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I Turned My Love of Sports Into My Dream Career


Hannah Withiam '16
Hannah Withiam '16

I always knew deep down what I wanted to do when I graduated from college. Growing up, when I wasn’t playing sports, I was watching and reading about them. I would snag The New York Times sports page or Sports Illustrated as soon as it hit the kitchen counter, get lost in the words and think to myself, “I want to tell these stories one day.”

The problem was, once it was time to find a job my senior year at Hamilton, I wasn’t convinced I could get there. A lot of what I heard about sports journalism made the prospect seem too daunting. The early years are punishing. The money is scarce. The industry is dying.

I decided to give it a shot anyway. I began an internship in digital media at the New York Post a couple of weeks after graduation, figuring I’d learn the skills I could later use as selling points when applying for my first real job in sports. Then, my first day in the office, my manager posed a question that would accelerate the trajectory of my career, though I didn’t know it then.

“What are you most interested in?” he asked. “What do you hope to accomplish while you’re here?”

Do I tell him? I’m not trying to step on any toes during my first day, I thought.

“Well,” I said, “What I really want to do is write about sports.”

Turns out my admission was timely, because they needed help on the digital sports desk.I spent that summer soaking up every bit of knowledge and advice I could. Coming from Hamilton, with a degree in comparative literature and classical languages, I had practically no foundation in journalism. But thanks to my Hamilton education I could think critically, research thoughtfully, write incisively, and communicate effectively.

So, I learned how to pick out a good story, how to write a “lede” and a “kicker,” how to track down sources, how to prepare for interviews (tip: always bring two recording devices, in case you drop one, lose all of your material, and have to furiously type out quotes from memory) and how to pare all of it down into a 12-inch story – on deadline.

Now, in my fourth year out of college working as a staff editor at The Athletic (where I’m managing and working with writers, and still writing when I can), sometimes I think back to that first summer in the newsroom and that conversation I had with my boss. If I’d never said anything, if I’d let my doubts about a future in sports consume me, I might not be here –attending the games, meeting the athletes and telling the stories my teenage self dreamed about.

As you envision your own career, don’t let fear get in the way of your passions and convictions. Don’t let tasks that seem impossible deter you from trying and don’t let failures keep you from persisting. Have faith in your preparation and find confidence in the fact that you’re doing what you love. Because, ultimately, what’s more important than that?

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