Nuggets celebrate Women’s History Month: Katy Winge continues to forge her own path

by Eric Spyropoulos
Staff Writer
@EricSpyrosNBA

Hard work. Preparation. Determination.

Yes, these may be cliché character traits you hear over and over again from a parent, teacher or mentor. But when it comes to setting yourself up for success in the sports industry, Katy Winge is the embodiment of these attributes being applied every day.

The love for basketball began in the third grade, which only grew throughout high school as Winge worked to achieve her goal of being a Division I athlete, which she achieved at Illinois State University. Towards the end of her playing career, Winge knew that she wanted to work in and be around sports in some capacity.

“The power that sports have is what has drawn me to sports my whole life,” Winge told Nuggets.com. “Bringing people together, establishing relationships and being an escape for people, and I wanted to be the one to tell those stories.”

The time spent playing the game allowed Winge to naturally transition to an analyst role, which she makes sure to credit when discussing her ability to move from playing the sport to covering the sport as a media member.

“Me playing at the level that I did gave me credibility,” Winge said. “They (the athletes) knew that I played the game. They knew that I not only understood things from the media perspective, but also from the player’s perspective. That instantly bonded me to the people of the stories I was trying to tell. That helped immensely in terms of putting down walls and getting the real stories.”

The path to becoming the first female analyst to cover the Nuggets for Altitude TV wasn’t always smooth. After spending time as a local sports anchor, producer and reporter at KTTC/FOX 47 in Rochester, MN, Winge faced the difficult decision of staying in her current role or going to Northwestern’s graduate school to complete her master’s degree in journalism.

It was a decision that Winge didn’t take lightly. “I reached out to everyone I possibly could and asked what they would do,” Winge said. “Would you stay in local TV and work your way up in a more traditional route, or would you go to grad school, get your masters and go from there? I’d say around 80 percent of people told me to stay in local TV.”

Despite being told that she should stay in her current position because of the experience she was obtaining and the question surrounding how much of a difference a master’s degree can make, Winge carved out her own path.

“I just had a gut feeling that I should go to school,” Winge revealed. “So I ended up going to get my master’s and it was the best decision I could have made. The people I met at Northwestern, the things that I learned and the network I’m now a part of allowed me to cover things and get exposure I would have never had access to.”

Although she had to learn it the hard way by deciding to take the risk of leaving a current position in local TV for grad school, Winge believes there is a moral to take away from that story for those who find themselves in a similar position.

“Go with your gut because it’s your own journey,” Winge explains. “I wondered ‘do I risk getting out (of a job in the industry) and having to get back in for something that’s important to me?’ But I did and it ended up paying off.”

Before landing with the Nuggets, Winge worked as a sideline reporter and host for Comcast SportsNet Chicago and FOX Sports Wisconsin. Following her time as the in-arena reporter and an associate producer at the Pepsi Center (where she hosted the pregame and halftime show Courtside Countdown), Winge made history by joining the Nuggets broadcast on Altitude for the 2018-19 season.

As her career has progressed, Winge has certainly noticed the representation of women in sports grow and develop, which she appreciates given the work that had to be done to pave the path for her to follow and grow in.

“I think it’s moving in the right direction, Winge said. “I think diversity in sports in general is trending in the right direction because I think people are realizing the value in having different voices from different backgrounds and what that brings to the table in terms of new ideas, connections and relationships that can be built.”

Although Winge acknowledges that women were limited to specific roles on broadcasts in the past, she understands that work has been put in to push those limits and expand the opportunities for young women getting into the industry.

“For so long, people accepted the fact that ‘ok, we need a woman on our broadcast team anyways. Ok, she’ll be the sideline reporter.’” Winge added. “That was kind of the evolution of how women have broken into TV broadcasting, but now people have put more value on different voices. It’s been such an honor for me to follow in the footsteps of some of those women who had to have those difficult conversations to ask for those doors to be opened.”

Winge specifically mentioned those trailblazers who have inspired her and worked to expand the horizon for women in sports media.

“Now that they have, the Doris Burkes the Sarah Kustoks, the Stephanie Readys, those people who were the first to be analysts or in roles that weren’t sideline, people are recognizing that even though the women in those roles haven’t played in the NBA, they still have so much to bring to broadcasts.”

As it relates to her own advice for women looking to enter the industry, it’s no surprise that Winge went back to the basics.

“My biggest piece of advice is don’t let anybody tell you no. One person’s no will be another person’s yes. The best way for women to be successful in this field and to get those opportunities is to be prepared beyond belief for when those doors open.”

Winge’s own career experience serves as the perfect example of how to apply this advice. On International Women’s Day in 2019, Winge was able to serve as a third member in the Nuggets’ commentary team in a game against the Golden State Warriors. As she explains it, there was only going to be one outcome from that experience.

“That opened the door for me to get seven games (in the booth) this season,” Winge revealed. “International Women’s Day was an opportunity for them to say ‘let’s put Katy in the booth and see what she can do.’ Because of that, I was so prepared and ready that I wanted to crush it to the point where they said ‘ok, she can do this let’s give her some games on her own.’"

All you need is one chance to showcase your knowledge and talent. But as Winge is sure to point out, capitalizing on those chances is what will set you apart in the field.

“Taking advantage of those little moments where someone is willing to give you a try and you get those ‘why not’ moments, make sure that you make them know why. All it takes is one little opportunity like that and as long as you bring everything you have to the table, everything else will work out. Be the best and be an expert. Bring something different to the table and make sure they notice that.”

Knowing Katy, she will continue to be the most prepared analyst around and strive to be a role model for those breaking into the industry. Given the groundwork that has already been done and the work women like Katy have been doing in recent years, broadcast teams should continue to add diverse voices and experiences in the near future, which is exactly what Winge is hoping for.

“As it’s becoming more and more of a thing, people are thinking less and less of it being a woman in the chair. I hope we get to the day where it’s not even talked about and that’s just the broadcast team.”

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