonetheless, “While it wasn’t exactly the type of internship that lined up with my major, I took advantage of it and was able to create my own opportunities through it as well.”
Rivera started her career in Marquette, MI. Although Rivera wanted to cover sports, she knew she had to get her foot in the door somehow, so she worked in news at the time. She vocalized that, “There aren’t a lot of sports jobs at local news stations, so I did what I felt I had to do to start my career.”
About a year later though, Rivera went on to get her first full-time sports job. That job was in Rockford, IL. “About a year later, I went on to get my first full-time sports job in Rockford, IL. That was a dream come true, not only getting to cover my hometown teams with Chicago so close, but also being closer to family again,” Rivera said.
After her time in Rockford came to an end, she eventually moved on to work in San Diego, went back home to Chicago and now is in Miami. She remains grateful for where her journey in the sports industry has led her so far, “I’ve made some crazy amazing memories over the years and will always be grateful for the journey it took to get to where I am now.”
Now that she is in Miami working for CBS Sports, she has a very unique day in her life regarding her schedule. “It’s different everyday, which definitely makes my job fun. I could be reporting out in the field one day, rushing to get a story in for our 5pm show and then anchoring our 11pm sportscast another day,” Rivera highlighted. Rivera sets herself apart from reporters and anchors currently working in the field today.
An interesting part of Rivera’s journey is that she is one of the few sports reporters and anchors who are bilingual and can interview players in other languages that they may have an easier time understanding. Being a bilingual sports reporter and anchor has brought some positives and negatives to Rivera’s career. One of the positives being that she has the ability “to get answers that people might feel more comfortable giving in their native language, compared to a basic response they might be limited to in English.” Rivera takes pride in that because she feels that she is helping people feel as comfortable as possible when interviewing them, and she believes that “speaking Spanish definitely helps that”.
A negative that Rivera mentioned is that although it’s rewarding, she does deal with critics who do not agree with her interviewing ways. “There are definitely still critics who don’t think I should say certain players’ names with a Spanish accent or speak Spanish at all. I brush them off though, because at the end of the day, I know I’m doing the right thing,” Rivera said.
Rivera has dealt with a few challenges in her career and those are due to being pushed out of her comfort zone while being in a profession relatively smaller, “You can often start out in small markets where you don’t know a single soul and are far away from family and friends - that definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone and ultimately helped me grow as a person with friends who’ve turned into family across the country.”
Being a female in a male dominated sports industry is everything to Rivera as she has noticed it happening more and more every day. Despite more women entering male dominated fields, Rivera still thinks there is still work left to be done.
“I’m proud of the fact that there are more women joining the field everyday, but there’s definitely more work to be done. I know I have to work that much harder as my male counterparts but I also appreciate those who support us and help us climb up the ladder,” Rivera said. In the next five to ten years, Rivera sees women in sports continuing to break barriers, “I see us continuing to break barriers and creating healthy norms of seeing more women in traditionally male dominated roles.”
Rivera has certainly made an impact on the world of sports through her memories of interviewing Prince Amukamara, Fred VanVleet and Alex Morgan. She acknowledges that they, “were always super kind and thoughtful with their answers when I covered them - win or lose.”
Her most notable moment in sports history was when she went viral on social media after stiff-arming a rowdy fan during her live report at game two of the Stanley Cup Final in Las Vegas. This moment was something so out of the ordinary that she never thought it would happen in her career. “I never thought that would happen to me! After it happened though, it was nice to see so many people support me and my work. I definitely gained more followers on social media, so I guess I’ll have more eyeballs on my work moving forward,” Rivera said. Here’s the video of that moment.
“Make sure to always be your biggest cheerleader.” That is the biggest piece of advice Rivera can give to any female looking to pursue a career in the sports industry. She insists everyone should be confident because “confidence can get you far. Have thick skin but also a tight group of people who have your back and are there for when you have your tough days. Give yourself some grace when things are a little harder than you expected them to be - you're human and allowed to make mistakes.”
Rivera’s story is such a special one and she will only continue to grow and succeed as a woman in the sports industry. If you want to continue following along with Rivera throughout her journey then follow her website, social media accounts including Instagram, Twitter, etc. as well as her LinkedIn.