In observance of Women’s History Month, The Daily’s sports section is launching its second annual series aimed at telling the stories of female athletes, coaches and teams at the University from the perspective of the female sports writers on staff. Daily Sports Writer Lily Alexander continues the series with this story.
Caroline Hendershot is hard to miss.
Whether it’s her height of 5-foot-11, her involvement in a student-run sports TV show or her cheerful demeanor guaranteed to light up any room, the senior on the Michigan rowing team is pretty distinct.
And, she has challenged the gender stereotypes that have plagued the sports industry ever since she was little.
“I think of elementary school where boys would say that they were faster because they were boys,” Hendershot said. “And, I would do anything to beat the boys, making sure that I was the last girl left. I didn’t care if I was dripping in sweat. You can’t judge a book by its cover.”
Coming from a family where both her parents and all three of her older siblings played college sports, Hendershot seemed predestined for collegiate athletics.
“Family games are competitive to say the least,” she said, half-jokingly.
Before committing to rowing as her sport of choice, Hendershot played nearly every sport in existence. However, when she found herself sitting down in a boat her junior year of high school, it was the unique format of rowing that sold her.
“There is a very specific feeling in a boat when you have all eight people moving in sync and pushing a boat at the same time as hard and as fast as they can,” she said. “It is one of the most incredible feelings.”
Though she faces long days of practice that regularly produce blistered hands, Hendershot feels that her teammates make everything worth it. In feeding off of their accomplishments to fuel her own success, Hendershot believes that her teammates have driven her to become both a better person and a stronger rower.
When she's not rowing, Hendershot works with Wolverine Women, an all-female sports talk show on WOLV TV, a student-run television station.
What began as a desire to get more involved on campus the fall of her sophomore year quickly evolved into something larger. Two years later, Hendershot serves as an executive producer for Wolverine Women, doing everything from brainstorming storylines to booking athletes for segments.
Her enthusiasm for the show comes from her personability — she wants to tell stories the average fan might not be aware of. After graduation, Hendershot hopes to work in sports broadcasting.
“Interviewing people is something that I love feeding off of because I love finding out who people are,” she said. “Obviously, I can’t let (sports) go after four years, so I want to go into (broadcasting) and be able to help people tell their stories and express that different perspective.”
In terms of ambition, she considers the community of Wolverine Women to be very similar to that of her team.
“Everyone is so supportive and so uplifting and wants everyone to succeed,” she said. “They helped me realize that yes, you can be competitive, but you can also bring others along with you.”
In December 2017, she interned with Tracy Wolfson — a CBS sports broadcaster and a Michigan alum — who she views as a role model both as a woman in sports and as a person. Hendershot got to spend a weekend with Wolfson when she worked as an NFL correspondent with the New England Patriots and Buffalo Bills.
At the end of the day, Hendershot feels that everything distills down to a statement of purpose. As a woman in sports, she feels that her role is to push down boundaries.
“Hopefully, when I have a career, I want to help open doors for other women that want to get into the industry,” she said.
To Hendershot, graduating this May will be bittersweet. She is grateful for her experience over the past four years and is obviously sad that it is ending, but is extremely excited to navigate the world with the skills she has learned at Michigan.
“I am really happy that I came here for my experience,” she said. “There is nothing like representing the University of Michigan with a block M on your back. That is the biggest thing I’m going to miss.”