Warrane College UNSW | college accommodation for students at UNSW
Warrane College UNSW | college accommodation for students at UNSW

Leading sports journalist on the need for perseverance

Tim Sheridan giving his speech after formal dinner

Leading television sports journalist, Tim Sheridan, gave Warrane residents an intimate insight into his career when he spoke at the College on Wednesday 24 April 2013.

Mr Sheridan, who has been a writer, interviewer and presenter in sports journalism for 33 years, shared anecdotes about some of the world’s leading sports stars and spoke about some of the life lessons he had learned from reporting on them.

During his talk in the main common room, he emphasised that sport had taught him a lot about the importance of virtues like determination and perseverance.

Pointing out that all the students before him were “works in progress”, he said: “What is in the future you can partly control. And there is a lot that you can’t… Life can dish up all sorts of surprises, and you need to look at it all through the prism of that uncertainty and just the beauty of it. I think that perseverance wins the day.”

He said that he himself had never been “richly talented”, but determination and perseverance had been critical in his success.

During his career, Mr Sheridan has covered Wimbledon, the US Open, Formula 1, World Swimming titles, Olympics, US Masters, Tour de France and World Cup Cricket and has interviewed and profiled hundreds of leading sporting personalities.

Through the anecdotes of famous sports people he shared, Mr Sheridan made it clear that two of his heroes were Greg Norman and Roger Federer – who he was lucky enough to interview early in his career.

“Federer is a wonderful bloke,” he said. “What you see is what you get with Roger. Everything you see about him is true.”

He said that even when there was a huge queue of television interviewers from all over the world waiting to interview him, Federer would always make sure that an Australian film crew got an interview.

He said he had once spoken about Federer to his coach, Tony Roche, who had also coached tennis greats like Ivan Lendl and Patrick Rafter.

“I said: ‘Do you think that Federer has made tennis beautiful again – because people were sick of the base line?’ He said: ‘I couldn’t have put it any better.’ He has made tennis beautiful again – who else finishes a backhand swinging volley looking like Nureyev… I mean, it’s just ridiculous. He’s that good.

“He changed tennis for me, I know that, because I grew up watching players who were like robots, with due respect to Sampras and a few others.”

Asked for some pointers on getting ahead in journalism, Mr Sheridan said that in journalism, or in any other career, it was necessary to have something special to offer.

“In a lot of ways, the Miranda Devines of the world have it right,” he said. “I would say to people that, whatever profession you are in, you have got to have something that you can sell. Whether you are a lawyer or whoever, you have got to have something that people want and I would advise all of the people here interested in journalism: you have got to have something to say.

“You see so much noise that is meaningless in the media today. What a lot of people are doing is just regurgitating known figures, facts, scores – whatever. That’s pretty easy. You guys can find that out in an instant…

“So, it’s probably the analysis and having more to say than what’s there in front of people.”

He added that it also helped to be entertaining. “That hasn’t changed,” he said. “That is very important.”

[Warrane College offers more than just accommodation to students at UNSW: Details of other guest speakers are available here]