Sharing stories beyond stats and scores

By Megan Hustwaite

IN my nearly two decades as a journalist, I’ve never been a news breaker, a hard hitter or an analyst.

But I’ve always felt. When I interview people, when I write about them, I always feel.

Over the last month I’ve had the privilege of sharing some deeply personal tales of Australian female basketballers both in national newspapers and television. 

Their stories were about domestic violence, mental health and taking custody of a newborn family member.

Of course, every story was different. Not just in theme but the way in which each piece came together. 

One athlete approached me about sharing her story, it was then weeks in the making before it hit the press.

Another came about, almost unexpectedly, one day and was in the newspaper the next. 

The other aired about 3 months after filming, the athlete cried in the interview (which set me off!) and that emotion was relived on the night it screened.

The response to all three stories was huge. Supportive, overwhelming and emotional. For all three women and I.

I’m so proud of these women and anyone who publicly shares a deeply personal tale. 

While it can be cathartic for the subject, when someone with a profile or an involvement in something so big and signiciant in Australia’s fabric like sport, opens up about an injury or illness, tragedy or adversity it normalises the issue for members of the community experiencing similar.

If the Australian women’s basketball captain can discuss her battle with mental health and how she asked for help, it might just help, reassure or empower a reader or listener.

Being trusted to help share such personal stories is a privilege I don’t take for granted. I’ve had close friends and total strangers be generous enough in opening up to me and no matter who it is, the honour, to listen and then craft a story, is not lost on me.

I’ve worked in women’s basketball for a long time. Some players and coaches I’ve known that entire time, some I’ve connected with as recently as this year.

You also gain trust and credibility through your body of work. So, when people agree to be interviewed it’s meaningful. When someone is pleased with how you told their tale, well there’s nothing better really! It’s truly touching and satisfying.

I think the way I gain and value trust, listen and story tell plays a big part in why I “get” such deeply personal human-interest stories. I also reckon it’s because I’m a female. Did I just play the gender card?! 

I might not be able to relate to something someone has been through but I can relate to the various emotions which might come with it – fear, uncertainty, anguish, hope, joy. The human emotions.

I’ve choked up in interviews, I’ve cried when the subject has cried. I’m not ashamed of it. 

Earlier in my career I probably thought I needed to be stoic and professional at all times but I think I do an interview proud and produce my best work when I lean into my emotions.

Representation is crucial for so many reasons and I believe women bring so much, and so much more than qualifications or a position description, to roles throughout sport whether that’s as a coach or official, support staff or administrator, agent or journalist. 

Lived experience, intuition and empathy can’t be learned from a textbook. In previous eras they are qualities that may be perceived as flaws but today they are strengths, unique perspectives and very much important factors that will shape the future of women in all facets of sport.

You can follow Megan’s work through SBS on Demand Courtside 1v1, News Corp and her Instagram @meganhustwaite and Twitter @MeganHustwaite