Kesin: What ‘women in sports’ means to me

Why we should celebrate Women in Sports Day every day

Nina+Walat%2FDaily+Collegian

Nina Walat/Daily Collegian

By Lulu Kesin, Collegian Staff

The Zoom boxes grew larger and I felt smaller. Faces multiplied, my nerves were felt through every inch of my body and my eyes were glued to the clock. Time was ticking and in just a few moments, the answer would be clear.

Introductions began, the pit in my stomach grew but the generous Zoom angle hid my sweat. Male laughter echoed, and I listened as I sat in my childhood bedroom with my computer resting on books, makeup and random birthday cards on my desk.

I said what I needed to, I awkwardly waved goodbye and I hung up.

I brushed off any anxiety about the future because I figured by meeting number two, there would be more of me there. But going on month six, I am still the only female identifying writer on staff at the sports section of the Daily Collegian so far this year.

I think back to my start in sports journalism, when I became the first female reporter for the sports segment of my high school’s weekly news broadcast, “Hamped Up.” I didn’t know a lot about journalism but neither did those before me. I just knew I had the work ethic and heart to make the voices of student athletes at my school heard.

Humor was the basis of the sports segments that came before me. The wit and puns drove every segment and made for a classroom filled with entertained teenagers every Friday morning.

While the pressure to stick to the status quo was felt, I knew I wanted to find my own style of reporting. I didn’t know how to write a script or read a teleprompter but in the blink of an eye, I had to say my first “Welcome to Hamped Up.”

Courtesy of Lulu Kesin

I wasn’t stupid, I knew that people would miss the old host and beg for the change to disappear. I heard stories of teachers prefacing the segment by saying that any negative comparisons would not be tolerated. I get it, they were trying to stick up for me. But at the same time, it just became clearer that I was different.

As delightful as it was that the first time I ever watched my segment happened to be in a class of just 12 females, the double standards and gender-based comments rolled in as soon as the bell rang for second period.

They wanted humor. They hated that I actually talked about sports the whole time. They questioned my knowledge of hockey, made fun of my voice. They wanted to use me to get camera time, thinking I was a weak target who couldn’t say no to their continuous interview requests.

There were times where I’d sat in my car in silence, pulling the sunflower seeds out of my hair that a baseball player spat onto me while filming. The laughter that followed was as telling as the different level of respect he’d given the past reporters versus me.

As frustrating as some days were, those comments didn’t mean all that much. The behavior of those I was working with meant more. But that wasn’t sunshine and rainbows either.

Some videographers rolled their eyes when assigned to my segments and told me to “chill” when I wanted to confirm what time we would film. I heard grunts if I raised my hand to ask a question, potentially extending the meeting from five minutes to a whopping seven. My teacher would refer to a male student as “sweet and innocent” because he sat there and didn’t ask questions. As I vocalized my ideas, hesitation prevented the marker from confidently writing them on the dry erase board.

As time went on, I learned that the comments and double standards wouldn’t stop, but I learned to value support and encouragement a lot more.

I was naïve to think that type of thinking would end when I got my high school diploma. I remember the boys behind the desk at the Emerson College career fair looked at me like I had nine heads when I signed up for sports broadcasting. I remember how small I felt when my professor called me into his office to tell me he thought I was a good student journalist but thought that trying to go into the sports field was meaningless.

Courtesy of Lulu Kesin

Those experiences that I had in the early stages allowed me to recognize the unavoidable environment the field of sports journalism brings. My choice to continue with journalism in college was nothing more than a desire to do what I love, despite the obstacles I can’t help but face. But the reason I wake up every day more than excited to write, report and grow is because of my experience so far at the Collegian.

If I could have told myself what it would be like writing for the sports section after that first meeting, I would not have believed it.

The AP Stylebook does not have enough examples of ways to directly explain how incredible my experience has been so far. From the moment I joined, the talent and drive of the group was transparent.

The experience has brought the kindest editors, the most thoughtful co-writers and the most fulfilling meetings every Monday night. An exemplary balance of professionalism and warmth is at the forefront of every text message, email, article edit or piece of constructive criticism.

I had no clue what I was getting into, but I did know that every question was welcome, every idea was considered and every voice was going to be heard. The laughter is always shared, never targeted and the atmosphere is never anything but positive.

The lessons I have already learned, confidence I continue to gain and never-ending support is the driving force in every line I write. The comfort in knowing that this group is so willing to succeed and improve while remaining grounded, taking the chaos of this year into consideration.

I am not different. I am just a writer and I have never had to worry about being treated any other way at the Collegian.

As I continue to study and head into this male-dominated field, the night-and-day experiences I have had will only amplify. The issue of lack of female sports coverage—the problematic behavior seen in person, on Twitter, behind closed doors—happens everywhere.

The sexism, derogatory comments and double standards are at every level, in the most obvious and hidden ways. Clothing, appearance, the sound of a voice and previous athletic experience mean nothing. Sports reporters are sports reporters, regardless of gender.

It’s 2021, hearing “the first female” is phenomenal but decades overdue.

The time for equal treatment, pay, coverage and opportunities is now. So the next 14-year-old girl who sees Doris Burke on air for the first time doesn’t spend the night scrolling through Twitter reading what nasty things people say about her commentating. So the participation levels of girls in sports from a young age only increases. So coach, manager, reporter and owner are jobs that excite young girls, not scare them.

There’s a lot to celebrate, but a lot of work to do. I don’t have the answers, but I do know we all hold the responsibility to do more and do better.

To those who supported me when I was 16, those who do today and those who promise to in 10 years, thank you. To the girls who hosted “Hamped Up” after me, I am amazed by your work every day. To anyone who sees a post about joining the Collegian, please do.

Happy National Girls and Women in Sports Day.

Lulu Kesin can be reached at [email protected] . Follow her on Twitter @Lulukesin.