Tips from retired athletes about dealing with the media

I have recently been researching how Olympic athletes are impacted by the media. I asked ten Olympic athletes, based on their experiences with the media, to give advice to junior athletes just starting out in international competition. The most common and salient points were:

  1. Learn how the media works. This will take away some of the issues you may face, help you see that often negative comments are not personal and help you to make the media work for you rather than the other way round. Find a few athletes in your sport who you see handle the media well and ask them how they manage it.
  1. Know when you need to get into the bubble and come away from reading traditional or social media then so you do not risk distraction, frustration or hurt. If you want to hear what your fans and positive supporter have to say then hand over your social media account to a friend or relative who can mediate what you see and can print messages out for you.
  1. Remember your manners. Smile, be nice and remember the journalist is doing a job too.
  1. Be open and honest about your time commitments. Offer to help journalists when you can but keep it on your terms so neither your training or self-care is disrupted. You are only a good story for a journalist if you are performing well so don’t spend too much time on media commitments to risk that.
  1. Ask lots of questions. Understand what the piece is you are involved in and get exact details of what you are signing up for.
  1. Be an advocate for your sport. Tell your story, be honest and interesting. Work out and practice making any complex stories or ideas simple and how best to communicate those so nothing is lost in translation and you don’t feel misinterpreted. If you have had a bad race it is fine to admit you know that and that you are thinking about how to improve for next time.

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