Updated: Nov 21, 2020
"I've always—whether it's in sports or just in life in general—taken failures or losses as a way to be more motivated, to want to do even better. I never quit."
Renee Washington is sports reporter at ESPN and Fox Sports. She played professional soccer for Sky Blue FC and was a three time all American soccer player at La Salle University. She earned her master’s degree in education at Lehigh University and youth soccer.
We sat down with Renee to find out about collegiate and professional soccer, sports reporting, and what it takes to be champion in these spaces.
I grew up as an athlete. I played soccer all my life—played basketball, ran track, and played a variety of sports. Sports have always been a big part of who I am. Naturally, as I progressed through college playing Division I soccer, I was pursuing a career path in professional soccer and was fortunate that I was given an opportunity. It wasn't everything that I expected it to be. So, I pivoted and started coaching college soccer; received my master's degree. And through that time, I realized that my true passion was actually in broadcasting and recording. I've always enjoyed the upbeat adrenalin rush of being an athlete. It's very fun to have the opportunity to continue to work in sports, just in a different role. So now, instead of being a player or coach, I get to be on the other side of things as a reporter.
Can you describe the pathway you took to play soccer professionally?
I was a three-time All American soccer player in college. Being at a small school (La Salle University) out of Philadelphia, I was able to be big fish in a little pond. At the time I was there we made a lot of history, both individually as a player and as a team. It was unfortunate— I was injured going through the process of preseason, and I don't fully feel like I ever was able to do my best as I would have wanted to, but I was still able to at least have the opportunity to get called into preseason and go through the process.
The process itself is difficult, something that you're not really prepared for, but it is something that also was just a great opportunity to see all the years of playing soccer pay off. I was actually also playing with the team out of Jersey so it's kind of like a full circle moment because I’m from Jersey and grew up in the area. To be able to be invited into preseason with the team that played in my backyard my whole life—it was a great experience, very eye-opening, and I wouldn't trade it for the world. And it definitely allowed me learn a lot about who I am, and also make that next step in my career as a professional.
What position did you play?
I was a goal scorer. I played midfield and forward. I played every position growing going up, but as I got into college and got older, midfield and forward, attacking center-mid. Those were my positions.
What are some helpful tips and drills which made you competitive?
I think a big part of it is the mentality rather than the actual training. I'm a very competitive person, and I always have been. Continuing to challenge myself and continuing to never settle.
I've always—whether it's in sports or just in life in general—taken failures or losses as a way to be more motivated, to want to do even better. I never quit.
The way that I trained was not only technical and fitness, but competing at a high level…whether it was one-on-one with trainers or playing pickup with my older sisters and their teammates. I was always playing with older players. I played with boys. I played with players my age. I just played as much as I could.
I was at every practice learning technical skills and foot skills—everything from first touch to making moves to be able to shoot and strike a ball. I really was fortunate that the game was broken down for me. And I was able to learn and work on my building my craft. That’s a big part of the development pieces. You have to know all of it. It's not enough to just play if you're not getting the technical side, if you're not getting the ball striking, the fitness, the mental toughness side of things. You have to continuously be refining all aspects of the game. That was the way I trained.
What is some advice you can give for those interested in playing soccer in college and professionally?
Sports in general are not easy. Any sport you are pursuing, nothing is ever going to be given to you. And I've seen in my career, even as a reporter, nothing is given to you. You have to work for everything. I always grew up with the concept that my parents taught us—be 10x better than everybody around you. It's not enough just to be better than the person beside you, because there's always someone out there doing better. I can be the best on my team. but what about the other team? I could be the best in my state, but what about another state? There's always someone better.
You should never be complacent and never settle for just being good. There's always someone out there that's working to be better than you. You have to continue to raise your game and raise what you're doing.
That would definitely be my biggest advice—don’t settle. Don't be complacent. Be the best on your team, and then go be the best on another team, in your league, your state, your region. Continue to raise the bar for yourself, that way you’re continuing to raise the bar for others around you.
Tell us a little about your current profession. What does an average week look like for you?
I host my own Fox Sports show called Beyond the Headlines, and launched season 2 this fall. I drop episodes for that two times a week. And I also host a Wizards show that airs every day. From the reporting side, every day is different. It just varies depending on what's show is going on that day, what content I'm covering. There's always something new in the works, because I'm just constantly looking to reinvent myself in that sense, or continue to grow and learn. A typical week is chaos. It’s the simplest way to put it. It's just pure chaos. It’s fun, I enjoy it. I am very organized, my schedule is organized down to a T. And I work in so many different areas that it's always chaos. But it's always fun, because I actually enjoy the fact that no two days are the same.
Are there many women in your field? What are the social dynamics like?
It's growing. It's definitely growing. I am a part of a number of organizations and different groups to help encourage women because being a woman in sports in general is not easy. I am a double minority as a Black woman. Women, we can talk sports too—whether it's getting into analysis or more of the human-interest stories—whatever it may be, we can talk about it. And I am seeing more and more women coming into it.
Unfortunately, there are a number of issues and toxic environments that still exist in sports that push women away. But overall, there's a place for us here too. We belong to the same conversations. What I've learned is you have to hold yourself to a higher standard. That's something that I've always grown up on, because playing soccer, I was always a minority as well. I've always been in these positions where I was the minority. I learned very young how you have to operate and how you can move in these circles.
As a woman in sports, specifically as a Black woman in sports, you have to hold yourself to a higher standard. You can't do the same things that some of your colleagues can do, dress the same way, or talk the same way, or act the same way. You have to always go above and beyond.
It's very easy for someone to write you off immediately if you have no awareness, if you say something that is completely off track and wrong. If someone else makes a mistake, it might just be “a mistake,” but if you make a mistake that might just be it.
I always have operated under the idea that I work for the job I one day want to have. I dress, I talk, I carry myself for the job I one day want to have. And when you hold yourself to a higher standard instead of settling and being complacent, that’s when you start to see the growth; because it comes to the point that nobody can question your work ethic, nobody can question your credibility or your knowledge because you've done the work, you've proven yourself time and time again.
I always operate to the highest standard. And that's something as a woman and definitely as a double minority in sports, you have to. You have to be mindful of how you're sitting and what you're wearing and how you're talking to your male colleagues. You just have to always watch how you’re carrying yourself and make sure that you’re not allowing anyone to ever question who you are because you’re a woman, or because you’re Black, or you’re in your 20’s, or for any other reason people are quick to want to stereotype.
What’s next on the horizon for you?
I had a lot that happened and changed throughout the course of COVID because of the fact that sports were shut down. It has changed everything. I jokingly say everything's changed except my name and my family. Right now, I'm just looking to continue to grow and continue to water those seeds that I've planted throughout the course of these last few months, to see how I can continue to grow my brand, my coverage, since I am covering and working in the WNBA, NBA, and MLS. A goal of mine when I set out to start this journey was to get into professional sports and to get on TV. All these things are coming into fruition. Now it's just a matter of taking time to really build the reps, build who I am, and continue to take my shows and audience reach I have now and grow them.
What is the ultimate legacy that you would like to leave behind?
Everything I do is not for me. I set out for this journey because I want to use my platform as a way to help inspire others. Whether it's inspiring others that they can play soccer or inspiring others that they can be a reporter. Growing up, I did watch sports and did see reporters, but it didn’t register to me that was a career path I could take. Even playing soccer, there were not always people in these positions of power that looked like me…so just really trying to pay it forward, trying to use my talents, use my platform to help others have ambitions and have dreams that they can one day achieve.