So we're transitioning out of the women's basketball season and getting ready for the spring sports season, so let me take this time to talk about women's sports, and the business of sports, in general.
Right now I'm sitting in a sports and p.r. class on the campus of the University of Cincinnati, just wrapping up a panel of four sports 'professionals' giving career advice to undergraduates at U.C. It's amazing how the onset of spring will set the alarm clock off in students' heads--hey, maybe I'd better start looking for a job, since I'll be out of here in a few months.
It's mainly the same questions, like how do I get started looking for a job, is there a website that's better than others for looking for a job, etc. And, of course, in this class, many of these students are looking for a job in sports.
Used to be, for every 100 students who graduate, there would be two entry-level jobs available. That percentage is probably down to ½ of a job for every 100 students graduating these days. Advice is the same for either group--it's nice to have a plan in place, especially before you go to the bookstore and order your cap and gown.
So here in the sports world, the gamut runs from being an anchor on ESPN to working in sports marketing. More women than ever are interested in the sport- but the job goals haven't varied over the years. For example, I've been covering high school football here in the Greater Cincinnati area since 2002, spending Friday nights on the sidelines within shouting distance (and closer) of thousands of high school students. I've never had one young girl come up to me and say she wanted to cover sports. Never. Guys will, but never a young girl.
I thought maybe it was just because of the work I was doing (not glamorous, in a driving rainstorm or snowstorm), but I got a similar response from my former ESPN colleague, Pam Ward. Pam's a pioneer in her own right, calling play by play for major college football games for the Worldwide Leader. There's no other woman who does that right now on a regular basis.
During an interview for my radio segment a couple of weeks ago, Pam said that when young girls and women come up to her and ask her about a sports job, no one wants to do play by play. They all want to be sideline reporters. They all want to be Erin Andrews.
Nothing wrong with that. But women have been sideline reporters for years. Been there, done that. It's not new. Pam is breaking ground. But if you break ground and nobody hears the plow, does it count? I asked Pam if she thought she was a trailblazer, and she said, quite accurately, "you can't be a trailblazer if no one follows you on the trail."
And that is what disappoints me more than anything. There are a lot of women, friends of mine, colleagues of mine, who have stuck their professional necks out and done a non-traditional sports job, be it in front of the camera or in the front office, to be a pioneer for other young women who might want to follow the same path. But no one's following these women on these paths. If that happens enough, these women who broke ground won't even see the worth in picking up the plow anymore. If young girls and women don't want to take that unconventional step and lead the way for others, then why should these pioneering women lead the way for them?
There are more opportunities than ever for young women to take the lead in all kinds of sports fields. Take advantage of those who have gone before you. Ask questions, choose a mentor, watch what she does. You just might find out you can be a pioneer, too.