Boston Breakers defender Cat Whitehill is living out her Olympic dream, for a second time. This year, it’s behind the microphone.
Boston Breakers defender Cat Whitehill has fulfilled her Olympic dreams in more ways than one. As a defender for the U.S. Women’s National Team in 2004, she won a gold medal at the Summer Games in Athens, Greece. Now, in 2012, Whitehill makes her Olympic debut off the field as a member of the NBC Olympics broadcast team, working out of New York City.
As a soccer analyst for the flagship network of the 2012 Olympics, Whitehill opened the Games broadcasting the Colombia vs. North Korea match. She has two games left to broadcast in group play - Japan vs. South Africa (Tuesday, July 21, 9:30 a.m. ET) and Cameroon vs. New Zealand (Tuesday, July 21, at 2:45 p.m.) - and then one quarterfinal round game.
"After that I will sit back and enjoy the rest of the games as a spectator," said Whitehill, who broadcast her first-ever international soccer match at the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Germany.
That’s when NBC came calling.
"I received a call from NBC, and they asked for an interview. We talked on the phone for a while, and fortunately it was right after the World Cup, so they could see some of my recent tapes," Whitehill said. "They liked what they saw and hired me. It is such an incredible opportunity."
Whitehill is certainly no strange to broadcasting soccer games. In addition to last summer’s World Cup, she has called several college matches for ESPN, including the 2008 and 2009 College Cups.
Cat Whitehill, who played 14 games for Boston this season, is broadcasting Olympic games for NBC. (Photo by Mark Gardner)
"I am still a work in progress, but each year I learn something new about how to be a better commentator," Whitehill said. "I love where this job takes me. I traveled a lot as a player, but I never got to really enjoy the places I went because I was so focused on playing soccer. Now I’ve been to Germany, and I get to hang out in New York City and really get a feel to what these places are like. I also love going to different college campuses and possibly even catching a football game while I’m there."
Speaking of college football, Whitehill’s a huge fan. Her father played at Virginia Tech, and Whitehill herself enjoys watching the Florida Gators and Georgia Bulldogs. She also happened to grow up just an hour outside of Tuscaloosa, home of one of the most storied teams in college football, the University of Alabama. So it’s no surprise that Whitehill wants to join a college football broadcast team.
"My dream has always been to do college football sideline reporting," she said. "I appreciate soccer to where it has taken me, but growing up in the south, I have always wanted to be a part of college football."
That dream just became a reality.
"I just found out I will be doing my first game on ESPN 3, and I can’t wait," Whitehill said. "I will continue to do women’s soccer as well though because I know my roots. I want to always support the game I love."
Whitehill’s tireless work ethic preparing for a match on the field is rivaled by the work she does to prepare for games off the field, the ones she broadcasts on TV.
"I watch as many games as I can, and I search the Internet like crazy for anything I can find," she said. "I also try to talk to players that I know and have previously played with. I have even called old college coaches to give me a quote on players playing in the Olympics. Any way I can get information that gives the audience a different perspective, I am going to try and find it."
So what’s it like being on the other side of the microphone, going from the field to the press box?
"It’s so different, but it helps me learn the game so much more. It’s so important to watch as much soccer as possible if you are trying to be a better player. It can be hard to criticize friends, but it’s unfortunately part of the job," Whitehill said. "The nice thing is I knew I was never perfect as a player, and I could always do better, and I hope the women I critique know I come from a good place. It’s cool that there is so much women’s soccer on TV now where I can have such a fun second career."