Driving nine hours all the way from Ann Arbor to College Park was a typical experience for The Michigan Daily’s men’s basketball beat. But unlike most road trips, this one was all girls — never done before when covering men’s basketball for The Daily. It was just us, the two women on the beat, and Lila, a Daily photographer.
Sitting behind the baseline at Xfinity Center we were ecstatic. We had an opportunity that few get to cover a game. Being crammed into the media seating with men we barely knew, we had each other.
After the action ended, the arena cleared out and we headed to talk to the players and coaches. To ensure we talked to players and coaches from both teams, we had to split up.
It’s not unusual — that’s how post-game press conferences typically go. But after traveling with each other, splitting the last Chick-fil-A media meal and covering an entire game together, stepping out of our little bubble was jarring.
Even more jarring was how we were treated as the only women in each room.
We wanted to do what we always do. We wanted to ask questions, get the quotes we needed and head back to our seats to write our stories.
That wasn’t the case. Although we stood at different spots in the arena, we both ran into the same issue. On the court, male reporters cut us off every time we tried to ask a question. In the media room, Maryland athletics staff overlooked us as if we couldn’t possibly want to ask a question. We both struggled to make our voice heard with a sea of male reporters pushing us out.
Unfortunately for female journalists, this is the norm. Despite standing in the middle of player scrums packed so tightly we can hear each other’s breathing, the two of us stick out like a sore thumb.
It’s overwhelming. Feeling trapped between reporters who silently question how you got here as you fight to get a word in edgewise. It’s in the interruptions, the glances, in the silence of glaring expressions. It’s a lonely battle.
But we had each other to lean on as we maneuvered through the experience this season.
Covering a male-dominated sport is extremely daunting for women. Walking through Crisler Center’s tunnel and finding a seat in the media section shouldn’t be a complicated task. Standing courtside watching warmups, live tweeting a game, talking to other journalists and interviewing players are all things every journalist does. But for us, we were the only girls doing that. And that notion seeps into everything we do.
Men rarely evaluate where they should sit when they walk in a room, but for us, those seemingly arbitrary thoughts are second nature.
Most of the men in the room are respectful and kind, but they also don’t understand what we have to go through — and because of that there’s a sharp disconnect.
Having each other, though, those thoughts take a back seat.
The men’s basketball beat at The Daily has never had two women on the beat at the same time before. Most years, there’s one woman that breaks through the barrier — but she’s left to fend for herself. And that’s not to say that those women couldn’t succeed individually.
The issue is, they shouldn’t have to.
They’re the reason that we’re where we are today. They’re the reason we showed just how much women can thrive when more of us are in the room. It gave us the confidence to ask players and coaches questions, to interact with other journalists and most importantly, to just be ourselves.
From spending 11 hours in a rented minivan traveling to Minnesota for Big Ten Media Days on a Tuesday, to driving back to Ann Arbor from Champaign Illinois in the middle of the night, we’ve grown in our confidence — and in our writing.
And that’s because of the support system we have: each other.
When we stand courtside to watch warmups, live tweet a game, talk to other journalists and interview players together, those worries about how we’re perceived go away.
They’re not gone forever. That’s just the nature of the world we live in. But the more women we see in sports, the more comfortable we all feel. And that only happens when we’re given these opportunities. How can we be told we can’t do it if we’re never given a chance?
We took our chance and made the most of it. Spending our spring break driving all over the midwest, dedicating countless hours and resources to writing features and growing more confident in ourselves and each other is a testament to that.
More women should get the opportunity to cover men’s basketball. Years from now, when we visit The Daily, we hope that’s the case — and that it’s the norm, not the exception. We’ve grown, and we believe other women deserve that opportunity too.
One day we’re going to walk into a player scrum — just like we did at Maryland — see other female faces in the crowd, and we’ll feel like we belong.
Because we do.