This weekend, I had dinner with a broadcasting talent agent, exchanged contact information with a senior editor at Sports Illustrated, and introduced myself to Christine Brennan as I walked to my room at the end of the night.
And that was just Saturday.
I’m not name-dropping or bragging. I’m writing this because none of the above would have been possible without the Association for Women in Sports Media, whose annual convention I attended this past weekend.
I came into this weekend feeling nervous and wondering if I would measure up to the incredible women of this organization. I worried I would say or do something unprofessional that would cause them to roll their eyes and question their decision to encourage student membership.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
I left Phoenix feeling empowered, optimistic and renewed. Women in every field of sports media welcomed student members into the community they’ve built over the past 25 years–a community of professionalism, excellence and (most importantly) friendship.
I listened to women like CNN’s Kathy Kudravi tell us to “find our Yoda,” a mentor for the years to come. I met women like USA Today’s Mary Byrne who, after just 30 seconds of conversing, pulled out her business card and encouraged me to email her with any questions I may have.
These women are at some of the highest levels of work in sports media, and they genuinely want to help develop students into better professionals. Why?
Because their persistence and trailblazing in this industry gave us the opportunity to follow in their footsteps.
I worry almost daily about my future in this industry. I constantly question myself: Should I pursue journalism or PR? Do I have enough internships under my belt? Is this something I’ll enjoy doing for my entire career?
The women I met this weekend had different questions when they entered the workforce: Is there anyone out there who will hire me? Will I be allowed in the locker room this week for a postgame interview? Do I have what it takes to succeed in a male-dominated field?
We worry about whether we’ll be good enough after graduation; they worried about finding a male sports editor who would dare to hire a woman. We wonder which field of sports media we want to work in; they were some of the first to break down doors and earn jobs in sports writing, PR and broadcasting.
I say all this to make a point: If you’re currently working in sports or aspiring to do so someday, join AWSM. These women have worked too hard and given us too much to not take advantage of the networking, mentorship and support they’re offering. Regardless of what you’re looking for from a professional organization, I can promise you one thing: AWSM will not disappoint.