Women in Sports: My Story

Sports is one of the most male-dominated industries across the United States. Just a peek at ESPN shows how disproportionate coverage is between female athletes and their male counterparts.  While it is definitely more than you would have seen 10 years ago, it is still a very small number in comparison to the extensive coverage male athletes receive. Regardless of the struggles they face to break in, there has been an influx of women forcing themselves into the sports world through numerous ways — the U.S. women’s soccer team, for example, just settled a lawsuit that included a multimillion-dollar payment to players and a promise by the U.S. Soccer federation to equalize pay between men’s and women’s teams, according to The New York Times.

So what is the journey of a woman in sports who isn’t a Division One athlete or World Cup winner?

As an avid sports fan and photographer, many questioned my love for sports just because of my gender. My male friends would ask me ridiculous questions to try and show me that I don’t know a sport better than them (or at all). The questioning expressions and condescending phrases such as, “Oh wow, that’s a big leap” for wanting to possibly work for big sports networks have pushed me to want to work harder in order to show them what a woman can do. Along with that, since I do not play a sport anymore and did not play too many sports in high school, some will not want to fully trust my knowledge. 

The feeling of walking onto the floor of Madison Square Garden is euphoric. Walking across the floor to take my spot feels powerful. 

— Sara Kiernan

My journey in sports started in high school by running cross country my sophomore year. I was not the best runner with a 5k personal record of 26:16 from my three seasons but that did not change how much I enjoyed being on the team and supporting everyone. My team was coached by the only female sports coach at my school in Atlanta; she had been a coach for many years and was very hard on every athlete, whether you are the best on the team or worst (like me). I was her runner for three consecutive seasons, and through multiple injuries, I still managed to come early every morning to practices in 90-degree heat. One of my senior teammates acted as the designated photographer to snap team photos during meets. She was a year older than me so I only brought my camera to my last meet junior year. 

She passed down her ‘torch’ to another teammate, but I brought my camera and took photos of everyone before and during their race. I did this for every meet my senior season. At the end of my season, my coach texted me and the other photographer saying that our work could be published by USA Today High School Sports about one of our star runners on the team, Cole Heron. I immediately submitted three photos and on the last day of my fall semester, it was published. 

At only 17, I was a published photographer. This one photo changed my entire life and what I wanted to do with it. 

PHOTO COURTESY/ Sara Kiernan, USA Today

I had always had a passion for photography from a very young age. My father has had the same camera since I was born and is always taking photos of my brother and I. Whether it was sports, dance, vacation, or just trying to annoy us, there was a photo of it. Photography has always been in my life. 

TORCH PHOTO/ Sara Kiernan

Within my year and a half at St. John’s, I have been able to expand my love for sports through my passion for photography. I take photos of almost every home game for a majority of the sports offered on campus. As of last semester, I started covering two of St. John’s largest teams: soccer and basketball. Throughout the soccer season, I took photos for both men’s and women’s teams and wrote stories on both. I got to capture the moment Nicole Gordon made their first-ever goal of the season, celebrating wins, hugs, and them being their true selves on the field. With basketball, it was something like I had never felt before. From covering tip-off in an arena filled for the first time since the pandemic, working the first basketball game ever to be held at the brand new UBS Arena, and finally working at the most famous arena in the world: Madison Square Garden, it was something I could never have dreamed of doing before the age of 20. The feeling of walking onto the floor of Madison Square Garden is euphoric. Walking across the floor to take my spot feels powerful. 

One of the biggest steps forward for female collegiate athletes was the creation of Title IX. Title IX is a part of the Education Amendments Act law in 1972 which states that no one should be excluded from activities or education based on sex. This law does not only apply to sports but is used to make sure their women are given the same rights as their male counterparts in athletic departments. 

Last semester, I had the honor of speaking with the Big East Commissioner, Val Ackerman. “I think the good news is more and more women are getting involved and you know women,” said Ackerman. “Young women like yourselves clearly are interested.” 

There are many female athletes at St. John’s that are supporting one another by coming out to their games and cheering from the stands. Many have also gone into the professional leagues, such as Zsani Kajan to OL Reign in 2022 and Ava Collins playing for the New Zealand Football Ferns. 

History is continually being made by women in the sports world. In Jan. 2022, an all-female broadcast team provided both play-by-play and color commentary in an NHL game between the Arizona Coyotes and Montreal Canadiens. The same occurred last year in the MLB between the Tampa Bay Rays and Baltimore Orioles. More of these all-women teams will be coming into play over the next few seasons and expanding into more sports such as the NFL and MLS. “I’m sure in the years to come, we’ll see more women leaders in the business than we have today,” Ackerman concluded.