Kelcey Wright Johnson is a former varsity basketball player turned sports reporter. Since graduating from Ryerson University and Western University just a few years ago, Kelcey has worked at four World University Games — the biggest international multi-sport event behind the Olympic Games — providing live play-by-play commentary, sideline reporting and highlight recaps. She is the only person in the world to do her job at the international games that host over 150 countries, and the only female Canadian to work for the host broadcast at four universiades. Kelcey has also worked as a reporter with the Toronto Pan Am Games and the North American Indigenous Games, and works full time as a sideline reporter and play-by-play commentator for two basketball leagues in Toronto. How’d she make her passion a life long career? Find out.
My first job ever was… A scorekeeper at my older brother’s basketball games. I got $20 a game and all I had to do was press a few buttons! Turns out my career now is not so different — I still get to watch the sport I love!
I would tell my 18 year old self… To not be so hard on myself.
I decided to be a sports reporter because… When I graduated from university, I wasn’t ready to hang up my basketball shoes and leave the sport altogether. I love that I still get to be involved in the sport that I grew up with and fell in love with, just in a different capacity.
My proudest accomplishment is… Being the only female Canadian to work for the host broadcast of the World University Games at four universiades — and the only person in the world with my job at the Games. It was a big accomplishment for me to have earned the scholarship to attend the 2013 Games in Russia, and every time I get invited back to work now, it just goes higher and higher on my accomplishment chart.
My boldest move to date was… Backpacking across Europe and Asia by myself, and then coming home for a week, packing my bags and moving to Nunavut for a year. What was I thinking, right?!
I surprise people when I tell them… That through work I’ve travelled to over six countries including Russia, Spain, Kazakhstan and Taiwan.
My best advice to people starting in this industry is… To make the most of every opportunity because you never know who is watching, or who might have a contact where. Every single opportunity can be used to further your career, you just have to use it to your advantage and do your very best.
My best advice from a mentor was… To be myself. I remember reaching out to LaChina Robinson — who was always one of my favourite female reporters — and after she watched my demo reel, she told me to loosen up a bit and look like I was having fun. I remember thinking ‘I am totally having fun at my job’ but at the beginning of my career I was too caught up in looking uber professional, I forgot to just relax and be me!
My biggest setback was… Being let go from my full-time job at the Toronto Star, twice in one year. I was laid off in January, and then they hired me back and laid me off again in August and it was devastating. But looking back — after a few tough nights and some soul searching — it turned out to be best thing that ever happened to my career.
“At the beginning of my career I was too caught up in looking uber professional, I forgot to just relax and be me!”
I overcame it by… Embracing what was in front of me. After I lost my job again in August, I decided to really give full-time freelancing a chance, and I couldn’t be happier. Through freelancing, it’s allowed me to work from home and also take every opportunity without having to think about vacation days, or taking time off from my full-time gig. I’ve gone to and written travel articles on Orlando, Dallas, Iqaluit … I’ve travelled to Kazakhstan, Las Vegas, Halifax and Taipei, and I have been fortunate enough to say ‘yes’ every time NBA TV Canada asks me to be on their show, or the Toronto Rock ask me to host one of their games.
Being a woman in a male dominated industry has taught me… That if I want people to take me seriously, I have to take myself seriously. It’s also taught me how important it is to carry yourself with confidence.
Work/life balance is… Hard, and tiring, and a lot of work. I am so fortunate to have a partner that is so understanding and supportive of my career. When I travel abroad for a month, or am working 12-hour shifts that end at 3 a.m. and need a ride home, my husband is always there for me and on the sidelines cheering me on. It’s so important to have a solid support system.
If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… I moved to British Columbia by myself in Grade 12 and lived with the NBA’s Kelly Olynyk and his family.
I stay inspired by… Focusing on my goals. I love where I am right now in my career, but I know that I still have a long way to go. I am so determined to get there that it inspires me everyday — I try and do one thing that will help my career each day, and it helps keep me on track.
The future excites me because… I have no idea where I’ll end up or what I’ll be doing — but that’s the most exciting part about it. I could end up in California working the sidelines for the NFL, or I could be living in Timbuktu working as a sports anchor on the news. Who wouldn’t be excited for the unknown?
My next step is… Signing with a network or a team. The next step in my career is to sign my first big contract with a major network, or with a professional sports team — and I. CAN. NOT. WAIT!