When you’re at home watching a sports broadcast, you hear a lot of recognizable voices. One of the most popular and talented voices is Fox Sports sideline reporter, Sophia Minnaert. Sophia is best known for covering the Bucks and Brewers for Fox Sports and their Wisconsin affiliate but there’s a lot more to her than meets the eye.
Sophia was nice enough to take the time and talk with me about her career, thoughts on the current Bucks team, favorite memories and much more. Enjoy!
Stewart: Growing up, were you always into sports or did you get more interested in sports as you got older?
Minnaert: I was born and raised in Madison and my dad is a football coach at a high school here in Madison. I always tell people if you’re familiar with the movie, “Remember The Titans” I basically grew up like the daughter from that movie. I was always around practices, games, and we went to all of the football games. My dad would take us to basketball games and he got us into sports early.
Having two younger brothers, we played everything growing up. I personally have tried volleyball, basketball, softball, and my brothers were all multi sport athletes. So it was definitely something we grew up with in our family. We thought it was fun and my dad made us fun for us as well. I definitely grew up in a sports family and that’s where it all started with me, so when it came to picking a career, sports was always something I was interested in.
Stewart: Correct me if I’m wrong, you ended up going to Marquette for college right?
Minnaert: Correct. I went to Marquette and graduated in 2009 as a journalism, and Spanish major.
Stewart: Wow Spanish, that’s an interesting major.
Minnaert: Yeah, my mom is Costa Rican and my grandparents and other family still live in Costa Rica. So we grew up speaking Spanish and took it all throughout school, so at Marquette it seemed like an obvious choice to add it as a major. And i also knew I wanted to do a semester abroad, so I did the Marquette in Madrid program in my Junior year.
Stewart: So what led you to Fox Sports and how did you get your start with the company?
Minnaert: Well, I went through a number of different things. First, in high school when I was 15, I started working at this high school sports production company based here in Madison. Which at the time was called “When We Were Young Productions” So they were producing high school sports and that was where I learned the basic stuff.
Then, when I went to Marquette I did the Marquette tribune my freshman year and it was at that point that I decided to be a journalism major. But I didn’t know at that time if I wanted to do print or TV. Then in 2008 I did the ESPN Internship program in Bristol, CT, and that was what sealed it for me and made me realize that I wanted to do TV. So when I came back to Marquette for my senior year, I did an internship with WISN. And that was great timing because it was 2008, which was the year the Brewers won the Wild Card and ended their playoff drought, so I was helping with that coverage plus Badgers, Packers, Marquette and Bucks.
When I graduated from Marquette and went back to Madison, I didn’t necessarily have a job, but I knew I wanted to go into live game production. So I went back to that high school sports production company, which had changed names then. So I worked for them for about three years, and what was great about that was I was doing all of the state tournaments for high school. So all of that content was airing on Fox, even though I wasn’t working for the network.
In 2012, Fox asked me to come on and start doing the social media work for them on the Brewers broadcast so that is how I started with Fox.
It’s a long path, but I knew I wanted to do the in game stuff, and all of those journeys helped shape that path, versus how a typical person would do it starting at a local news station and working your way up.
Stewart: With those high school games airing on Fox, it was almost like it was meant to be, wasn’t it?
Minnaert: Yeah it was! It was great experience and I still love doing the WIAA State Football Championships every year because that’s really where it started for me. It teaches a lot of great skills because you have to get a lot of information on your own. There’s no public relations staff, or media guide so I was really digging for a lot of stuff and talking to a lot of people to prepare.
Stewart: What do you think is your favorite part of what you do? What leaves you satisfied at the end of the day when you go home?
Minnaert: As much as our days are routine oriented as in how we prepare for a game, I think the really fun part is not knowing what’s going to happen in the actual day. You may go into a day with a plan of how it’s going to go, but something may happen that totally changes that. So I would say the variety is my favorite part because you never really know what’s going to happen day-to-day.
Stewart: So with Giannis being picked as an All-Star Starter, what is it like to be able to watch and cover someone grow from a kid, to a full fledged NBA superstar?
Minnaert: Honestly I think Giannis’ story is really unique because we really have watched him actually grow up and you don’t get to say that about too many guys. When they drafted him, he was such an unknown kid, being an unexpected pick with all the stuff like “How do you even say his name?” But he made such an impression as a rookie, and he was so raw but you could see his potential, but you never know how those type of guys are going to pan out.
He deserves all the credit in the world for the work he’s put in. He’s extremely driven and obviously very talented. But I think his work ethic is what has really made his rise so incredible and so fast. I’m not sure any of us would have thought he would be an All-Star this season. But it’s really been so fun to watch. I do think this is just the start of many good things for him, and I hope everyone follows along on the ride with us.
As much as it’s our job, we’re still fans to a degree like everyone else, so we’re still so impressed with everything he does every game.
Stewart: Looking at pictures from his rookie year, it’s insane how much he really has grown. It almost looks like an entirely new person.
Minnaert: Yeah it is quite a transformation. Coming from an 18 year old kid to now, obviously his body has transformed a lot and he’s so much more stronger, leaner and just more muscular. So he’s taking what he already had physically, and already improved on that. It comes back to his work ethic, none of this has come over night and he would be the first to tell you that he has a lot more work to do. But it is a great story, and it’s one that you like to watch and you just hope continues.
Stewart: You’ve seen a lot of great moments as a journalist, but what has been your favorite memory so far?
Minnaert: That’s a good question. Even though I was only interning with WISN then, I’ll always remember that Wild Card clinching game and just the energy with the final push to make the playoffs, I will always remember that. Those are the moments that you work for. So that will always stand out to me.
It’s hard to pick just one though, because every season is so different. But I will say on the Bucks side, that playoff push in 2014 was memorable. That whole season, and being down but coming back to make it a series against the Bulls. It was really fun to see the momentum turn, and seeing people really into that team. That was the start of the foundation of what they have built now and showed what this team would be. So the postseasons are really the reward of everyone’s work and It’s really fun to watch and see the players elevate their games as well.
Stewart: So what do you want to do in the future? Would you like to stay at Fox Sports, or maybe move on to somewhere and get a more broad experience?
Minnaert: Well, I’m very grateful to be working here for Fox Sports. I know that not everyone gets the opportunity to work in their home market at any point in their career. So for me to be able to start and be here for as long as I have been, it’s something that I do not take for granted. It’s certainly not how I thought things were going to go, but the timing and circumstances worked out for me. I love working here and working for my home market teams. I love the people I work with, like our crew and everyone on air. So I’m very lucky in that regard.
With that being said, I’m always very open to what’s going to happen in the future and i’m not sure what that next step would look like that this point.
This is part two of a series getting to know Wisconsin sportscasters on a deeper level. You can read the first installment, an interview with Steve ‘Sparky’ Fifer here.