I'm a senior at USC who works as a social media assistant for the USC athletic department. I've always been a tomboy and my passion for sports has grown more and more with each year I add to my lifetime. Sports is where I feel like my truest self. At first I was definitely worried that people would question my understanding and knowledge of sports, but at this point my participation is so visible that I hardly ever encounter anyone I know questioning me like that anymore. Lately the concern others have is more so that I could be working in sports for the wrong reasons - as a way to try to date athletes. That criticism or doubt doesn't really come from athletes themselves though, but from other people working in sports. The USC athletic department has a lot of women working in it, but I definitely find myself being one of the the only women in a room in a number of situations.
My advice to other women is that preserving your reputation is essential to success. Having the respect of the male athletes you work with and your co-workers is critical. And also, to be sure that you are passionate about it - the nature of the work means that you will quite literally be 'married to the game.' I love that the USC athletic department feels like a family - I work alongside a ton of amazing people, many of whom have become my best friends. I do not have a mentor in the industry but I definitely wish I did - I really love the idea of forging relationships with other females in sport just because you do spend so much time around men. I would recommend women sign up for a membership with the Association for Women in Sports Media - they do a great job of connecting you to others in the industry, to internship/job opportunities, etc.