10 Questions with ... Amy Van Dyken
August 7, 2012
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
In 1996, I became the first and only American woman to win four gold medals in one Olympics, and was named the "Most Decorated Athlete, Male or Female" during the games that year. I went on to win two more gold medals in the 2000 Olympics, after two "career ending" shoulder surgeries. Following those games, I hosted the "Celebrity Sportscaster Day" on a local Denver TV station, and was hired by the same station to cover the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. I dabbled in TV and radio for several years, including a stint as a sideline reporter for NFL on FOX. In 2005, I began co-hosting a sports show in Arizona, and in 2009, I decided that morning FM radio was my calling. I worked for KMXP in Phoenix as co-host of Chris and Amy in the Morning, which moved across town to KPKX in 2010. I then took a break from radio and signed on with FOXSports.com as part of their Olympics coverage team. While in LA for a meeting, I met with Don Martin, Premiere Networks SVP of Sports Programming, who I knew in Denver. He brought me in for an audition, and that's when the "with Amy Van Dyken" was added to the FOX Sports Tonight with Rob Dibble.
1. What got you into radio? Was it always in the plan that you'd move into broadcasting after or during your swimming career? Was broadcasting your chosen profession from the beginning?
I sort of got into radio by accident. I went to school to be a teacher for deaf children, so broadcasting wasn't in the picture. I always wanted to be Howard Cosell, but never thought a little girl from Denver, Colorado could do that. I watched sports on TV, or listened to sports talk stations, and dreamed of being there one day - I just never thought it would really happen.
When I finished competing in 2000, I went on the circuit of interviews, photo shoots, appearances and speeches all around the country. My husband and I were in Denver, where we both grew up and he played 10 years of his NFL career, when I got a call to do a celebrity sportscast for one of the local TV stations. I did this, and was hired to do their Olympic coverage for 2002. At that same time, I got a call from the local sports station to fill in as the morning sports person. I fell in love with radio right away, but my career took me in the TV direction for a while. It wasn't until a few years later, when I was in Arizona, that a friend called and wanted me to guest co-host his sports radio show. I did, and my love for radio was re-born. I was a co-host on that show for a few years, then got the bug to do mornings on an FM station. I was lucky enough to do that at MIX 96.9 in Phoenix. After waking up every day WAY too early for this night owl, and missing my sports roots, I was hired to be an Olympic analyst for FoxSports.com. In talking to my boss, he wanted to "introduce" me to the radio 'guy' at FOX, who happened to be Don Martin, the same person who years earlier had me do sports reports on the station he ran in Denver. The rest, as they say, is history.
2. Regarding sports other than the one in which you participated, have you always been into the sports you're talking about now on FOX Sports Radio? Who and what made you a sports fan?
I grew up in Denver at the time John Elway was drafted and during the "Orange Crush" defense. Every Sunday, it was mandatory in our house to watch football. I have always been a huge football fan, and will continue to be. My dad and I enjoyed watching the Indy 500, so I grew up an open wheel racing fan, and I have since become a NASCAR fan as well. My dad loved baseball, so once again, I watched with him. When the Colorado Rockies came to our hometown I went to their very first game in Denver (they are my team, win or lose). I also love the Diamondbacks because my husband and I went to many games when we lived in Arizona. I love to golf, and watch golf too. Really, I love to watch any sport as long as I have the time. I'm still trying to understand Cricket, and once I do, I may watch that as well. I just love watching the best athletes compete. It was an honor to be an athlete, and it's great to watch the best athletes do what they love. And now, I can talk about it every night on FOX Sports Radio.
3. What are the best and worst things about working alongside Rob?
Rob is my twin brother... for real. We relate well to each other because our careers were very similar in the sense that sometimes we were misunderstood because we were so passionate about our sports and loved to compete. We are both very different from what people may think. We have fun all the time and can almost complete each other's sentences, which is sometimes a little crazy. Neither of us has the filter that other people have, so it makes for entertaining conversation. Working with Rob is great, and the fact that he was an amazing athlete is a plus. He understands that when I poke at him, it's all in fun. It's what athletes do to each other all the time, so for us, it's normal. Most of the time, when you are the person who joins the show after it's been around for a while, you are made to feel like you are lucky just to be there. With Rob, there's none of that. I can't say enough good things about Rob. He is a great person, and I'm so glad we get to talk sports every day.
4. There are a lot of ex-athletes in sports talk radio, but few were Olympic athletes (let alone medalists) in sports other than the major spectator sports -- what advantage, if anything, has being a former competitive athlete given you in talking about sports on the radio? Is there something about your experience that translates to talking about sports in general?
Even though I never played in the NBA, NFL or MLB, I can talk about it from an athlete's point of view. It doesn't matter what sport you competed in. It's all the same thing - sports. I know it hasn't been easy for women to gain respect from the male audience and guests in this industry, but I never saw it like that. I see it as, "hey, we are talking to someone who played baseball and won the World Series. Cool. He has a ring, and I have six gold medals." There is a mutual respect between athletes, and having been an athlete, I give and get that same respect. It may have been harder for the audience, but once they hear I REALLY do know sports, they forget I'm a woman, which is great.
5. Who are your mentors, influences, and heroes?
John Elway has always been a hero of mine, to the point that it's embarrassing. My husband played with him so they chat all the time, and when I see John, I become the biggest dork ever. I can't speak; I blush; it's really quite sad. I also like what Howard Stern has done with his career, and with radio as a whole. Love him or hate him, we all know his name, face and where to tune in. It's amazing, and I respect him for all his hard work. I admire anyone who has the guts to step out of the box, and who works hard for what they have. Even though I'm an athlete talking sports, I have worked hard for every job I have. I have never been 'given' anything. I have worked for it all, and it feels great!!!
6. What's your process -- how do you prepare for each show? What resources do you use?
Of course, watching sports is a great way to prep. Every day when I wake up and drink my morning coffee, I read several sports pages from around the country. FoxSports.com is my "go to" website and Twitter, believe it or not, is also a great source. You get great information and in real time. If you can't watch a game, keep an eye on Twitter and you won't miss a single play.
I always have some sort of sports on TV when I'm around the house, or on the radio in the car when I'm not listening to music. Rob and I get into the studio fairly early and chat about different things we heard or saw that day. Our producer, Tim Cates, is amazing as well. He emails all of the top headlines to us by mid-day so we can prepare. He also gives us links to things we may not have seen, or if we have seen it, we get a new perspective on it. Tim is a walking sports computer, so I use his expertise a lot.
7. How do you use social media in conjunction with your show, if at all? How do Twitter and Facebook enhance your work, or do they?
We always have a hashtag of the night that we talk about throughout the show. We also update Twitter constantly, and check to see what people are saying to, or about, us. Sometimes, we read the comments on the air. It's great to read a tweet on-air, then see that someone has tweeted about how cool it was to hear their tweet on FOX Sports Tonight.
8. Of what are you most proud?
I'm proud that I'm doing something I love, in a place I never dreamed I would or could be. I have worked hard, and it has paid off. I'm also proud to represent women as knowledgeable, great debaters in the sports world.
9. Fill in the blank: I can't make it through the day without ______________....working out and coffee. I get grumpy if I have to go without these.
10. What's the best advice you've ever gotten? The worst?
The best advice I received was to always treat the people who make you look good, well. Rob and I may be the faces/voices you hear, but trust me, there are so many people who work hard to make the show run smooth and who make us look good. If you make them mad, they can make you look as bad as they want.
The worst advice I've gotten? I don't think I've ever received any. I have had the opportunity to learn from some great people, so I can't think of any bad advice given to me.