‘Be creative and embrace variety’: Top tips from SJA special event

By Jon Holmes

With expert advice and enthralling personal experiences, the Sports Journalists’ Association’s special live ‘Storytelling Secrets’ event offered something for everyone who tuned in.

Streaming across Twitter and YouTube, with well over a 1,000 viewers, award-winning Olympics and Paralympics journalist Nick Hope reflected on his unique Tokyo 2020 adventure and provided a fascinating insight into what life has been like on the BBC Sport frontline at the Games.

Joining Nick on the panel, which was hosted by Anne-Marie Batson, was videographer Zander Brown, who helped document the journey of the England Men’s Team to the final of Euro 2020 as part of his role working for the Football Association.

Completing the line-up was multiple Paralympic medallist Lucy Shuker, who shared memories of her journey to the women’s wheelchair doubles final and gave her thoughts on what is surely the stand-out individual achievement by a British athlete in 2021 – Emma Raducanu’s US Open triumph.

Hit play on the YouTube video above to watch a full replay of the event!

The conversation, held in advance of the SJA’s British Sports Awards, saw Anne-Marie, Nick, Lucy and Zander look back at the biggest achievements in British sport from the past 12 months and share some of their favourite anecdotes.

The panel also took questions from viewers, with Nick – who has spent over a decade travelling the globe for the BBC covering multiple Olympic, Paralympic and Commonwealth Games, as well as countless other international championships – asked how he manages his own work-life balance.

“I’ll be honest, it’s something I really struggled with for a very long time,” he said. “I’ve always attacked my career in a way like an athlete would. You want to be the best that you can all the time.

“With social media coming even more into play, and so many sports across the Olympics and Paralympics disciplines, it’s hard to switch off and say I need to take this time for myself.

“But over time, you do realise the importance of having ‘you time’. I compete in swimming so that has helped give me something away from journalism. When you give yourself a break, and have that variety, you perform better in all elements.”

Lucy was invited to offer her view on what more could be done to raise the profile of parasports in the UK.

She is one of Great Britain’s most successful wheelchair tennis players, representing her country at four successive Paralympics, with her silver medal in Tokyo alongside Jordanne Whiley being her third straight podium. She also has over 100 international career titles and while Jordanne has just announced her retirement, Lucy will be looking to carry on to Paris 2024.

“From my perspective, for our country, it’s how do we get people who have a disability into sport? The barriers that we face are equipment – it can be expensive,” she said.

“The Dutch government have a scheme where they give a grant or they supply a sports wheelchair to get people into sport, and I think that happens every five years. From the word go, they’re trying to get people active.

“It’s really healthy from whether it’s just done recreationally or whether you take it to the highest level and compete at a Paralympics. I’m seeing both in wheelchair tennis all the time, across the world, which is fantastic to see.

“I do exist in a bit of a bubble where that’s concerned, but all the time I’m seeing more and more people getting involved in the sport. From the media perspective, the more we show it, the more people see it and think let’s give it a go. We have taster sessions – don’t be afraid to enjoy it and experience the challenges you will face.”

Zander took England fans right into the heart of the camp, capturing on camera the camaraderie of the Three Lions stars, and helping to fuel a national fever pitch as Gareth Southgate’s squad secured the country’s best finish in a major men’s tournament since 1966.

He cited a moment when he was able to capture a very relaxed Raheem Sterling, basking in the glow of scoring in the 2-0 win over Germany in the last 16, as one of his favourites from Euro 2020…

Asked by Anne-Marie what advice he would share to young journalists, Zander said: “Bring yourself, your experiences, skills, culture and vision to the table – even though these may be different and diverse to the environment you’re going into.

“For example, with me going into the FA, I thought it would be quite a corporate organisation. When I first started, I probably struggled with understanding that work process. I was straight out of uni and wanted to enjoy what’s happening.

“As that professionalism kicks in, I learned that I could bring the way I think to the table. For younger people, don’t be scared or shy to raise your ideas, to try things that you love. From a video perspective, be creative in a way that you think works. There are many consumers and viewers who are like you. It benefits every brand and business.”

The panel also discussed which of their sporting heroes they would most like to spend a day with, before giving their personal picks for the three big awards at the BSAs – Sportsman, Sportswoman, and Team of the Year. Watch the replay to find out who they selected!


The event served as the perfect entree to the SJA’s glittering British Sports Awards, which is being held in London on Thursday, December 2 (starts 12pm GMT), and where top sports stars, coaches and unsung heroes will be honoured.

Interested in attending the British Sports Awards on December 2? Last remaining tickets for the event are available now, with a discount for SJA members and their guests.

With thanks to everyone involved and to Refresh Sports for producing.