Column: My journey into sports journalism, from athlete to writer

The author shows off her love of the Mets in this Mets-tacular themed photo. (Courtesy/Stephanie Sheehan)

I have no specific date. I have no life-changing moment. I have no compelling story starting from birth. In every sense, I am an unconventional sports fan. One moment, I’m refusing to even watch a sporting event on TV outside of the Super Bowl, and the next, I’m spending every single night watching the Mets. As far as I can remember, the only reason I started watching sports is because I made a bet with my brother in 2012.

It was the best bet I’ve ever made.

I grew up in an incredibly sports-oriented family, with my father and two older brothers playing every sport under the sun in my backyard, which conveniently doubles as a wiffleball field. My grandfather was a sports writer in college, my grandmother played college basketball for a college in New York City, and my dad did color commentary for WHUS in his college days (he once criticized Joe Morrone on air—not a good move, dad). As a kid, I played rec softball, soccer, basketball—you name it. I was a state champion hurdler in high school, I lettered in four different sports and I’m a NIRCA All-American in four events for UConn’s club track team.

Of course, none of those accolades are enough to actually be a collegiate athlete, and the prospect of playing a sport year-round with no room for a social life really doesn’t appeal to me. Regardless, being an athlete was the way I used to identify myself; I was always faster, stronger, better. But throughout high school, other girls were more athletic and more celebrated than me, and I slowly felt my own identity fading into something I couldn’t recognize. There was nothing that set me apart from anyone—I was just another high schooler.

But baseball changed that. Baseball changed everything. If I couldn’t be the person who excelled at every sport she played, then I was going to make sure that everyone knew me as the girl who loved the Mets more than she loved herself, and nobody was going to be more passionate than me.

I can’t even describe how lucky I am to have covered the men’s basketball team this year as a sophomore. (Courtesy/Stephanie Sheehan)

Baseball became my escape from the stress of everyday life. As I found it harder to relate to people and make friends because of my social anxiety, baseball made it easier and easier for me to feel like I had a place. I truly don’t know where I would be today if I hadn’t started watching games back in 2012. I’d personally like to offer my thanks and my arm to Johan Santana for destroying his career for that no-hitter.

For the longest time, I wanted to work for the Mets in some capacity, but it wasn’t until I joined The Daily Campus that it became apparent PR was not the life for me. I was aware the life of a beat writer was challenging and time-consuming, but I didn’t know just how satisfying it was until I started.

I can’t even describe how lucky I am to have covered the men’s basketball team this year as a sophomore. As someone who forgot to write their very first fall softball recap and almost cried, the fact that I made it to this place in such a short window of time is nothing short of incredible to me.

I walk into every media availability and every press conference as the only female there. This summer, I’m interning at the Hartford Courant as a sports reporter—probably the first female sports intern in quite some time—and I’ll be one of two females on the sports staff. This is something that makes me incredibly proud and boosts my confidence every time I think about it. I know it’s where I belong.

The sports media world is slowly becoming more welcoming to women, but that’s more conducive to the broadcast side than the print side. Print is a shrinking medium as is, so I’m kind of closing my eyes and taking a leap of faith, both as a woman sportswriter and a print journalist. However, I don’t see myself as a “female sportswriter.” I’m just a sportswriter who happens to be female.

I turn 20 today, and I’m incredibly fortunate that after two decades on this earth, I know exactly where I want to be. Whether you’re a female who wants to be a sportswriter or a male who wants to be a nurse, the only thing that can stand in your way is your own self-doubt. As Serena Williams put it, “We should always be judged by our achievements, not by our gender.”

Even in such a male-dominated industry, I never feel like I’m lesser than anyone. My unique position has not only empowered me to embrace my voice, but my success has given me a sense of belonging as well—the same feeling I felt when I fell in love with baseball. And, of course, working at The Daily Campus has taught me that I really am good enough to have an impactful and fulfilling career in sports journalism.

As the old saying goes: Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game.


Stephanie Sheehan is the associate managing editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at stephanie.sheehan@uconn.edu. She tweets @steph_sheehan.