WICHITA, Kan. – Anytime you see a piece of news about Wichita State University athletics, that information was shared through an original source. Most likely, it came from Tami Cutler, director of media relations in the Shocker Athletic Department.
Cutler is the gatekeeper of all things athletics, and it’s no easy task. “It’s hard to explain what we do,” Cutler says, “sometimes our own families don’t even understand.”
The office oversees public relations for 15 different sports programs by sharing announcements with fans and media. Cutler says the office writes game stories, updates fact books, tracks stats and runs social media pages.
Athletes come from high school and are expected to handle the pressure of coaches’ and fans’ expectations, all while doing so under the spotlight of the media. But at Wichita State, the athletic department sends each freshman through a training course to help them prepare for the high demands they will experience.
“In high school they haven’t done a lot of interviews, so you have to work with them and give them pointers as you go and just keep putting them in places and interviews where they can grow and get better, and not put them in some uncomfortable spot,” Cutler says.
The athletes grow and improve in their sport, as they do in dealing with media. Cutler knows each athlete’s ability and allows them to take the next step when they’re ready. When the media doesn’t request a specific player, Cutler says she has control over which athlete speaks to them, and she chooses them strategically. “If I think it’s the right time, I may choose someone I think needs practice in interviews and give them that opportunity.”
Although the training course ends, Cutler says the athletes never stop learning. “That’s actually one of my favorite parts,” she says, “is watching them mature as freshmen all the way up to when they’re juniors and seniors.”
After games, media requests certain players for post-game press conferences. As Cutler escorts the players to the press, she is confident they are prepared.
She says it’s about building confidence: teaching respect and positivity. It’s helpful in places other than in front of a camera. Cutler says opposing fans treat players poorly on the road, and they have to handle it.
Cutler isn’t just involved in the athletes’ lives for four years. The skills she teaches stay with players long after the final buzzer. “It helps prepare them for the next stage of their life after athletics is over,” she says. “Doing those interviews only helps you when you’re looking for a job later on and you’re going through a job interview.”
What does a world without Tami Cutler look like? “it would be a little chaotic if we just didn’t show up for a game,” she says. “It would be hard to get information out to media and fans. Media wouldn’t have any access to players or coaches. And they wouldn’t have any access to stats either.”
Arguably, the athletics department would fade away without the public relations office’s dedication to sharing information to fans – who buy tickets and donate money – and the media, who is a middle man to the same audience.
“Tami is great,” says senior volleyball player Emily Hiebert. “She set up our interviews for us, went with us to interviews and kept us up to date on our statistics.” Hiebert says the athletes formed relationships with Cutler on road trips. “We all love her so much and are extremely grateful for everything that she does.”
Luckily for Wichita State, Tami Cutler isn’t going anywhere. “I love my job,” she says. “We get paid to go to a sporting event. It’s a pretty cool job.”
Don’t let it fool you. Cutler gets paid to attend games at Wichita State, in exchange for working long hours. However, her passion for the student athletes is evident. One must try really hard to hear past her enthusiasm to understand the tough job she does every day.
‘I’m lucky that I still love my job and enjoy it. I love working with the student athletes,” Cutler says. “That really is my favorite part – watching them grow. As freshmen, when they come in, they’re a little timid and shy, and watching their personalities grow when they’re juniors and seniors.”
As the years pass, the athletes Cutler works with remain among 18-22-year-olds. “I like to say that they keep my young,” she jokes, “because they’ll have their intro music before a game and I’m like ‘I’ve never even heard these songs’ but then I start to learn them and I’m like ‘ok I’m feeling young now’”.
It’s that excitement that gets her through working 15-hour game days during baseball season. Cutler is in the office seven days a week, looking ahead to the next game, but always preparing players for whatever lie ahead after their time as a Wichita State Shocker.