Lessons from the Field: On Opportunity. And A Big Decision.

lessonsfromthefieldKnowing what’s coming next is hard. For those exiting THS in May and heading off to a new destination, there’s plenty of uncertainty about what life will be exactly like. For me, someone who doesn’t even know in what part of the country they will be living in next year, it’s a little unnerving. I know I’m going to college for broadcasting, but where? Who has the best program? What sports can I get involved in covering there? How far away do I want to be from my family? What’s the best option?

I do this golf program called The First Tee (I’ve written about it before), where one of the main skills they teach is how to utilize a “go-to team.”  Your GTG is not necessarily an organized group of people that all know each other. It’s simply a network of connections you can go to for different problems that come up, whether they’re professional, academic, social, or athletic.

Throughout my life, I’ve made decisions of varying magnitude in different ways. I either think through all the options and make an educated choice, or quickly chose based on my mood.  On the most extreme occasions, I flip a coin.

From the start, this has fallen under the “you better think about this and make a good choice” category.

I’m very lucky to have a go-to-team that has been a big help to me along the way. Plenty of my connections in the broadcasting and hockey industry have helped me find schools and evaluate options. They’ve walked me through what to look for in a school, how to determine its credibility, and the things I must do in order to take advantage of all the opportunities a college offers.

I really haven’t been serious about this choice since the beginning of the school year, when I started to notice all of my peers were planning for college, too. Throughout my junior year, I was loosely figuring out options and thinking about good places to go, bouncing ideas off the internet and the people I know in the industry. But since the day I started my senior year, the college choice has taken up a lot more of my brain power.

When making big decisions, I’ve learned three things: First, evaluate EVERY option and consider ALL the variables it contributes to the situation. In this case, the obvious: how much does it cost? Did I like the campus? What sports teams do they have? How far is it away from home? Even the weather and climate of a school is a factor. Second, do I envision myself liking the decision and its impact on my life after making it? It might seem cool to go to a super big, hard-to-get-in school right at the start, but 2 or 3 years down the line when the tuition bills start adding up, will I regret the choice I made? And third, I’ve learned you must think about the people around you and what they want. Yes, this is my college where I’ll go, but my family and close friends will be impacted too; financially, socially, geographically. Their input is important, because it’s everyone’s #1 source of support.

I have the top 3 choices narrowed down at this point. A couple of the schools have great broadcasting programs but are wildly expensive, and one doesn’t have a great broadcasting program, but there are opportunities there and I am connected. Luckily, I have until May to think about this, not a few hours.

Last February, my biggest mentors from CBS Sports, Dave Starman and Shireen Saski, were in town to cover a Miami Hockey game. Dave is widely known as the “Kirk Herbstreit” of college hockey, and the color analyst on the top hockey crew at CBS. Shireen is a veteran rinkside reporter who joined the network after a long stint covering the Red Wings, Lions, Tigers, and Pistons at FOX Sports Detroit. For a long time, whenever CBS comes to Oxford for hockey, I shadow them during broadcasts.

Since I first met Dave and Shireen at 11 years old, they’ve always been upfront and honest with me about working in the industry. They do anything they can to help me out. On the weekend of a broadcast, I always get to the rink on Thursday afternoon before the Friday game where we meet up during player media availability. On this particular day, I surprisingly arrived a little before them.

As soon as they got to the arena from the airport, Shireen stopped everything she was doing, pulled me aside one-on-one, and gave me one of her “sportscasting mom talks” as we sat on the Miami bench next to the ice.  

I’m always appreciative of the time they dedicate to me and amount of interest they have for my broadcast endeavors. It’s almost like they come to Oxford for both the game, and me. I owe them a lot.

To describe our conversation in a line:  “This business is crazy right now,” she said.

The most recent news in sports media were the many layoffs of high-profile figures at ESPN who were let-go for cost-saving measures. Also at the time, Disney was attempting to acquire (and still is)  21st Century FOX, the owner of 22 FOX Sports Regional Networks such as FOX Sports Ohio and FOX Sports Detroit, a multi-billion dollar package in and of itself. All of this news has a high impact on people in front of the camera — especially those like me who will soon be searching for a job.

On that transformative day last year, Dave, Shireen, and I went to dinner to catch up and talk more about my plans in the industry. “Find the college where you get the most opportunity,” they said. “Don’t sell yourself short. Anything in this business goes. Find a place that checks all the boxes and one that you’ll enjoy.”

But the one piece of advice that had the biggest impact on me was this: “It’s how you take advantage of the opportunity and make it yours.”

I view opportunity as the chance to excel. It’s what you prepare for. Opportunity brings results. Opportunity brings change. Opportunity writes your legacy. You must be ready for the chances given to you, and when opportunity knocks on the door, you must answer.

In this business, it’s who you know and the talent you have. I’m pretty lucky to connect with some special people who care about me.

Needless to say, I’ve got a lot of support and thought behind this decision, which is teaching me some key lessons. I think this time we can put the coins away.

Patrick Geshan hosts “The Final with Patty G” weekdays on Brave TV.