Welcome to Industry Insider by Behind Sport. Our latest guest is Content Creator, Elma Smit!
Tell us about yourself, what is your current role and what roles have you done previously?
I am a content creator and these days I’m mainly making video and radio content in sport. I had a pretty amazing year in 2019, covering both the Cricket and Rugby World Cup tournaments for the two sporting bodies of these sports, the ICC and World Rugby. I worked as a digital reporter and producer on the ground in England and Japan.
I also got to branch out into golf a bit – back home in South Africa – when I got to make a series of digital shows for Africa’s major, the 2019 Nedbank Golf Challenge.
What do you do in your current role?
In radio, I host sport and act as a contributor on JacarandaFM‘s (award winning!) breakfast radio slot “Breakfast With Martin Bester”. Jacaranda is a hot adult contemporary format station, broadcasting to the northern half of South Africa in both English and Afrikaans and our show and station is topping the listeners figures in our market segment so I’m very proud of that.
2020 brought with it the opportunity to cover the ICC Under 19 Cricket World Cup here in South Africa, for the ICC. I also created and hosted a web series for Vodacom SuperRugby, with two World Cup winning former Springbok captains, Jean de Villiers and Schalk Brits which we called Lockdown Laughs. The initial plan was to create call to action videos for fans to enter a competition to travel to the SuperRugby final with us, but after we had rolled out a few weeks of content we found ourselves in a live sport vacuum and had to pivot hard. Luckily we could re-angle our footage to simply create some entertainment for rugby fans from mid-March to June.
The ICC decided to launch a digital show called Cricket Inside Out featuring some of cricket’s most loved commentators, Ian Bishop, Ian Smith, Harsha Bogle, Shaun Pollock and Lisa Sthalekar and I’ve been hosting this show on a weekly basis, from my study.
In the background of all this, I’ve also spent the last 6 months writing a book – a guide on how to become an influencer, which will be published in both English and Afrikaans, later in 2020.
What does a normal week look like for you?
Well, I get up at 4 in the morning for breakfast radio on weekdays. After the show we usually have a meeting and by the time I get home it’s late morning and I am either getting stuck into prep for an upcoming show (which I’m hosting from home, during lockdown) or I spend some time on the production process of my book (the heavy lifting on that front was luckily done from January to May 2020) or sorting out details of any ongoing projects, like reviewing Lockdown Laughsepisodes or setting up future projects. Since lockdown in South Africa has been a pretty restrictive, I’ve been spending all of my downtime gardening, fixing up stuff around the house (ours is pretty old and I was out of the country for about half of 2019, so we’re playing catch-up on that front), making kombucha, sewing, video calling with friends or having a braai with my husband and our four (!) cats.
How did you end up where you are right now?
I started working in community radio when I was still in high school, moved to campus radio during my studies (I studied law) and then progressed into TV & radio during my postgraduate studies. Initially I hosted a live music entertainment TV show, I worked as a music compiler, radio DJ and eventually executive producer for a commercial hit radio station 5FM (SA’s version of BBC Radio 1), moved on to hosting a current affairs-based daily breakfast TV show for a few years and also created a special daily web series during the Oscar Pistorius trial that evolved into a daily news web series for the biggest Afrikaans news website in South Africa. In 2011 I became the first woman sent to cover a Rugby World Cup, by SuperSport as a reporter and I worked as a studio / pitch side anchor for the broadcaster from 2011 until 2019 covering the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England and Wales as well.
When did you know you wanted to work in sport?
To be honest I never thought of myself as someone who wanted to exclusively work in sport, because when I used to watch sport I can’t recall seeing women play any major role in the broadcasting world. But sport has, one way or another, always been a big part of my journey. I went to the same school as Jean de Villiers, Schalk Burger, Handré Pollard and a whole host of other Springboks, Paarl Gimnasium, in the winelands close to Cape Town. I then studied at Stellenbosch University, a sporting powerhouse and by far the most successful university team in the history of South Africa’s wildly popular annual Varsity Cup rugby tournament.
When I completed my post-graduate studies at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, I used to report on the university’s football team, since they didn’t have much of a rugby culture back then. During my first few years in the media industry however, I mainly landed music, news and current affairs work (due to my experience in radio and background in law), but around 2010 the South African media landscape started opening up to the idea of women in sport. I was young enough to relish the challenge of kicking open a few doors, I think the timing worked in my favour because I had very little to lose in taking this risk (I could always go back to law, you know?). Because I’m a serious nerd, I quickly saw that if I immersed myself in research, preparation and brought some passion and fresh energy to the job, the sport industry presented amazing opportunities. It wasn’t easy, not at all, and I wasn’t welcomed by everyone I encountered or in every environment, but it has been very rewarding.
What are you excited about in your industry at the moment?
The growth of digital content and the reach this gives us.
The fact that we’re seeing more attention and acclaim given to womens’ sport.
The variety of voices, faces, accents, backgrounds and ideas that are finding a platform.
What is the one piece of advice you would give to someone wanting to work in the sports industry?
I’d say that the biggest mistake you can make, is to try and fit into the content you used to watch growing up. Make content for your generation, make it with what you have, where you are, right now. Don’t get too hung up on quality, document your passion, don’t curate it too heavily. Don’t be too conscious of trying to sound like, look like or behave like what you see out there. Translate your passion for content onto the platforms you and your friends consume, don’t try and fit into some lofty ideal. If you build a community, you will earn the respect and recognition of the industry you want to break into.
How to follow Elma Smit on social media…
Thanks for reading our Industry Insider feature with Content Creator, Elma Smit!