By Katy Winge

I never would have imagined sitting in the same room as ESPN’s Linda Cohn, Cari Champion or Jemele Hill. I couldn’t dream of interacting with CBS Sports’ Jamie Erdahl, Lesley Visser or Suzanne Smith — the only female director in the NFL.

But the Association for Women in Sports Media (AWSM) made those fantasies a reality.

AWSM hosted its annual convention in Austin, Texas earlierthis year. It was there where I had the opportunity to be among some of the greatest female sports media professionals of all time.

My three days were filled with panels, networking, and what felt like a trip back in time as I  learned from and about the women who created a space for me to dream. I quickly realized that, as a woman, if it wasn’t for them, being a sports broadcaster wouldn’t have crossed my mind. I wouldn’t have known it was possible.

These pioneers blazed trails. They changed the game. And I got to meet them.

AWSM set up speaker sessions for an audience filled with wide-eyed, eager journalists ready to soak up advice like a sponge. Topics included:

  • Personal journeys to success
  • Social media tools for sports
  • Making the most of limited access
  • Even combating domestic violence in college sports.

We learned about managing your personal brand and landing your first job. We also got advice. Great advice.

“Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something.”

“Be so prepared, no one can throw you off your game.”

“Take risks. Learn from your mistakes. The fear of the unknown can’t hold you back.”

“No one is you and that’s your power.”

“Build your relationships face-to-face.”

“If you don’t dare to be different, you aren’t going to be.”

I heard stories about being denied access to locker rooms. I learned of instances when women were treated unfairly or harassed or judged in ways that prohibited them from doing their job.

But they didn’t give up.

The most valuable time to me was spent away from the scheduled structure, when I was able to talk with a few of these women in a more relaxed setting about life beyond sports. AWSM gave me a platform to get to know these women on a personal level. I left the convention determined to be a part of what they started.