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Four Traits: Sports Link Lessons

BY DREW DUFF | Ball State Sports Link
Whenever I hear current students or alumni talk about their time in Sports Link, they always discuss the experience they gained or what they learned. There is no doubt I’ve learned a lot in my time here as well, but often overlooked is how this program affects personal growth.

I graduated from a tiny high school of 500 students in southwest Michigan. Going to a university of 22,000 in a different state was quite a shock to my system. The first time I visited Sports Link, I had a similar experience to Kaitlyn Young, except I was too afraid to even knock on the door. I had to wave at someone inside to open the door for me. Little did I know how much that day would change my life.

Being a part of this program has opened my eyes to how the real world really works and has forced me to mature. There are multiple areas in which Sports Link has helped me.


Accountability

Working in audio was never something I thought I would. Just one of the many opportunities Sports Link presents me.

Having accountability is the first step in becoming successful in life. A teacher I had years ago said something to me that I haven’t forgotten to this day – “Life is all about choices.” Sports Link has only reinforced this sentiment.

Too many times I have been “taken aside” to account for a bad decision I’ve made. Of course, I didn’t bother to take time and fully weigh the consequences of each choice, which only led to humiliation.

Action (or even the failure to act) will always speak louder than words. If you make a mistake, take charge right away. Do not deflect or blame others. Every decision has consequences, so take each one seriously. Especially when your reputation is on the line.


Preparation

Feature stories require an immense amount of research and preparation. Watch my recent story on swimmer Cullen Tyler here.

One of the most crucial things Sports Link has taught me is this: there is no such thing as being too prepared. 

Last year, as a sophomore, I was assigned to my first feature story. When the day of the first interview came, I was incredibly nervous and wasn’t entirely sure what to expect.

I ended up arriving much later than I should have, and it turned into a disaster. I didn’t give myself enough time to properly set up lighting and audio, and my partner and I had to ask the subject to do the interview again.

I’ve been embarrassed many times in my life, but asking for another interview because my own mistakes is at the top of that list. Be prepared. Do your homework. DO NOT slack off. It will be obvious.


Discipline

Jocks Willink during his TEDx speech at the University of Nevada.

This is by far the most important thing Sports Link has helped me learn. During my freshman and sophomore years, I would turn out a piece of content that I was proud of, and then stop. I foolishly thought because I made one video or wrote one article every so often, I would get the same amount of opportunities that others received.

I didn’t.

I was forced to reevaluate my work ethic, which at the time was poor. I felt entitled to receive opportunities just from being in Sports Link. I soon learned that in order to change my work ethic, I had to become disciplined.

If you’re looking to help build discipline, look no further than retired Navy SEAL and podcaster Jocko Willink.

Perhaps the most motivating person you will ever listen to, his motto is something that really resonated with me: discipline equals freedom. He preaches that in order to become truly great, you must have discipline. There are no shortcuts in life.

If you’re looking for a motivation boost today, you can find Jocko Willink’s TEDx Talk here. It just might be the most important 14 minutes of your life.

The process of becoming disciplined has changed my life, and it all started with a tough lesson I had to learn in Sports Link.


Confidence

Swimming was a sport I knew nothing about coming into college. I learned so much working on the ESPN 3 broadcast.

There’s a reason I saved this one for last. All of the above traits funnel into having confidence.

Being confident is the SINGLE most important aspect to become successful. Sports Link provides me with ample opportunities to showcase my skills, which has given me more confidence in myself.

For the first 19 years of my life, I walked around afraid. I constantly second guessed every decision I made and was terrified of messing up. I’m going to let you in on a secret that I learned the hard way.

You are going to mess up. Period.

You must not be afraid and allow it to happen. Believe me, I’ve made my fair share of mistakes. The most important thing is being able to learn from mistakes so they don’t happen again. It’s the only way to grow and become successful in life.

At times in my life I’ve felt disrespected and thought the world was out to get me. Eventually, I learned that if you don’t believe in yourself, why should anyone else?


Ball State Sports Link has taught me so much about the sports media industry and prepared me for life after college.

Most importantly, the program opened my eyes to some uncomfortable truths about life. For that, I can never thank them enough.

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