It’s one of the standard questions asked when people discover what it is I do for a living.
“Do you go in the locker room?”
Well, yes I do. That’s where the players usually are. That’s where they talk about the game. And that’s where I need to go for quotes to do my job.
I understand a bit of the fascination. After all, the locker room has been built as a hallowed shrine in sports and women entering that all-male territory has historically been wrought with emotional issues for some players, coaches and administrators.
This past week was the 35th anniversary of Robin Herman and Marcel St. Cyr becoming the first female sports reporters to break the locker room barrier for post game interviews. It happened in Montreal when Herman, a reporter for the New York Times, and St. Cyr with CKLM Radio in Montreal, went into the winning team’s locker room at the NHL All Star Game.
Herman shared reflections of her story on her blog at Salon.com. It was an incredibly interesting read for someone like me, who understands the history but has never experienced anything quite like what the women who went before me had to endure.
Luckily for me, I never had to deal with being banned from access — one of the major tools in order for a reporter of any kind to do his or her job. There have been uncomfortable moments for sure and most of them have come at the hands of players who were, in general, jackasses. It wasn’t just me they were being a jerk to, it was every reporter. It just was easy to make me feel uncomfortable with the gender card. And a losing locker room, regardless of how good the guys may be at heart, is rarely a friendly, inviting place.
But those are mere annoyances to what other women had to endure. It wasn’t some special right they were looking for, merely the ability to do their jobs.
Every year around election time, I sit down and watch the movie “Iron Jawed Angels” about Alice Paul and the final push for women’s suffrage. It seems a million years away, the notion that women couldn’t, shouldn’t vote. And it’s the same sense I get when discussing women as sports journalists or women as athletes. For me, it’s important to remember where we came from in order to stand firmly in the present and consciously choose our own best paths forward.
It’s one of the reasons why I am privileged to be on the board of directors for the Association for Women in Sports Media — an organization which honors those hard-fought victories, celebrates where we are now and keeps a watchful eye at where we are headed.
Because of women like Herman and St. Cyr, other women were able to become sports journalists. And I was able to grow up in a world where they were few and far between, but they existed. I could see it. I could imagine it for myself. And the power of your thoughts, of what you think is possible, is the only energy needed to create a magnificent experience for yourself.