I bet the last thing on New Zealand cricketer Kane Williamson’s mind after taking (then juggling, then taking again) his recent one handed catch was being interviewed by ESPN’s SportsCenter.

Yet, when given the opportunity, he took it, and kudos to him. He represented himself, his team and his sport well in an unfamiliar and potentially quite daunting interview situation.

Watch the catch and interview above, or here.

Getting this kind of exposure in the massive sporting market that is the United States is a dream for many sports and indeed many athletes. Yet, as this example suggests, these opportunities do present themselves, but they can present themselves quite unexpectedly and may not afford a lot of time to prepare.

If you’re an athlete and you’re reading this, how would you prepare for an unfamiliar interview situation? What can be learnt from Kane Williamson’s example to help ensure you’re prepared and ready to take advantage of the opportunity? Here are four points that came to mind.

1. Think about why you’re being interviewed:

This will help you (to some degree) anticipate the line of questioning. For Kane, he was being interviewed because his catch was selected as the number one play of the day. While he was asked to speak about other areas of cricket, the early questions focused on his catch. The main reason you are being interviewed will often present itself early in the interview. Understanding this and preparing for it will give you a chance to make a good first up impression.

2. Think about what your role or roles (for the interview) might be:

This will help you think about how you need to answer the questions. For Kane, he was being interviewed as an athlete talking about his thoughts and feelings of his amazing play. However, he was also called on to ‘educate’ or give the American public a few details about a sport they are largely unacquainted with (something he would need to do less if speaking to a New Zealand audience). To do a good job and make an impact in this situation an interviewee needs to make sure the audience understands them and doesn’t get lost when they are answering questions. Technical terms from your sport can be an issue and Kane’s substitution of the term ‘pitcher’ for ‘bowler’ is a good example of how he found common ground and negotiated his role as educator. There are other roles athletes may need to take up in ‘left-field’ interviews that, if given some forethought, can be prepared for.

3. Be prepared for interviewers who may not fully know your sport:

Connected to point 2 above, you may find yourself speaking with an interviewer that does know your sport. Have a look at interviewer’s lead-in/voice over comments as highlights of the catch were being played and replayed for viewers:

Kane Williamson… oh my gosh… great slips catch… in a sweater…

For those familiar with cricket, the ‘sweater’ line might seem a little out of place. It may be a detail that is relevant to taking catches in baseball or another American sport. However, it is largely irrelevant to cricket. There were other cases during Kane’s interview where the nuances of cricket and the actual match were lost. Fortunately for Kane, in this interview they did not create too many issues, but athletes may need to be prepared to correct an interviewer if they get things really wrong. Finding ways to do this carefully and politely is probably the best course of action as this will help protect the interviewer’s face. Interviewers are often in their positions because they possess or are seen to posses sporting expertise. Challenging them or correcting them in a stronger tone can undermine them and may mean you, or other athletes in your sport, do not get another opportunity in the future.

4. Be prepared for different interview styles:

Although it may seem like it, sports interviews are not all the same. There are different interviewing styles out there that professional athletes may need to get used to. A lot of American interviews will hype up the performances and actions of athletes to the extreme. This might be a challenge for the tall-poppy-wary, down to earth New Zealand athlete and is likely to mean preparing a range of deflection and redirection strategies. However, if you’re feeling adventurous, you might prepare a range of strategies to help join in with the interviewer and their style. The choice will be yours, just give it some thought.

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