Jaylee Ismay has always loved sport – watching games and reading about athletes and the wash-up from games. So when she was faced with deciding what she wanted to do after school, it was an easy choice.
“Sport was always something I looked forward to on the weekend,” Jaylee, 22, explains. “I just loved sport growing up, and although I wasn’t very good at it myself, I knew all the rules and background.
“I grew to love watching the game, understanding it and wanting to know and learn more about it. It was always something to look forward to on the weekend.
“When I wanted to get into it as a career, it clicked to me that I loved reading all about it, watching all the sports stories on TV and the female broadcasters who empowered me to do what I wanted to do.”
When she was five, Jaylee’s family moved to Wauchope, near Port Macquarie, from ‘the Shire’ in Sydney’s southern suburbs. For years after the move she would accompany her dad, a local cabinetmaker, back to Sydney to watch NRL team, the Cronulla Sharks, play their games.
“I was watching and talking about sport all the time. Then it clicked: I may as well make it a career and get paid for it,” she says.
Jaylee was supported by the Hastings Education Foundation to complete a sports media degree at Canberra University. The financial and emotional support became even more important when Jaylee’s dad passed away, just three weeks before she was due to move to Canberra.
“That was such a hard time in my life because I was already scared about the move,” Jaylee remembers.
“It was a nine-hour drive from my home and I was starting from scratch – making new friends, learning to get around a new city, getting homesick.
“It made a huge difference knowing I had the support from my local community.”
One of Jaylee’s strongest memories is being the only woman in her class of eight studying a Bachelor of Sports Media at the University of Canberra, a course uniquely purposed for sports journalism, covering all media platforms for sport, especially social media.
Jaylee Ismay (right) with her sports commentator heroine Yvonne Sampson
Not interested initially in basketball, Jaylee, however, expanded her portfolio of rugby league and cricket by obtaining an internship with the UC ‘Capitals’. On her first day, she fixed the website, showed them several new ways of doing things and got offered a full-time job the day after.
“I was in the right time, right place and they still would like me to come back, but I needed to move on,” she says.
Since graduating, Jaylee has landed a job with Basketball NSW as their media co-ordinator and is the first person in her cohort to have a full-time position.
“Women can pretty well do anything in the male dominated world of sports,” Jaylee says, pointing to her inspiration, Fox Sports commentator, Yvonne Sampson.
“I don’t think I can keep up enough to be a commentator plus I would be too biased, so a reporter is what I would like to be, just like Yvonne Sampson, who interviews from the sideline during breaks.”
When asked what she would say to a young person in rural and regional Australia thinking of taking the leap into higher education, Jaylee replied by saying, “degrees and university in general can open so many doors for you because so many jobs now days require you to have a degree”.
“University was the best thing I have ever done and achieved because I loved what I studied and pushed myself to work ahead of my cohort and network in my field.
“Our homework for the week was to attend as many sporting events as possible. I may have achieved my dream, but it doesn’t mean I can be complacent.
“There still aren’t enough women in my industry, and that’s something I’m keen to help change.”
Our alumni are important to us and Jaylee is just one of almost 4000 country students we have helped over the past 25 years.