One of the most uncomfortable things I saw as a reporter came during a post-game media scrum when another female reporter walked behind the captain of a Division I college hockey team. She caressed the player across the shoulders. Her hand lingered too long.
No, scratch that. Her hand shouldn’t have been there – at all. The actions of this woman were unprofessional, not to mention eyebrow-raising. The gesture, to me, said that this woman had more at stake than just gathering and conveying information.
It reminded me of a rule of thumb: Unless it’s a handshake, don’t touch the hockey players.
A colleague recently wrote that he’s giving up on following the Twitter account of another female reporter, who’s known for her unusually flirtatious ways with some of the subjects she’s worked with. I respect him for taking a stand about this. (It’s not an easy thing to do, to take a stand and take it publicly. And, no, I’m not going to name names.)
But his stance got me to thinking: There’s a big difference – and maybe a fine line – between having a rapport with certain players and flirting with them. And it’s one of the misperceptions that the majority of female sports reporters confront.
We’re in a weird spot as women who cover sports. We’re there to do our job yet some outsiders perceive us as only wanting attention or there to flirt with the jocks. It’s a very 1960s, pre-feminism way of thinking, but that Cro-Magnonesque frame of mind is still out there. Even from other women. Ladies, we’re not helping ourselves here.
It’s an uphill battle. We have more we have to prove. We have to work harder and be smarter in order to earn respect.
We need to collectively kill the misperceptions that surround us. We can only do that if we start within ourselves individually.
Know what you’re talking and asking about. Present yourself properly. Be professional. Treat others professionally. Chances are, the people around you in the media scrum will respect you that much more. Including the players and coaches you cover.
But, please, no touching.
One thought on “Use your mind, not your hands”
Fantastic post! While I’m a guy, I can relate to an extent. This year, I’ve started to give a good deal more attention to Penn State’s women’s team on my blog compared to last season. I’ve found myself to be terribly self-conscious about how I communicate with the players, especially in a world where we use miscommunication-laden social media on a so-frequent-we-don’t-even-notice basis.
I obviously want to keep things friendly with the players, but at the same time, make sure there’s an appropriate division. One rule of thumb I have: hockey players don’t only tweet about hockey. If they’re talking about the game or the team, or even the bus ride, I’m more than happy to chat with them. If they’re talking about their brother’s cute friend or their biology exam, it’s probably best to let that go – you can have a good rapport (and get the information you need to be effective in your role) without that conversation. It’s not always that black and white, obviously. But I think its violation of that rule by others that can cause me to raise my eyebrow sometimes.
My first-ever attempt at actually showing up at a women’s game and talking to them in person is tenatively coming up next weekend. Hopefully I’ve practiced good enough habits where I can walk that line without the ability to read what I’m saying three times before sending!