At 5-foot-2, CBS sideline reporter Tracy Wolfson is towered over by most of the athletes she interviews. During a March 2019 interview with the Washington Post, she discussed about how her diminutive stature has helped shape her career. Wolfson’s interview gave a candid look into what it takes to thrive among the giants. Here’s how she did it.
Tracy Wolfson’s initial hiccups
Early on in her career, Wolfson was tasked with covering the 2005 U.S. Open. While most sideline interviews are not broadcast to the crowd, certain tennis events make it part of the festivities as a way of shining the spotlight on competitors. Instead, Wolfson managed to turn the crowd against her.
After Lleyton Hewitt defeated Taylor Dent in five sets, Wolfson asked Hewitt if he felt like certain flaws were exposed in his game. The crowd erupted with boos, and Wolfson quickly learned there’s a time and place for hard-hitting questions and another one for introspective answers.
Now in her 15th year at CBS, Wolfson can be seen on the sidelines of NFL and NCAA men’s basketball games. Her small stature is especially noticeable, especially during basketball interviews with athletes like former 7-foot-6 Florida center Tacko Fall.
A clip from the 2019 Super Bowl went viral as it showed Wolfson’s relentless pursuit of Tom Brady following the Patriots’ win over the Los Angeles Rams. Wolfson chased Brady down the field as he was flooded with coaches, teammates, and others. This drive to get the interview at any cost, according to Wolfson, has helped her throughout her career.
Wolfson’s guide to success
Learning from her initial gaffe in tennis, she now acknowledges that a good reporter doesn’t fish for the answers they believe will be most provocative. Instead, it’s best to ask a question that allows the interviewee to shine and come up with the narrative themself.
This means that sometimes a simple question, like the one she asked Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski following a win, will suffice. “It’s not about coming up with the most interesting question or showing your knowledge,” she told the Washington Post. “It’s about eliciting a response for fans, so at that point, what can you do that’s going to tee him up? It’s Coach K … So you just say, ‘Can you even describe that?’ And he got into everything.”
From technical difficulties to difficult interviewees, Wolfson must make sure even the most hard-nosed players and coaches can provide the TV audience with insightful and organic answers.
Working with what Wolfson has
Wolfson cites her height as a driving force behind what makes her so good at what she does. “My height just makes me tougher,” she told the Washington Post. “You just kind of have to plow through.”
In a world where hot takes and forced narratives receive the engagement many networks seek, Wolfson sees herself as a moderator. Whether getting opposing coaches to interview before they face off in the Final Four or taking on a Super Bowl audience, she has an uncanny knack for providing the moments that make sports so special.