It doesn’t take many years in the biz to learn this golden nugget. The sports industry isn’t a job, it’s a lifestyle.
I have a group of sweet and driven aspiring young broadcasters whom I mentor. It wasn’t a hard decision for me to take them in, because I would’ve given anything to have a woman in the field I was able to personally and professionally look up to. The direct access would’ve been clutch during all of those moments where I felt like I wanted to cry and give up. I eventually met those women, but I found them once I was in the business and now I consider them some of my closest friends. They “get it.” They “get” the job, and they “get” the lifestyle.
I feel honored these girls view me as a “role model” and seek my guidance and advice about the industry. We talk about relationships, internships, locker rooms, agents, the whole nine yards. By no means am I the most successful or skilled broadcaster, but I know my experience, stories, and vulnerability can shed light on the path they’ve chosen to pursue. Besides, it doesn’t take long for one to understand and recognize what the gig, but primarily schedule is all about.
I immediately ask them to acknowledge when they watch the sports they love.
My life in the industry has virtually always revolved around football season. And football has truly evolved into a year round sport [thanks, recruiting!]. But primarily during the heavy grind of the season, your job will mostly consist of occupying your nights, weekends and holidays.
I feel like I send many girls running for the hills when I candidly convey the grind. I’m up front and honest about how they’re going to miss some of life’s biggest moments: weddings, funerals, babies being born, your graduation [no , I didn’t walk, because I was working training camp] and so on. They’re quickly going to learn which relationships [romantic + friendship] have substance, and which ones will inevitably fall by the wayside. Out of sight is out of mind. And breaking: at the end of the day, you can’t please everyone. The good news is through it all, you will indeed find the ones worth keeping… and the ones like I mentioned earlier, whom simply “get it”. The key to keeping close to the ones who “get it”, is continuing to be there for them emotionally [for me, spiritually, too] and physically whenever you can. Over the years, I’ve had a lot of “IOU’s” on the docket for those people. I try and make up for them daily.
But the weekends are when things are happening!
What do you mean you can’t be a bridesmaid? It’s THE biggest event of my life? UGH!
And wait? I can't go see T.Swift in concert with my friends? But it's going to be AMAZEFEST. I mean no telling who she's going to pull up on stage in the ATL!
The younger you are in the industry, the less likely you are able to “control” your schedule. Because when you’re the new kid [shoot, even an old kid], when they say, “jump”, you enthusiastically reply “how high".
Any time I received an invitation in the mail during the fall I always responded no. I didn’t want to set my or their expectation bar at an unrealistic level. *puts present [if I remembered] in mail. In the beginning it’s hard. People might think you’re rude, mistaken you as stuck up, or became “famous” and forgot all about your friends and family, but that isn’t the case at all. It really is difficult to juggle your schedule [theirs too], your emotions [theirs too], and reducing your habit of overcommitting and under delivering. It is especially a cluster when you’re a social butterfly [guilty]. I’m a constant work in progress on the latter.
The past few years have been beautiful. I’ve been beautifully happy [+ blessed] to experience the ultimate professional and personal highs. Conversely, I’ve experienced the ultimate professional and personal lows. They really do go hand in hand when it comes to the biz, because, well, sacrifice.
My boyfriend, then fiancé, now husband and I have both made sacrifices in order to make it all work. He was in the NFL and I was constantly traveling with college football. I’d sometimes fly into town and somehow make it to his game by second half. Or sometimes I’d land just in time to watch [or listen] to the last final seconds of the game on my phone and meet him back at the apartment. One particular time it was about 1AM and I drove after covering a bowl game [Montgomery → Atlanta] and slept in my car at the airport for three hours [sorry mom, and dad] before boarding the first flight out in the morning to Pittsburgh. We had friends coming into town and they were the ones who “get it". So yes, of course I slept in my car. Also, the Steelers were in the playoffs. I needed to be awake, somewhat rested [or I’ll just rally!] and enjoy the moment with the ones I love. Those are the moments and people you make sacrifices for. Hi Ty and Amanda! Yep. They “get it”.
I spent many Thanksgivings, Christmases, and New Years away from the ones I love. The first holiday was brutal, but then it got easier. I think they were particularly difficult, because many families have special traditions. My family is full of traditions and dealing with my severe case of FOMO is always one of my weaknesses. But really, it never gets easier. Instead, you learn to adjust. You modify your holidays and even incorporate Facetime. If you’re lucky you have “surprise” packages waiting in your room at a hotel or a sneaky note in your luggage from the ones who “get it”. And for those few hours when you’re out on the field, watching and working through the game and job you love; the sting subsides. It briefly subsides.
You learn how to make it work when everyone isn't on the same page. You learn to appreciate those who “get it” and enjoy the moments whenever you do get to spend with them. You understand your schedule and lifestyle isn’t “normal” because you don’t work 8 to 5 with two weeks vacation. So hold onto the ones who “get it” because in the critical moments [when you’re ready to absolutely lose it] I’m sure there will be someone on the other end of the phone lifting you up in the ways they only know how to do.
Oh… And sometimes you spend your Christmas alone in Detroit for a bowl game a few years in a row. Luckily when you crave a piece of chocolate cake and a glass of red wine, the server remembers you from the year before and has it waiting on you upon arrival. The odd familiarity makes you smile. And then you ask about his wife and kids… say thank you for the well wishes… and I can’t wait to get home to my family tomorrow. Same time next year?