The Schnable Scoop

Column: Sports Journalism Isn’t All Half-Court Shots and Penalty Kicks

Nick Schultz | The PhoenixPhoenix assistant sports editor Abby Schnable covered the 2017-18 Missouri Valley Conference men's basketball tournament March 7-10.

As I finish my first year as assistant sports editor and head into my second, I want to take a moment to share my story.

Believe it or not, a year ago, I wasn’t a journalism major. I was writing for The Phoenix as a hobby and a break from my life as a biology major on the pre-med track. Also a year ago, after a mixture of hating chemistry and loving writing for the sports section, I made the ambitious decision to completely change my plan.

While I’ve had a lot of support along the way, I’ve faced a lot of roadblocks that made me question my decision to switch my major. Ultimately, all of the backlash fuels me to prove everyone wrong; prove that I can be a sports writer despite being a woman, not being in journalism from the very beginning, teams not wanting to deal with my honest coverage or some saying I simply just can’t handle it.

The first roadblock came when I made the phone call to my parents and the rest of my family. While some were happy that I was making a decision to switch to a journalism major — something I was passionate about — others threw it in my face that “I didn’t know about sports” or that “I wouldn’t make any money if I went through with this.”

I wrote my first column ever about the World Cup. About an hour after posting, I got a text from one of my uncles saying that he was proud of me. Proud that I knew my information and proved the rest of my family — my dad — wrong.

I’m at peace about the whole money thing and I honestly just wish people would stop saying that to me. I know I won’t make a lot. But you know what? At least every time I type a up a new story, I’m happy. At least I’m doing something I love.

My next roadblock came in the form of a letter from a parent of a player telling me I’m a terrible person for writing a critical article. One of the coaches I had a good work relationship with was upset with me and limited my access because of how harsh I was.

This happened pretty early in the school year and I was absolutely devastated and doubted writing the column — until former Editor-in-Chief Henry Redman gave me a sly thumbs up in our weekly Sunday meeting. That experience made me realize people cared about what I wrote. People cared about my opinion. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the last time a coach was hesitant to work with me.

The most hate I faced was when a Campus Safety officer called me “too pretty” to write sports. Of course, I was enraged. I expressed my emotions in my favorite form — writing a column.

A couple months later, I won my first journalism award for that column: The Society of Professional Journalists Region 5 award for sports column writing. I beat out people from Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois — even cooler, I beat my former Editor-in-Chief in the category.

Over winter break, I worked as an intern for the St. Louis Post Dispatch and covered the St. Louis Blues. On my first day, my dad said to me, “Maybe you will realize this isn’t what you want to do.” Those words aggravated me because how are you supposed to try something when not even your dad supports you?

Later in the St. Louis Blues locker room while interviewing Ryan O’Reily, I knew I was exactly where I was supposed to be and that this is the right path for me. This summer, I’m taking on my second internship with St. Louis radio station AM-KFNS 590 “The Fan” as a programming intern.

Recently, I had the biggest setback in a while. I was told I was going to be repeating as assistant sports editor for another year and I wasn’t getting a promotion. I knew it wasn’t personal and that it was a personnel thing, but when you do everything right and go above and beyond for a whole year and then don’t get any recognition for it, it feels like a giant punch in the gut. I doubted if I made the right decision switching to journalism.

I shed a lot of tears — just ask Assistant Arts and Entertainment Editor Emma Sulski. It took me a couple a days, maybe even a week, but I finally started to realize this was a good thing. Instead of having to run a whole section, I could continue to focus on my writing and building up my skills. It wasn’t a setback, but a blessing in disguise.

So this is a message to two different people. First, my haters: you can doubt me, hate me for my writing and criticize me all you want, but I’m not going to stop. Your words just fuel me to do better. So, thank you.

Second, to everyone who has had the same doubts or thought you couldn’t do it or it was just too hard: keep going. It might not feel like it now, but I promise all the hard work will pay off.

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