The 2016 NWSL draft was the first sports draft – minus my fantasy league – that I’ve ever attended live. As a bonus, I was granted media credentials to provide coverage through Follow Your Spirit. I asked some friends what sort of material they’d like to see come from a draft day. They wanted insight on the experience of attending.
Live tweeting, player analysis, and pick-by-pick updates can be done from home while watching the live feed. The draft day experience is one that can only be told by someone who is there. So, as a first-timer to the event, I decided to give you a look into what draft day is like.
6:40 – I’m up. I’m excited. I tweet.
6:53 – I’m unsure what to wear. Do I look professional? Is a dress shirt too much for a sports draft (especially for media). I decide on jeans with a nice shirt and nicer shoes. Dressed up jeans is always the way to go in these situations.
7:32 – I’m out the door to start my trek to Baltimore.
8:00 – It is announced that the Portland Thorns acquire Nadim from Sky Blue. Twitter has a mixed reaction, but most feel sorry for Sky Blue. Sort of like that friend you hear got tricked into doing something they didn’t want to do. It’s not necessarily bad for them, but it clearly isn’t necessary.
8:17 – I head for my MARC train – the 8:20 Penn Line – and am stopped and told it is on a different track. This has happened to me before, resulting in boarding 3 trains that never ended up leaving the station. I’m slightly worried.
8:19 – I board the train on track 7, like I’m instructed, and patiently wait.
8:23 – The 8:20am departure finally takes place. We are on our way to Baltimore.
8:50 – I realize I forgot my phone charger. Now I get to be that guy trying to not use his phone while clearly needing to use his phone all day.
9:00 – I now realize I didn’t bring a lanyard. Is that required? Will my credentials already be on a lanyard provided by the NWSL? I now assume this will be indicator #1 that I’m a total “newb.”
9:25 – My train arrives at Penn Station in Baltimore. My phone tells me that if I walk, I’ll be there just before 10. I decide to call an Uber so I have more time to find where I belong.
9:26 – I accidently choose “Home” as a destination and freak out in fear that the Uber driver will cancel because he thinks I want an Uber ride back to DC.
9:27 – Destination fixed. Driver doesn’t cancel. I’m on my way.
9:40 – I arrive and hunt down the table for my media credentials. It is already on a lanyard. My novice is protected.
9:42 – I wander into the media section. There are four rows of tables, most of the seats have a name placard on them. I walk through the aisles looking the name plates trying to find my name. I can’t find it. I’m an outsider and they know it. I assume my seat is in the curtained-off room next door.
9:44 – A gentleman with a “ask me” button looks at his hand-written table assignment list. I’m not on it. He apologizes and ushers me to the last row of tables and thanks me for my understanding.
9:45 – I want everyone to take me seriously but also need someone to hold my hand. I have no idea what I’m doing.
9:50 – After setting up my equipment – ATR2100 microphone and Surface Pro 4 – I realize I need coffee. I head downstairs to the Starbucks but the line is much longer than I’d want it to be.
9:52 – Out of curiosity, I walk around a separate area labeled “Media work room.” There is a table with box lunches, water, and soda. I put some ice in a cup and grab a Dr. Pepper. I don’t really even like soda but I don’t want to be that chump getting my own coffee when there is free soda available.
9:54 – I ask the friendly usher if there is a Wi-Fi connection to connect to or if I should hot spot. He’s not sure and is determined to find out for me.
9:58 – The usher returns and provides me the password I need.
10:02 – Guy to my left comments that “this has really come a long way from last year.” I nod in agreement.
10:04 – Announcement made that the draft will begin in 5 minutes.
10:15 – Things get underway. VP of NWSL welcomes media. I want to jump up and cheer “That’s me!”
10:16 – Commissioner announces the Portland Thorns are on the clock.
10:22 – Portland Thorns pick Emily Sonnett. We all knew this was happening. A video of her response is shown on the big screen.
10:23 – I look around and see most media personnel scrolling through social media or chatting. I’m wondering if I’m an odd ball that’s actually trying to work or if they’re so good at what they do that they barely work while they’re here. Neither would surprise me.
10:27 – Sky Blue chooses Rodriguez. I don’t know if I want to ask her questions but realize I have no idea where the media scrum. My inexperience is beginning to fill me. I should figure this out before the Spirit make their pick.
10:35 – Found the NWSL photo background in the media section. People are gathered around it so I assume this is where it happens. Photographers take pictures of Rodriguez with her coach and new Sky Blue scarf. Not sure if this is where I can interview or if this is just for photos.
10:43 – I head back to my seat and begin eating the gummy snacks I packed like an adult.
10:46 – The girl next to me is writing down the picks as they happen. I wonder if she’s heard of the Internet.
10:50 – Spirit are on the clock! Spirit Squadron begin chanting.
10:55 – Washington Spirit pick… a time out! They exercise a time out to extend their pick by five minutes. I think Jim Gabarra just wants to hear the squadron cheer some more.
10:59 – Squadron count down from ten, letting their team know it is time to announce their pick.
11:00 – Washington Spirit select Cheyna Williams. Finishes her speech with “Go Spirit.”
11:12 – Grab Surface and mic. I feel like this will either be brilliant and professional since I’ll have an actual mic or I’ll be the doofus carrying his Surface everywhere.
11:14 – Someone asks me a question. I feel valued knowing people trust me with questions like “what did they just say?”
11:20 – Cheyna gets her picture taken in the media area with her team’s scarf and with Coach Gabarra. I take a short video of it, tweet it, and it gets retweeted a hundred times. The fans are clearly excited.
11:30 – I realize I really need to interview Cheyna since she may be the only Spirit draft pick in the building. I ask the friendly usher how I can speak with her (she’s returned to her seat in the crowd. He tells me “no problem” and goes and gets her for me. Apparently I have powers beyond my understanding.
11:35 – I get an interview with Cheyna. It is AWESOME. Unfortunately, during some scuffling around to hear the second round Washington pick, my software shut off. I’m so disappointed!
12: 09 – The Chicago Red Stars are on the clock. At the time, for some reason, I thought this was their only pick of the draft. I begin imagining Coach Dames walking up to the podium himself, grabbing the mic, announcing his pick, and declaring “Red Stars OUT” and then dropping the mic in dramatic fashion as he walks out of the draft room.
12:12 – Coach Dames turns in his pick on a card just like everyone else. I’m disappointed.
12: 13 – Washington Spirit are on the clock for the third time. Spirit Squadron begin chanting “Cheyna is going to score a goal on you” in honor of their new forward Cheyna Williams.
12:20 – Third round starts. The Spirit do not have a pick in the third round. I decide to eat lunch.
12:32 – Red Stars are on the clock again. Clearly I was mistaken about them only having one pick. Makes sense why it wasn’t in dramatic fashion.
12:39 – I realize there isn’t much more for me to be doing, so I begin writing my piece in response to Cheyna William’s draft.
1:13 – I overhear a guy say “What do I know? I’m just a photographer.” I’m tempted to challenge this but am too into my work to bother.
1:25 – Final round starts. Washington Spirit have two picks, so I’m far more interested.
1:30 – I need a sound bite for the podcast. I manage to talk with Cheyna again and get a decent, short interview out of her. It’s not as great as the first one, but it’ll do.
1: 35 – I inquire about coaches and GMs being available for questioning. I’m told the commissioner will also be available.
2:00 – The draft is over
2:15 – Coach Gabarra makes his way into the media area and is kind enough to chat with me. We talk about the time out taken in the first round, drafting Cheyna and Cali, and depth on the back line.
2:18 – I’m told the commissioner will be brought over soon. The guy updating me on all this happens to be the media guy for the NWSL and is being super nice. I wonder if he knows I’m possibly the least experienced reporter at the draft.
2:20 – Media session with Commissioner Jeff Plush begins. I record several minutes of it but realize the content doesn’t really fit my outlet’s niche (Spirit stuff). I stop recording and head back to my work area.
2:30 – It’s time to head back to D.C. and publish a podcast.
For more coverage on my draft day experience and to hear my interviews with Cheyna Williams, Coach Gabarra, and Commissioner Plush, listen to the podcast: