My senior column is coming a week later than those of my peers. Originally, I had planned to publish one alongside them, but I sat in front of a blank word document, completely unsure of what to say. I have never been a sentimental person, so my original column was one I hoped would make people laugh. It was going to be an open love letter to my favorite baseball player, who also happens to be incredibly mediocre: Bobby Parnell. Yet when the time came to write, it felt wrong. I opted not to do a column.
Then I read the work my peers wrote for their columns. Later that night, I attended our Daily Campus end-of-year banquet. I listened to speech after speech of people who have dedicated so much time to this publication, and at first I couldn’t help but feel that I hadn’t contributed enough. I was not editing or designing content. I spent less than an hour a week at the DC building, so how could I even compare myself to them? But by the end of the night, it had become incredibly apparent that my time at the DC allowed me to do things I never could have imagined, and that’s what I should have written about from the start.
Almost two years ago, I sent an email to then-sports editor Dan Madigan. Essentially, I told Dan that I was not much of a writer, but I like sports and I like economics and I like how the two interact. Dan immediately responded, telling me that none of their current writers had that niche interest, and I would be a welcome addition.
As I’ve spent more and more time in the sports world since then, I realize how incredible Dan was for saying that. So many people in this line of work would have laughed if they heard me say those words, and I assure you people have. Men have made a habit of not taking me seriously, and I fully expected that going in. It’s only just occurring to me now that never once during my work for the DC was I made to feel less than my male counterparts. My gender almost never played a role. The only time it did was when Dan decided to dedicate an entire week of our section to Women in Sports. I was asked to write a personal column about my experience, and the feedback I received from my colleagues was overwhelming.
I may not have spent a lot of time working at the DC building, but I spent my time elsewhere. My DC experience was in press boxes. I was given the opportunity to cover four women’s sports teams here at UConn, including the national champion field hockey team. I’ve spoken one-on-one with five different head coaches. I’ve interviewed female players and been given the opportunity to shine light on their success and their effort which all too often is swept under the rug in favor of men’s sports. I wrote a feature on softball head coach Jen McIntyre for Women in Sports Week. I have published several stories on the success of female marathon runners. But the incredible thing about all of this is that I was not subjected to only write about women.
Baseball has been my passion from the beginning, and all of my other work in the field has been with baseball teams. At the beginning of this year, I asked our new editor, Tyler Keating, if anyone had claimed the recently vacated weekly MLB column. No one had, and he immediately offered it to me. I wrote (almost) every week about a men’s sport. My stories and my opinions were valued, and shortly after the start of the semester Tyler asked me to apply to the position of Staff Writer.
I had never been a writer. Writing is not something I ever planned on doing after graduation. Yet through their constant teaching, support, and encouragement, I became a writer. All the while I was respected and appreciated by my peers. The environment the DC creates makes it an absolutely incredible place for women interested in working in sports to begin their career. It is a judgment free zone. All any of us want is to see each other succeed, and we help each other do that if we can.
I have never been sentimental. I didn’t know what to write so I thought I would just pass up the opportunity to do a senior column and didn’t think twice about how it would feel. For anyone reading this, whether you work for the DC or not, I have a bit of advice I need to impart onto you: no matter how prepared you think you are for something to end, nothing can truly prepare you for the moment. The time will come when you need to say goodbye to the people you’ve grown alongside. The time will come when the professors who have inspired you and the places that have centered you will no longer be there. Make the most of it. Appreciate it. You can’t take it all with you, but the memories will last. The friendships will last. Don’t get tunnel vision and miss how incredible this experience is. Soak it in. Enjoy it. Remember it.
Thank you to everyone who has ever read my work. I hope I was able to teach something new, make you smile, or make you think. I hope you realize how lucky you are to have a student-run newspaper publish every weekday. I hope you realize how much work goes into those publications.
Finally, thank you to everyone who has worked alongside me at the DC. To Dan Madigan, thank you for encouraging me. To Steph Sheehan, thank you for getting false hope and then commiserating about the Mets with me. To Mike Logan and Jorge Eckerdt, thank you for writing my column when I was too overwhelmed with other things. To Josh Buser, thank you for reading my Women in Sports Week column before publication and assuring me that it was good. To Chris Hanna, thank you for the work you’ve done for the department this year, and the work you will continue to do as editor-in-chief next year. Last but not least, thank you to Tyler Keating for giving me the opportunity to write about baseball, for encouraging me to apply for a promotion, for asking me to cover men’s hockey when they lost a writer halfway through the season, and perhaps most importantly, thank you for sitting next to me for three hours without spoiling Infinity War. It has been a pleasure to work alongside all of you.
Rachel Schaefer is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.