There’s a great irony surrounding my time covering Virginia sports. I joined the Cavalier Daily sports section because sports were — and always will be — my comfort zone. It was supposed to be a place where, in the midst of all the changes and challenges that come with college, I would feel right at home. I had no idea that the exact opposite would happen, but in the best way. This role and this community of incredibly talented and passionate individuals who gave me a platform to do what I love has truly pushed me to find new passions, skills and perspectives that I am hard pressed to imagine I would have found anywhere else.
My most profound experiences on this staff came from the most unlikely of sorts. My first beat was field hockey, and it may as well have been astrophysics to me. I had never picked up a field hockey stick — I couldn’t even name the positions on the field, or the rules of the game for that matter. But in typical Virginia fashion, when you reach out for help, someone in this community will lend a helping hand.
Between assistant coaches pulling me aside after matches to explain the nuance of some set play or a staffer from Virginia Athletics ensuring that a 20-year-old with no experience got their questions answered in the postgame media scrums — I came to appreciate how uplifting the world of Virginia sports is. On- and off-the-field, this is a place where people want their own to succeed, and I’m forever grateful for being plunged into the unknown only to come out a more confident and capable individual.
I’m often asked whether my favorite memory from this experience was covering one of the many national championships that were won during my tenure on the staff or an interview with a renowned coach or athlete. The answer is neither. Being able to shine a light and tell the stories of a handful of women’s sports at Virginia is by far my most proud accomplishment at The Cavalier Daily. I was privileged enough to cover field hockey and women’s basketball as a beat writer, and both the writer in me as well as the passionate sports fan in me are both grateful to this paper for those opportunities.
It’s no secret that coverage and recognition are lacking in “non-revenue” sports on college campuses throughout the country. There’s an even larger bias against women’s sports that I witnessed first-hand. Being lucky enough to sit down with former women’s basketball star Jocelyn Willoughby, field hockey’s trio of Dutch stars and every other remarkable athlete and coach who generously gave me their time truly taught me about the value of hard work, competition and integrity beyond just sports.
The women who play, coach and facilitate sports at the University deserve far more respect and recognition than they’re given — I challenge every reader and Virginia sports fan to be part of the change on this front. There are so many fascinating stories waiting to be told and remarkable people waiting to be given the opportunity to show what they can do.
When I think back to what writing sports for the Cavalier Daily has allowed me to do, it’s quite breathtaking. I’ve been fortunate enough to interview some of the University’s most accomplished athletes including De’Andre Hunter, Micah Kiser and many others. I had a front row seat to men’s basketball winning their first national championship and was able to write about the time that football snapped a 15-year losing streak in the Commonwealth Clash.
Along the way, I’ve felt this role open up my world view into new sports, individuals and experiences that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise. For something that was meant to be a semblance of consistency and comfort during college, covering Virginia sports could not have led me into a more circuitous and unexpected three years filled with memories I will carry with me beyond these Grounds.
If you’re still reading — I’m incredibly grateful for your support. To all of my editors and fellow sports writers, you tolerated far too many AP style errors and half-baked ideas than I care to remember. To my friends and family, you were forced to read far too many articles on a slew of niche sports stories than you may have had time for. To all of you, and those who stumbled upon a random column or feature I wrote and decided to give it a read, I can’t say thank you enough.
P.S. — Ty Jerome was fouled before that double dribble, Auburn fans. You know it, and I know it. Let it go.
Muhammad Amjad was a sports writer for the 130th, 131st and 132nd terms.