By Jennifer Overman
AWSM in Arizona had a convention-high 176 total attendees, eclipsing the mark set in South Florida (2008) and Austin, Texas (1997).
We asked some of the attendees to share their experiences, and they didn’t hold back on their experiences at the Montelucia. From inspiring panels to delicious food to silent auction wars, #AWSM2013 is remembered fondly.
Mary Albl, New Haven Register: The whole convention was so special and memorable. A few highlights for me included Friday morning’s session of “Women, TV and Finding Success.” Hearing Lesley Visser and others talk about their success and failures in the business and how they’ve handled it was just so inspiring. They provided so many simple, yet powerful tips. For instance, Cindy Brunson: “You can hear the word ‘no’ but you don’t have to listen.” I also never forget the interactions, friendships and conversations I had. It was just so nice to spend three days with fellow peers. The first night at dinner meeting new people from MLB.com, Penn State, ESPN and finding common ground and so many similarities was great. I also enjoyed the last night spending it, again, just conversing and networking. That’s an opportunity you don’t get that often. It definitely made me come back to my job in Connecticut very appreciative and hungry to work harder than ever. I also now wish I had a golf cart to take me everywhere. : )
Christine Brennan, USA Today Sports: I was so struck by the rapt attention everyone in the room gave to Missy and Sharon Farr and Dr. Mark Runfola during our discussion of Heather Farr and the fight against breast cancer. I’ve been to a lot of AWSM conventions and I’ve never seen a room so riveted by the speakers. It’s such a credit to our guests, but also to AWSM members for honoring our panelists in such a manner. I will never forget that panel and what it meant to us. I also was so impressed by the number of young people who attended the convention. Everywhere I turned, it was more college students, dozens of them. They had us veterans outnumbered, by a lot, and that was just terrific.
Cindy Brunson, Fox Sports Arizona: It was so uplifting to be surrounded by so many brilliant and empowered women in the industry. What a simply smashing experience! I’m already looking forward to next year.
Kelly Burke, WSIL-TV / Southern Illinois: Arizona was my favorite AWSM conference yet and not just because we were greeted by a cupcake at check-in (although that certainly set the tone). Phoenix 2013 was the perfect collision of past meets present. Meeting and hearing the stories of the AWSM pioneers was humbling and gave me an even greater appreciation for everything they endured. In three short days, I discovered a support system of other like-minded women (and a few men) of all ages and talents that runs deep and true.
The resort was a serene setting and picturesque backdrop for work and play with inspiring speakers and panels, helpful workshops, and in between a foodie’s dream of restaurant-hopping. I left with a full stomach, a stack of business cards, new friends, and an itch to get even more involved in this incredible organization. The bar has been set extremely high for future conferences, and I’m not just saying that because Phoenix is my hometown. “You have to make a statement every day,” said Ann Meyers Drysdale in her closing night speech. AWSM 2013 you certainly managed that and more!
Heather Burns, espnW: The Arizona convention was the best since San Francisco back in the early 90s. Starting with the visit to the Fiesta Bowl museum and the Brittney Griner interview and finishing with Ann Meyers’ closing speech, it was an informative and useful weekend. It was great to see so many of the founding members come back. Lisa Olson was eloquent in receiving the Mary Garber Pioneer Award. My favorite part is always hanging out with everyone at the end of the day at the hospitality suite. I love seeing old friends and sharing war stories. Already looking forward to next year in Orlando.
Jenni Carlson, The Oklahoman: When I remember the Phoenix convention, the first memory in my mind’s eye will be the breakfast on the opening morning. We had a great panel that consisted of AWSM’s founders, but the longer the session went on, the more that everyone became aware of just how many trailblazers were in the room. It wasn’t just the founders. It was Melissa Ludtke. It was Robin Herman. It was Rosa Gatti. It was Lesley Visser. The list of notables went on and on. Listening to their stories was a reminder to all of us just how far we’ve come — and just how much we owe those woman for the progress that we’ve made.
Rana Cash, Sporting News: A highlight for me was hearing the empowering testimony of breast cancer survivor Missy Farr-Kaye. It was thoughtful and important programming, particularly for our membership.
Anne Delaney, Utica Observer-Dispatch: I enjoyed the Friday lunch at Blanco very much. There was a natural rapport among those at my table and that is nice to see when strangers come together and have to take time to get to know one another. We are adults, but it’s not always easy. The Saturday morning breakfast with Missy Farr-Kaye, Sharon Farr and Dr. Runfola was outstanding among the scheduled sessions. I didn’t know what to expect, but it turned out to be an inspiring and life-affirming event. It’s difficult to dwell or wallow in one’s own petty, day-to-day troubles while listening to Sharon Farr talk about dealing with two daughters with cancer. I’d like to be able to bottle a piece of Sharon’s strength.
I think the best part for me was receiving a reminder that women work in and thrive in sports media professions. I am the only female in a four-man department. We were once an 8 or 10-man crew, with no more than two women. My male colleagues are wonderful, supportive people. We have good relationships, professionally and personally. They have taught me almost everything I know. They asked about my trip and wondered if I was “hob-knobbing with anyone famous.”
Tracy Greer, KJZZ / Phoenix: This year’s convention really was a benchmark for me. I had attended my first AWSM convention 12 years earlier in Phoenix. I was just out of college and wide-eyed at all the women and their career stories and the different outlets represented. Being 22 at the time, I had fun going out on the town with the interns. This year it struck me that I was yawning by 11 p.m. and couldn’t wait to get home to my cats — what a change! But I realized as I was asking this year’s group of young women what their career aspirations were, giving them resume tips and information on job hunting websites, that I’m now in the position of those women who were so open and helpful to me a dozen years ago. It feels good to pass it along.
Marie Hardin, Penn State: One unforgettable moment for me was at the Pioneer luncheon, when each of the winners was asked to stand after Lisa Olson was honored. It was one of those moments that captured the history, the struggles, and the triumphs of these and many women in a powerful way. I felt special just being in the room, seeing them smiling and hugging, and joining in the applause they all so richly deserved.
Kay Jones, CNN: I had a blast meeting everyone! What I loved most: the Diamondbacks game with so many women who actually know baseball! That was great. … Hanging out at the pool, talking about careers and everyone’s experiences. … Getting a chance to talk to so many different people and having time to know them well. … (The Montelucia) was amazing!
Stefanie Loh, U-T San Diego: As the room came alive with applause the moment Lisa Olson finished her Pioneer acceptance speech, I was struck with awe. For Lisa and everything she’d gone thorough. For the changes she’s seen in her lifetime. And for the fact that I was in a room full of Pioneer winners, former AWSM presidents and the group’s founders. All these women worked so hard to open sports media to women and to make AWSM what it is today. This convention, to me, represented the epitome of everything that is great about AWSM. We are a close-knit organization that has always strived to take care of its members, regardless of what point they’re at in their careers.
It was so gratifying to see everyone mingling together at events and to feel the buzz of energy throughout the weekend. We learned new skills (Paula Lavigne’s two workshops on investigative journalism were immensely helpful to me), made new friends and got to hang out with Brittney Griner. The resort was beautiful and the food was delicious. Oh, and it was my birthday — definitely enjoyed spending it in the company of 170ish like-minded women whom I admire!
Chevonne Mansfield, Southeastern Conference: The AWSM convention was everything I thought it would be: highly inspiring, informative and entertaining. I really enjoyed the programming, especially the journalist/PR session. The receptions and dinners were fantastic; shout out to Culinary Dropout – my new favorite restaurant! I absolutely loved the Montelucia and wish we had more time there. The best part of the convention for me? Making a lifelong friend in Romy Titus and connecting with folks from all over the industry. Hats off to the AWSM board for a wonderful convention!
Carol Mayer, ESPN: So many great nuggets of advice and insight, but the best piece came from Lesley Visser’s mother (as told by Lesley) re: her dream to pursue a career in sports: “Sometimes you have to cross when it says ‘Don’t Walk.’ “
Vicki Michaelis, U. Georgia: A couple of memories: Watching the new generation of sports media hear Lisa Olson’s story and see her grace. … Playing tennis with Stef Loh and Meri-Jo Borzilleri on a court we paid for “off the books.” Good to know cash can still be king. … Bidding against Melissa Ludtke for Red Sox tickets at the silent auction until I realized I should probably let the Pioneer winner have them — only to have Alisha Puckett outbid Melissa at the last minute. … Those addictive pretzel balls and sauce at Culinary Dropout.
Ann Miller, Honolulu Star-Advertiser: On the opening day of AWSM’s convention, the sheer number of “younger” people blew me away. That feeling stayed with me to the end, and gave me great hope for the future as I head into semi-retirement. By the end, I also was struck by just how well organized this conference was, from the beautiful resort to the AWSM glasses, seamless schedule and amazing attention to detail. It was just like our first convention, on steroids.
Gina Mizell, The Oklahoman: My favorite part of the convention was, as always, being surrounded by so many different “groups” of people who had all gathered in the same place for the same reason. Five of the six members of my 2010 intern class reunited for the first time in three years. I got to watch the Oklahoma State chapter that I mentor take home the inaugural Chapter of the Year award and meet several eager students from other schools across the country. Friends in the Phoenix media market I’ve known for years, such as the Arizona Republic’s Paola Boivin and Sarah McLellan, Arizona State’s Doug Tammaro and Fox Sports Arizona’s Jody Jackson, were on hand for the event in their own backyard. Being in the presence of so many Pioneer winners like Christine Brennan, Lesley Visser and Lisa Olson was humbling and inspiring. And, of course, it’s always fun catching up with friends I’ve made through AWSM who live all over the country. Each convention I’ve attended has been special, but this one was definitely the best.
Stephanie Montano, Rose Bowl: I had such a great time at AWSM. I met so many great and fabulous women who I know will be lifelong friends. My favorite moment at AWSM was during the welcome dinner with guest Brittney Griner. Not only did I sit with a group of wonderful women but we were all intently watching the television as the last seconds of the final game of the NBA championships ticked down. I looked around in those final seconds and couldn’t help but feel like I was around family – people who knew what I did and people who enjoyed the same things as me. No longer did I feel like the token ‘girl who liked sports’ in a roomful of guys. I felt ‘at home.’
Jill Painter, Los Angeles Daily News: I can’t remember the last time I saw so many new faces and what a turnout with 175 people! From the opening dinner watching Brittney Griner keep an eye on Game 7 and her pal LeBron James win another NBA title to the final dinner with Ann Meyers Drysdale, there was much to love. I moderated the Q&A with veterans, and it was so pleasing to have new members come up to me and say it was their favorite panel. What an educational and inspiring breakfast panel on how the Farr family has battled breast cancer, a disease that has affected my family as well. I learned something new, too. Lisa Olson was so candid, and it was neat to watch her family, at the next table, watch proudly. The heat was memorable, of course, and a walk back in the dark with a new friend from the last dinner back to the hotel. As always, it was great to catch up with friends and colleagues, one just married, and another who just had a baby. A group of amazing men and women! Cheers to Phoenix!
Annie Skinner, US Anti-Doping Agency: This was my first time attending the AWSM conference and it was an amazing experience. Despite the business being so competitive, I loved that every session I attended and every interaction I had with fellow members was focused on how we can support each other. It was invigorating to see all of the veterans sharing their experience and strength with the young women in attendance and it is wonderful to know that these young women will grow in the industry with the support and guidance of those who have come before them. I met some wonderful people and it made me proud to be a member of AWSM.
Rachel Whittaker, New Orleans Times-Picayune: I look forward to the convention every year because I’m able to reconnect with old friends and meet new women in sports media who understand the challenges — and rewards — of being a woman in the field. Not only did I love the Montelucia resort, but I also particularly enjoyed the breakout sessions about effective uses of social media in sports reporting. The importance of being versatile and multimedia-savvy in our reporting was clearly conveyed by our speakers. I also liked the panel on staying healthy on the job (and) think holding a session like this each year would be beneficial. It was a privilege to watch Brittney Griner and Holly Rowe on opening night in the interview format. Holly is one of the best in the business in asking polished and relevant questions, great lessons for me as a journalist always looking to sharpen my interviewing skills. Also, Lisa Olson’s courageous trailblazing for women in sports media was inspiring at the Pioneer award luncheon.