Kristen Hewitt's TV break came in 2006, when Shaquille O'Neal, whom she knew from her days as an associate producer on Orlando Magic telecasts, asked her to chronicle his birthday bash, which -- like seemingly everything Shaq does -- was big.
Hewitt, then the producer of "Inside the Heat," covered the "Scarface"-themed event, including a stand-up report from a mansion Shaq had rented in North Miami Beach. That led to an audition to be in front of the camera for Miami's playoff run. A couple of months later, the Heat won its first NBA championship, covered by Hewitt, a Longwood, Florida, native and University of Central Florida graduate, in her new role as on-air reporter.
A decade and two more championships later, the 40-year-old continues in that role on Fox Sports Sun for the Heat, reporting during home games. (She'll be on air Friday for Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinals between the Heat and Toronto Raptors.) She's also worked as a host for the Miami Marlins, Miami Dolphins and Florida Panthers. Hewitt and her husband, Bob, have two daughters: Lila, 7, and Emylia, 4. On her blog, "Mommy In Sports," she writes candidly about the trials and triumphs of balancing life and work. She recently shared some of those insights, and more about her career, with espnW.
Things don't always go smoothly
In the 2006 NBA Finals in Dallas, I froze on live TV while talking to fans in the stands. I froze for about 10 seconds, but it felt like 80,000 minutes. Nobody in the truck noticed. They thought I had thrown to a sound bite. But the truth is that, at the time, I had been on live TV about only 10 times. There were a lot of Mavericks fans yelling, 'Miami sucks!' and I got distracted.
In live spots, we don't have a teleprompter like they do in the studio. There is no script. So, to this day, I always have a paper with bullet points so I can look down if I get stuck.
My proudest TV moments were off-camera
As a producer on "Inside the Heat," I often asked questions that elicited some great answers. We traveled all over the country to tell the back-stories of Heat players. We went to Chicago to tell Antoine Walker's story. We went to Cleveland to film for James Posey. We went to West Virginia for a piece on Jason Williams.
Even though I wasn't on camera, I was proud that we got players to talk about their real selves. Damon Jones, for example, cried when he talked about being a single dad and getting to see his daughter only in the summers.
Some people think athletes are extraordinary human beings. But they are just ordinary people who have extraordinary talent.
The highs and lows of a life in sports
My hardest interview was with Chris "Birdman" Andersen. That was the most uncomfortable 2 minutes, 20 seconds of my life. There were lots of short answers, such as, "BirdZilla feels no pain."
One of my most embarrassing moments came when I fell on the ice while doing in-arena announcing at a Panthers game. I was cocky. I always said I would never fall on the ice because I was such a badass in high heels. Falling was a karma moment.
My favorite person to interview is Pat Riley. When he walks in a room, you feel his aura. He's so intelligent and such a good speaker, you become mesmerized. I've never gotten an autograph in my life. But, someday, I would like his autograph.
I would rather talk about sports than play them
I was a terrible athlete. In middle school, I played the entire basketball season and scored just two points. It was a corner shot and I banked it in off the backboard.
I was the "Rudy" of the team. When I scored, the whole team came off the bench to celebrate in the middle of the game.
With child care, sometimes you have to improvise
I could have worked as a sideline reporter, traveling around the country. But I opted to have a family and work part-time.
As a freelance producer and reporter, you don't get paid vacation. So I went back to work three weeks after Lila was born.
I have photos of Hanley Ramirez (then of the Marlins) holding my baby. The Marlins were cool about letting me bring my kids to work every once in a while.
Paper schedules are the key to my life
Balancing my family and professional lives is like walking a tightrope. One missed step, and your whole day is out of whack.
I'm a Type A planner. From naps to meals to who is doing the car pool, everything is written down and posted. Every Saturday, I spend two hours putting together the schedule so that the girls know and the nanny knows where Mom is and where Dad is at all times. I even write down my nights off. The other day I had to write, "Dinner with my husband, watching TV and doing nothing."