ESPN sportscaster shares her wisdom

Spinnaker

It seems natural for America’s youth to crave and perhaps expect prominence within their profession – at least some level of unequaled achievement. Unfortunately, not everyone will make it there, and there is no shame in that.

But take four-time Emmy-winner and ESPN sports anchor Sara Walsh, a UNF broadcasting alumna. She says the road to the top has its ups and downs, but that it can be done with hard work, determination and a little luck.

From early on, it was clear Walsh possessed great determination. She was a soccer star on her high school team and for the UNF women’s soccer program in 1996 — she still holds several records, including most points in a single game.

Kathy Klein, former compliance director for the UNF Athletics Department and current director of UNF Parent and Family Programs, said she remembers when the soccer team changed coaches and Walsh stepped up as team leader.

“She was very goal-oriented and very determined,” Klein said.

Walsh knew she wanted to continue having a career in sports after college. The perfect gig, she thought: sports announcer.

“It was always understood that Sara wanted to work for ESPN,” said Mike Munch, Walsh’s former soccer coach at UNF. “And I’m not surprised to see her there now.”

But between playing soccer and academia, Walsh didn’t have a lot of time left for jobs or internships.

However, Walsh contributed to the Spinnaker. She took her clips and presented them to The Beaches Leader, where she was immediately hired.

From there, Walsh’s career began to blossom, and she landed jobs in Macon, Ga., and Nashville, Tenn., where she received her four Emmies (for Best Sportscast and Best Sports Even Coverage in 2006 and for Best Sportscast and Best Sports Program/Series in 2005).

Walsh moved on to Washington, D.C., where she covered the Washington Redskins for WUSA-TV for four seasons until she got the call from ESPN.

Regardless of her recent accomplishments, Walsh said her road to success was not an easy one, and her advice for students is not to expect any handouts.

“Don’t be ready for someone to just hand you a job,” Walsh said. “It doesn’t work that way. It takes a lot of work. It takes getting past a lot of people telling you, ‘No.’”

Walsh said she paid her dues working her way up like anybody else. But it was her devotion to sending out tapes to other networks that gave her recognition.

“In our field, it’s not just sending out a resume,” she said, “it’s about sending out clips of your work.”

The pay is low when you’re starting out, and criticism can be tough, Walsh said, but if it’s something you really want to do, you must posses a “don’t give up” attitude.

“I know that sounds cliché, but that’s the truth.”

Either way, the broadcasting field has a way of weeding out those who aren’t as ardent as others, she said.

Currently, Walsh said she is still learning a lot at ESPN’s studio in Connecticut and loving every minute of it.

“I’ve learned how to be able to handle a high volume of traffic and process a lot of information, fast,” she said. “But I couldn’t ask for a better occupation.”

Although Walsh advocates the hardship and determination it takes to reach success, she admits that chance can go a long way, too.

“I sent ESPN a tape, and they gave me a call. And everything worked out wonderfully. But at the end of the day, I think I just got lucky.”