I am a sports journalist.
Yes, I am a female.
No, that doesn’t mean I don’t belong in sports.
As a college student, everyone knows that one question you get asked a million times.
“What are you studying?”
I reply, “Sports journalism.”
But unlike other students, I immediately get disrespected.
I get the confused stare.
I get the awkward silence.
I get the, “Oh… so like, you want to be on TV as a sideline reporter?”
I’m not interested in being used as a piece of eye-candy for men to stare at. I’m not interested in being used by TV networks, that are just trying to stop male viewers from changing the channel during game breaks.
I am worth more than being eye-candy.
I am a sports journalist. I cover the women’s basketball team. And I’ve had to work really freaking hard to earn every ounce of respect I have.
I tweet like my life depends on it during games, with the latest stats, substitutions, and hashtags. Then I grind out stories following every game, no matter how late. I interview Coach Graves after the big wins and the painful losses. I’m not afraid of approaching players and asking my own questions.
I’m not scared to ask even the tough questions, because I know the game.
Contrary to popular belief: women DO know how sports work. In fact, women actually compete in sports! Yes, it’s true!
Shocking I’m sure, because most fans only come out to see the men’s team play. But you see, two hours after the stands clear out of Blake Arena, a group of strong women take the court, with just as much hustle, heart, and skill as the men.
The players on the women’s basketball team are some of the toughest, hardest-working student athletes I’ve ever had the pleasure of getting to know.
And I know what it’s like to be a female collegiate athlete.
I know what it’s like to be excited when your name gets called out in the starting lineup, and you get to do a little wave to the crowd. The moment comes. You look up. But instead of bleachers packed with students, you see the loyal handful of regulars: parents, a few boyfriends, and the occasional roommate who catches the first half.
It’s a stigma.
“Women don’t belong in sports.”
No one flat out says it, but it’s immersed in our society.
When was the last time you heard someone talk about Diana Taurasi the same way they talk about LeBron James? Or Sabrina Ionescu the same way they talk about Zion Williamson?
That’s what I thought.
As a female sports journalist, I get to do something about it! I get to speak up! I get to represent a group of strong young women, and give them the coverage that they deserve. Our athletics department does a great job of giving equal recognition between the men’s and women’s teams.
But I’m talking about me, a member of the student body, caring about a women’s team on this campus, and encouraging others to do so too.
And I’m thankful that I have this team, because they’ve all embraced me from the start.
Coach Graves has respected me since the moment I first stepped into her office. She’s never once turned down an interview or refused to answer a question I’ve asked.
The same goes for the players. They’ve been nothing but appreciative and kept it real with me, amidst the busy life of being student-athletes.
This team has allowed me to be a force as a female sports writer. They have welcomed me as a part of their own team.
Because my team? Well, I don’t exactly have a team, at least not a team of women.
I’m the only one.
I am currently the only woman at Springfield College who covers sports. Out of all the content produced by our campus media groups, between our radio shows on WSCB 89.9: The Birthplace, packages played on SCTV3, and stories written for The Springfield Student. From our newspaper alone, there have been 13 male beat reporters this year.
And then there’s me.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m thankful for all the men who have helped me succeed.
I’m thankful that when I walked down to the newspaper office as a freshman, after writing a number of news stories, and said I wanted to cover women’s basketball, my EIC at the time, Shawn McFarland said, “Great! They’re all yours. Have fun.”
I’m thankful that when I wanted to write features story for our magazine, The Pride Sports Journal, my newspaper advisor, Marty Dobrow, was equally as invested as me, and taught me how to do it, and do it well.
I’m thankful that when I need access, Jon Santer, Coordinator of Media Relations, enables me by scheduling interviews with Coach, saves me a seat at the table courtside, and prints out an extra stats sheet for me each quarter.
I’m thankful for all my fellow editors Vin, Jack, Sam, and current EIC Gage, and everyone in my major who supports me and reads my stories.
The COSJ program is nearly all men.
Out of the current 64 undergraduate students who are enrolled, there are only 15 females total. And of that, the vast majority of the women don’t have sports interests like I do. My sports broadcasting class only had three women last semester and my sports info class currently has four… including me. Both were taught by my advisor, Kyle Belanger, who too has encouraged me nonstop, despite being terribly outnumbered.
I have to be on my game 100 percent of the time. I have to be over-prepared for everything. I have to be twice as good at writing, or else no one will even consider reading my stories.
I can’t get away with mistakes, because just one mistake, and BOOM: I’m written off as “not knowing what I’m doing” or “oh, it’s because you’re a girl” or “it wasn’t a mistake, she just doesn’t really get sports since she’s a chick.”
I have to virtually memorize every player’s stats after the games, so that the men who grill me, who constantly test me, who speak to me as if they know more than me simply because they’re men, will see that I DO know what I’m talking about. That I CAN successfully hold a conversation about sports, “even though” I’m a woman. That I do NOT have to compromise the fact that I’m a female and act like “one of the boys” to be granted the “right” to cover sports.
And it’s only going to get harder when I go into the real world. I’m not going to be protected by the bubble of Springfield College- with professors who encourage all students to actively pursue their goals and help ensure fair opportunities.
The real world doesn’t look half as welcoming.
According to the 2018 AP Sports Editors Report Card, showing statistics from around the country:
90 percent of the sports editors were men;
69.9 percent of the assistant sports editors were men;
83.4 percent of the columnists were men;
88.5 percent of the reporters were men;
79.6 percent of the copy editors/designers were men.
I’m working towards an education that’ll set me up for a lifetime of being the underdog.
But you know what? I’m not afraid. I know my worth.
And I refuse to believe that women don’t belong in sports. Because we DO.
Covering the women’s basketball team has single handedly been the most empowering experience I’ve ever had. They have allowed me to follow my passion, and learn on the fly. They have encouraged me, reading article after article. They have taken time out of their days to sit down for interviews. They’ve welcomed me into the world of sports.
They have respected me, for the woman I am, because they know, like I know, that women belong in sports too.
Thank you, Posse.
Gabby Guerard may be contacted via email: email@example.com