Last week I wrote a tribute to Dr. Mark Heistad, my college communications professor who passed away after a long bout with cancer. He had been one of my early mentors who set me on the path toward a sportscasting career. Since then, I’ve been thinking about all the people who have helped me along the way and realizing how much value even the minor mentors have had in my progress.
Maybe there’s someone out there who is completely self-made, but I’ve yet to meet that person. In my limited experience our success is only equal to the help we get from others willing to “pay it forward.” I don’t want to speak for anyone, but I’ve not always given enough credit to those who deserve it. It’s more fulfilling to believe that we get what we get on our own, and it feeds the ego to believe that through dogged determination and talent that we succeed.
It’s with this in mind that I want to share my experience and give credit to those who have been important in my progress. First of course, are my parents and family. They don’t know much about radio but they certainly deserve credit for forming into the person that I am. They instilled work ethic, gave me their honest opinions when they thought I was doing something stupid, but always supported me as I made my way through life.
I wrote an entire article on the influence that Dr. Heistad had one me getting into sportscasting. I don’t want to go into too much more detail, but he was the first person who allowed me to go on the air. He was more of a news guy than a sports guy, but he knew enough to get me started on the right path. He recognized the passion I had, and encouraged me to continue pursuing the craft, even when things weren’t going well.
Part of my college experience sent me on road trips as an analyst to work with a local professional play-by-play broadcaster to cover Morningside College games. That broadcaster was Scott France, and he was the person who taught me the value of preparation. In fact, I still use modified versions of his spotting boards in football and basketball to this day. He taught the fundamentals of play-by-play, but more importantly, without meaning to, was a perfect example of how to be a true professional, and through osmosis he helped shape me into the broadcaster I am now.
After college I fell into a rut. My skills were average at best, but my ego was huge. I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t able to land a better opportunity than the one I had. I joined STAA and met Jon Chelesnik who ended up being the perfect person to deflate my head and give me a more realistic assessment of how good, or in this case, how bad I was at the time. It was a shot to the ego but he was always great at giving suggestions and tools to get better. It may not have been free, but I needed to hear those hard truths from someone, and Jon has been, and continues to be fantastic in that role.
There are many more people who have had roles, big and small, that have been important along the way. I can’t possibly thank everyone. But hopefully I still have a long way to go. With that in mind, I’m also sure that there will be new and unforeseen mentors in the future. It is my goal to be able to recognize them and give them the full appreciation they deserve.
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