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The Ugly Truth: Bullying in the Sports Profession

August 17, 2016

When I was first introduced to the sports information profession as an

undergraduate, I fell in love. Since then, there has been nothing in this world that I

have wanted to do and I never questioned my career path until I hit my first big

hurdle: being bullied and harassed because of my gender. I considered packing it up

and leaving collegiate athletics on numerous accounts but I am beyond thankful to

my network of SIDs across the country that have helped me get through it and help

me find better fit for me.

 

I paid my dues upon graduation with internships both paid and unpaid to get my

foot in the door and prove that I wanted to succeed. When I got my first full-time job

I was ecstatic and could not wait for what the new chapter in my life had in store.

Little did I know my chapter became one I would like to skip over when reading my

life story, but it has made me who I am today and that is why I have decided to tell it

on sparklesandsports.com

-CP

 

I started my first big girl job bright eyed and bushy tailed. I worked so hard and I

was excited to hit the ground running. As a one-woman SID shop I met with the

entire staff to introduce myself as many coaches were not full time and worked

complicated hours. I had handouts with my plan for the sports information

department and my contact information and before I was able to start, one coach

raised their hand and asked “How do you think you’re going to write for my sport

since you know nothing about it.?” This coach jumped the gun because I was about

to explain my background in the profession, including how I had served as a primary

contact for said sport at a Division I school.

 

Fast forward a few months and I had been doing well at my new job, aside from a

long commute, the common struggles of being a one-person shop and a few minor

hiccups.

 

One day in the early spring I got called into my boss’ office, the athletic director, and

he expressed that the coach from that initial meeting was not happy with me and no

longer wants me to cover said sport. My AD and coach decided that stories would be

written by coach or a student-athlete and sent to me to post them. As a one-person

shop with over 20 sports, I didn’t hesitate and agreed.

 

Things were working pretty well until that sport's conference championship came

along. I was anticipating that they would repeat as league champions so I created a

graphic for social media and posted it when it was confirmed that we had won the

title. I didn’t write a story because I hadn’t done so ever since the AD told me I was

relieved of covering this sport.

 

That week we had a senior staff meeting and our AD came in late, immediately tellng

me to read my email and that he apologized for being late because he had been

defending me. Word of advice: don’t have someone read an email about themselves

in a room full of people before a meeting. Especially when the email is hurtful and

accusatory.

 

To sum it up for you, my problem coach sent our AD an email accusing me of not

doing my job; never once in that email did he call me by name, but simply referred to

me as SID or "girl." He questioned my character, my work ethic and my dedication to

my university. He continued to compare me to SIDs before me, all of which were

male, and eventually I came to the conclusion that this coach had no faith in me

because I was a female. I was so hurt by his words that I broke down in tears in our

meeting and for the first time in my life, questioned my job and myself.

 

The long and short of it was that my AD had my back but I was still upset because

they had been meeting throughout the year about me without my knowledge. I felt

like this “boiling point” could have been avoided. I even went back and read archived

work from previous SIDs, all of which were males, and no offense to them but they

were not doing anything special for this sport that I wasn’t doing.

 

I started to confide in other people that work in sports to see if they thought what I

had been battling was normal. It wasn’t. I thought many times about going to my

university’s human resources office to file a complaint but I didn’t. Instead I began

applying for a new job. I stand by my decision to not open up a can of worms with

HR, my problem coach and my athletic director. I was afraid that word would spread

throughout our industry that I couldn’t handle conflict and went crying to HR. I

think I made the best decision for myself. The coach was relieved of his duties at the

end of the season and the school’s VP hoped that him being removed would give me

incentive to stay. It did not, and I do not think twice about my decision.

 

I tried to tell my story without getting into much details but living in my situation

day-to- day was awful. I wish that no young female, or male for that matter, ever go

through what I went through by being bullied by a coach. My problem coach in

particular bullied me because he did not believe I was able to do my job as well as an

older male (something that he said in his overdramatic email).

 

I am not ashamed of what happened. If you are reading this and feel like you are in a

similar situation, please reach out to me. It helps to speak to someone. The reason I

am still working in athletics and why I still love what I do is because of amazing

people in my support system. Nothing is worse than a crappy work situation but

having people who support you are the ones that make going to work every day

bearable.

 

To wrap things up, I will share with you a quote my father always says, “Whether

you’re right or wrong, I am on your side.” Our athletics community is a team, and if

you are in a similar situation, I am on your side and I will fight for you.

I appreciate everyone who was there for me through this experience. I am also

thankful for Olivia and Katie for giving me a platform to share my experience of a

not-so-pleasant side of being a young female in sports.

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