Simply put: there are women who enjoy sports. We like to play them, we like to watch them, and we like to talk about them. Some women love sports so much that they dedicate their lives to becoming a full-time athlete--but oftentimes, they still are not treated as well as their male counterparts.
A prime example of this would be 2015 FIFA World Cup winners, the United States Women's National Soccer Team. They recently filed a suit against the U.S. Soccer Federation for wage discrimination. Several issues have been raised; despite winning the World Cup, the women's team is paid significantly less than the men's. Among other issues, they have been forced to play on dangerous and below-standard turf (while the men's team haven't had to play on turf at all for several years).
Marina Nunes can attest to understanding the differences between the way male and female athletes are treated. At only 28 years old, this Brazilian native has had an exciting adventure thus far. She has worked envious events such as the 2014 World Cup and is now currently residing in New York City. In between English classes, Marina simultaneously trains Muay Thai and Brazilian JiuJitsu. She now finds herself on the other side of the microphone: as a dedicated athlete.
PA: What was your job title and some of your duties? What was fun about your position and what was stressful?
MN: Since I started college, I always worked with companies related to sports (except for one or two out of this area). People always think that someone who graduated in journalism has to be a reporter. I don't know if it's because of a lack of knowledge about the career, or if they just don't know that we have other options.
I'm one of the journalists that loves the other options, like public relations or producing events. That was the case with the World Cup in Brazil in 2014. I worked for the Local Organizing Committee of FIFA, as a spectator’s services assistant. My job was to coordinate a group of volunteers in every game that happened at the Maracanã Stadium. Each assistant was responsible for an area of the stadium and our volunteers had to help all the spectators with things like showing them where their chairs were, organizing the lines to buy food, holding the signs with the numbers of the tunnels they are supposed to go to, informing them with a megaphone how everyone should behave, among other things. We also had an information desk that had a lost and found, tickets' information, and kids' registration. Before and after every game, all the other assistants and I would have to go around the stadium to see if a sign had fallen or if anything was broken. I also had to make a report at the end of each game.
I had a lot of fun. It was intense and crazy, with many events happening at the same time. I liked this adrenaline and I really liked to run around coordinating things. The stressful part was the game days, because of some problems that were not our responsibility to solve; but they affected our job directly. Situations like meals and beverages running out before the game ended, reflected on the other stressful thing: some of the visitors. Several were rude and didn't know how to behave in a soccer stadium. At almost every game, I had to separate fights before the police arrived.
What does a normal day in your world look like?
It really depends. If I’m working for an event, my days near and during the event are crazy, with a work flow of 16 hours a day. But if I’m at a magazine, journal, or television network, depending on my job title and duties, I work only 8 hours a day. I like the running around, but only when it is temporary. It can be stressful to work like that for a whole year. I'm one of those people who need time during the day to do something for myself, either for exercise or rest.
How did people--men and women alike--react to you when they saw you at events?
There are always some people that are more respectful than others. Not only at the World Cup, but also at other events or companies that I've worked for. I have a good review of my job. I'm mostly a quiet and concentrated person, but that doesn't mean I don't know how to be tough when I need to.
As a female covering the more male-focused sports, how did you feel being out there? Were there ever times you felt like you had to work harder to prove yourself?
Women working in sports is something that is becoming normal in the whole world. In Brazil especially, we are growing considerably. It's not easy though; because we mostly work with soccer, since it's the biggest sport in the country, and have to deal with a majority of men who still think they are somehow superior. Some have the ridiculous and sexist ideas that women are only there to date soccer players or to show themselves off.
We always have to work harder and show that some of us (well, a lot of us) are even better [at our job] than they are. I still see surprised faces on men when I start talking about soccer, MMA, or any other sports that they consider “men sports”; whether at work or cheering for my team at the stadium. People should realize once and for all that women not only like watching and practicing, but also understand a lot about sports.
What is your favorite memory from your job and why? Who would you say influenced you?
My favorite memories from my work are the friends I made, the professional contacts I gained, the fun I had, and the great experience that each job gave me. What influenced me was my passion for sports, especially soccer. My whole family has this passion. In Brazil, people that work with sports like to call it a “Cachaça” (a Brazilian alcoholic distilled spirit), because after the first time you try it, you never want to give it away. So, once you work in this area, you never want to leave. Whenever I'm at an event, I'm always trying to find the person that walks from one side to another, with a headphone in their ear while they are coordinating. I think these people are my influence. I'm always thinking: “I want to do what they are doing."
Marina, now you train Muay Thai and Brazilian JiuJitsu. How you feel participating in the sports over covering them? What do you notice now about athletes that you may not have had before?
I never had the patience to go to the gym, even though we need to go [for our health]. I was never the best in sports either. I used to swim when I was younger and I still love it, but whenever I tried soccer or volleyball, I didn't last a day. After having an internship at a fight magazine, I decided to give Muay Thai a try. After my first class, my instructor asked me if I was lying about never doing it before, because I was practicing well! So I thought I couldn't leave that!
It has been almost four years since that first class in Brazil. At Renzo Gracie Academy, where I have been for a year, I have had the chance to improve in Muay Thai. Now, I am trying Brazilian JiuJitsu, which I never imagined myself doing. I'm really enjoying it! The thing about practicing the sport is that your knowledge about the sport increases. You know more about what you are talking about and what you are doing. The fact that my boyfriend is an athlete and having the opportunity to see the other athletes at the academy, just made me sure of what I already thought before: you have to really love what you do and use that passion to give you strength to focus on achieving your goals. Things these athletes have to do--like maintaining a diet, losing or gaining weight, and training hard EVERY day are definitely not as easy. I don't think any of them could do it if they didn't have their heart motivating them.
How did your family and friends feel about your field of work? Did you always want to do this job?
Every time I started working in something related to sports, my friends and family would say: “This is you."
When I was a child, I actually had this idea of being a psychologist. I think it was because my friends loved to tell me their problems! When I got older, I realized I should apply for something related to communications. I'm trying to take it a step at a time, and not think too much about the next couple of years. I want to enjoy the present. At the same time, I'm doing my best to see myself happily growing in my career.
What advice do you have for women who want to do what you have done?
Networking is the word of the business world nowadays. You have to gain as many contacts as you can. People need to know you.
If you want to work with sports, my advice is to study a lot and know the rules of almost every sport. Even if you prefer a specific sport, you shouldn't close the door for the opportunity to work with another. I'm 100% sure it's really fun to work with any kind of job in the sport area. If you love it, you will enjoy even the stressful aspects of it. And always keep in mind, that men are no better than women. Step up if you have to, and always show you have the potential to do your job.
Photos courtesy of Marina Nunes