Mar 21, 2013, 11:43 AM EDT
Editor’s Note: In honor of March being Women’s History Month, CAA Football will interview several women working across the league to gain their thoughts on women’s history as it relates to their lives, careers, sports and society at large. This week we talk with UAlbany’s Interim Director of Media Relations, Lizzie Barlow.
CAAFB: How long have you been in your current position?
LB: I started this past August as an assistant director and in December I was promoted to Interim Director.
CAAFB: What are your responsibilities?
LB: I’m the primary media contact for football, track & field and baseball. I am essentially the middleman between the media, coaches and student-athletes. I set up interviews, provide game notes and information to media and the public, write previews and recaps, create player highlights for our website, nominate players for conference and national awards and serve as the official statistician on gameday.
CAAFB: Describe your relationship like with the coaching staff.
LB: I have a good relationship with the staff here. Coach Ford is awesome. They were so welcoming when I first started. Juan Torres, the team’s operations guy, sent out a tweet before I started welcoming me to the Purple Family, which was a great gesture. They’ve been very nice and accommodating from the start. They’ve invited me to many of the meetings they’ve had to keep me informed. I wasn’t sure what to expect because this is my first time working with a football program, but everyone has been awesome.
CAAFB: Talk about your relationship with the student-athletes.
LB: I have a nice, friendly relationship with them. I see them around campus and they always say hello. I talk with them about their schoolwork or maybe what movies they’ve seen recently. I’m pretty close in age to most of them, especially the redshirt seniors, so I can relate to them. But at the same time, I make sure to keep things professional because I’m in charge of helping make sure they’re doing the right things when it comes to the media and their public lives.
CAAFB: Do you keep in touch with many of the coaches after they move on and the players after they graduate?
LB: I haven’t really been in that situation yet. I was an intern at Penn for a year and at Evansville for two years, so I really haven’t had the opportunity to see many coaches leave. But now that I’m settling into this position and after I’ve been here awhile, I can definitely see myself checking in with them every now and again to see how they’re doing.
It’s funny you ask that because I played basketball and softball in college and was on the phone with my sports information director yesterday. She was checking in on me.
CAAFB: How did you initially get into the athletics field?
LB: My entire life has revolved around athletics. My dad played seven seasons in the Major Leagues and 13 years of professional baseball before I was born, and I have three older brothers who played baseball and basketball. So I grew up as an athlete and was surrounded by athletes.
I then continued on as an athlete in college and did a couple internships with Minor League Baseball teams, which I really enjoyed. My second semester senior year, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, so I asked my sports information director if I could do a volunteer internship in the office. I made the softball media guide, and that’s how I got into this field. After graduating I got the internship at Penn and have been working full-time in the field ever since.
CAAFB: Who were the women, famous or not, who influenced you as a child?
LB: I’d say my mom. She means the world to me. She’s got a really laid back personality and is so nice to everyone. I try to model myself after her, especially when things begin to get stressful and there just aren’t enough hours in the day. It’s during these times that I ask myself what my mom would do, which helps me gain some perspective.
Also, my favorite movie growing up was “A League of Their Own”. After watching it I was determined to play professional baseball just like my dad. This movie really gave me the message that women can do anything and that I could work in athletics even though it’s a male-dominated field.
CAAFB: Are there any women who have served as personal mentors to you since joining the field?
LB: My sister-in-law Jenny also works in athletics and has had a big impact on me. She worked in Minor League Baseball for a number of years and is now working for the Kansas City Chiefs as their Community Relations Director. She really opened my eyes to the media relations aspect of sports and was the one who initially suggested that I talk to my sports information director when I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do professionally.
CAAFB: Have there been students and other young women who have come to you for advice about the field?
LB: I remember when I first got my internship at Penn, some of my friends who were still in college and wondering what to do with their lives thought that what I was doing was awesome. And I agree. I thoroughly enjoy what I do. The hours can be ridiculous at times, but in the end we’re in a way being paid to watch sports. It’s a really good deal. So yes, I’ve had people see or hear what I’m doing and approach me to learn more about what all is involved in my job.
CAAFB: Who would you consider some of the more positive female role models in athletics for the younger generation nowadays?
LB: In tennis, Venus and Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova seem to be making a positive impact as women in sports. The same can be said for Danica Patrick as the only big-time female NASCAR driver. Erin Andrews and Rebecca Lobo have been positive women to emulate in the broadcasting field. I’d say these are a few of the many women who are serving as positive role models these days.
CAAFB: Can you think of an instance when being a woman played a factor in your professional life?
LB: One of my first internships was with the Syracuse Chiefs. They initially told us that it would be the guys pulling tarps. There were a few of us female interns who questioned why it was just the guys who got to do it and thought we should have the opportunity to do it as well. So one day we ran down and decided we were going to do it to prove that we as women could pull the tarps just as well as the male interns.
I also worked for the Rochester Red Wings another summer doing media relations. I couldn’t do the postgame interviews because they took place in the locker rooms. So logistical aspects like that can prevent women from doing certain things in the field.
CAAFB: There aren’t many women working in football. What does it mean to you to be a woman in this position?
LB: It’s really neat. I grew up loving football and am a huge Buffalo Bills fan. I’m very grateful to UAlbany and Coach Ford for giving me this opportunity. Personally, I don’t think it should matter if it’s a male or female working in football though. I’m just trying to prove that factors like gender, race and age shouldn’t matter. What should matter is how intelligent, creative and enthusiastic you are.
CAAFB: Can you speak to the contributions that women have made in football and in sports in general?
LB: I feel like our impact is gradually growing. My sister-in-law working for the Kansas City Chiefs shows that there are more and more women working in the front offices of these organizations. Soon the gender gap in the field won’t be as noticeable and people won’t see me as the only female SID in CAA Football.
CAAFB: How do you see the role of women in athletics changing moving forward?
LB: With there being more and more youth programs targeted towards girls, there are more opportunities for kids to get involved and for them to become interested in the field professionally. It might be a lot like my experiences growing up, where I played sports and ultimately wanted to stay with it in some capacity. There are so many opportunities in college and professional athletics, whether it is media relations, marketing, ticketing, etc.
CAAFB: Women’s History Month is an important month for not only women, but for all Americans. Why should this month be celebrated by all people?
LB: It’s important to look back and see how far this country as a whole has come and how things have changed. There were many prejudices in the past that we as a nation have been able to overcome. Having Black History Month and Women’s History Month, it’s important that we look back and see how far society has come. We are so much more open-minded now and so much of society’s thinking in the past now just seems silly.
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