She delivered a megawatt cover-worthy smile as soon as we turned on the camera. Two seconds earlier, Katie George, the energetic newcomer at WDRB had been talking shop about local sports teams with our photographer, Antonio Pantoja and cover co-star Kurt Roberson. Without a pause, she switched gears and struck and tenaciously held a pose that could make a pilates instructor cower, adjusting arms, wrist position, her left leg like a pro-- all while answering my questions between takes about her life, fitness routine and career. Katie George is a woman who delivers her A-game no matter what the game happens to be.
According to George, she was born to be a competitor. “I had two older brothers—Timmy and Charlie—and they played every sport imaginable,” she says. “ I knew if I wanted to hang out with them I had to be able to play as well as them.” While the former Division 1 University of Louisville champion admits she was naturally “a pretty decent athlete,” that early drive to be as good as her older brothers made her work relentlessly to take her skills to the next level as soon as she could swing a bat at a T-ball game.
“I’d come home after a game and head out to the backyard with my dad to keep practicing,” she says. “My brothers would say, ‘You’re not fast enough. You’re not big enough, you’re not good enough and I always wanted to prove them wrong. I always credit my competitiveness to them.” Katie and her dad would spend hours in the backyard throwing the football or baseball or any other ball she was hoping to play with her brothers. “Eventually, they started picking me over their friends,” she says. “They pushed me and motivated me to practice and get really good at things and not settle for being just okay,” she says. “I always had to be better.”
That drive propelled Katie into almost every sport you can name: basketball, softball, field hockey, tennis… but once she began playing volleyball on a whim in elementary school, she became hooked.
Soon she was playing on KIVA, choosing Assumption High School partly because of their excellent volleyball program and earning a scholarship to play volleyball for Division I U of L. That prize was earned not with mere natural talent— which she certainly had, but near-obsessive dedication and perseverance. “I was playing year round and at school, practicing three or four times a week,” says Katie. “I’d take two or three lessons a week at 6 am before school. My parents paid for club volleyball and lessons, but the goal always was to get it back with a college scholarship.” And, as her parents surely recognized, Katie wasn’t one to fail.
She saw the University of Louisville not just as a means to play the sport she loves at the top level, but as a place to strive for her next goal: a career as a broadcast sports reporter. She had settled on that profession early and, like everything else in her life, was relentless in her pursuit of it. “I was thirteen when I first saw Erin Andrews on ESPN and I knew instantly that I wanted her job,” she says. “My brothers always had the remote so we never watched anything I wanted to watch. It was always ESPN or a sports show or a game. When I saw her, I thought, ‘I love sports and talking about sports; I want to do what she’s doing.’” From that point on, her resolve never wavered. “It’s weird because people have often asked if I ever thought of going into anything else,” she says, “but my goal has never changed and I’ve always been aware that these are the steps I need to take to get there.” Becoming a 2015 ACC Player and Setter of the Year and NCAA All American, landing early internships with TK and WDRB (which led to an on-air position when she graduated magna cum laude in three years) and even making the out-of-pattern decision to enter (and win) her first beauty pageant, were all steps towards her lifelong dream of becoming a broadcast sports reporter at a national level.
“I feel lucky that everything has fallen into place,” she says. “But I put myself in a position to have everything fall into place.”
According to Katie, a life built on a foundation of sports and fitness made self-discipline and achieving goals a given. “I learned what it takes to achieve through sports,” Katie says. “And sports also promoted a healthy lifestyle. I never had to think about dieting or working out because training and eating right was just another aspect of what I was doing. I was always in a gym or at a practice or working with a team trainer. I didn’t know what it was like not to be doing that.”
Now that she’s moved from the court to the newsroom, she’s found different ways to stay fit. “I don’t need a trainer because I know what I need to do,” she says. “I don’t go to a gym and I’m not trying to gain muscle anymore. I want to remain tight and toned because the ten pounds on television is a real thing.” So she does personal workouts at home, often before she heads to work. “I’ve been through so many workouts as an athlete that I can put a workout together myself,” she says. Like everyone else, she does have occasional mornings when she doesn’t want to get out of bed. “But, again, it’s that discipline I have from years of sports,” she says. “I can just roll out a yoga mat. I do a lot of body circuits. I’ll get out the dumbbells and be done in forty-five minutes to an hour. I try to run a few times a week just to get a good sweat going and get my heart rate up.” She adds that the “glamorous” life of a local television reporter is a workout in itself: “What people don’t realize is that, off camera, I’m carrying about fifty pounds of gear and rushing from one location to another in ninety degree heat. I’m sweating my butt off!”
Her schedule as a news and sports reporter leaves little time for team sports, which she misses. “There is a lot of volleyball at night, but I work night and can’t do those teams,” she says. “There are times when I play sand volleyball on the weekend and I really enjoy that. But I don’t get to compete anymore.”
And as much as she enjoys her hard-won career, she does admit that she misses the thrill of the games. “I still find it hard,” she says. “I’m so competitive and I don’t have that regular competitive outlet where I’d go to practice every day to work for a tangible goal with other people. I do miss the camaraderie and competition. I envy people who have those outlets.”
Now, instead of masterfully playing the games, she’s masterfully covering them. “It’s a transition to move from court to the sidelines, but I’m at an advantage because I know what it takes and I know what those athletes are going through,” she says. “I try to use that. I can give a behind-the-curtain look into what it’s like to be in those spots and I try to bring that perspective to every story I do.”
And, in true Katie George style, she is turning the broadcast world into her new volleyball court. “It’s the way I’m made,” she says. “Whether I’m competing with myself or with a coworker, I have to set goals.” Those goals will ultimately lead her away from hometown newsrooms and local games to bigger arenas. I’ve been very honest about my career goals with WDRB,” she says. “They know I want to work at a regional and national level. I love working in my hometown, but I’ve never left and I need to do that at some point. I wouldn’t leave Louisville for a Cincy or Indy job, but I will leave for a market that would put me in position for a national spot.”
Anyone who’s watched Katie work and play knows that it’s only a matter of time before she scores.