BY QUINTON ZIELKE | Ball State Sports Link
I will never forget the days as a 5-year-old kid dreaming of working in sports for the rest of my life. That dream, though it seemed doable, slowly crept away throughout my freshman year.
As I packed my bags, called my mom crying, and dreaded the trip back to Ball State for another year, I texted the senior director of Sports Link, Chris Taylor, questioning whether or not this was the path for me.
With his quick reassurance of the opportunities in store, I moved in and began my second year motivated, yet… pessimistic.
Within the first week I learned of our new partnership with the NCAA: working hand-in-hand with a digital and social media boss at the NCAA and creating content (graphics, videos, articles) for multiple sports and multiple platforms.
Beyond taking 18 credit hours and spending time working in Sports Link, this was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.
As my knowledge expanded and free time diminished, I began finding a niche that kind of suited what I had been searching for throughout my freshman year and began applying for summer internships surrounding that niche.
I spent the fall semester working the FCS football social media accounts, clocking countless hours making graphics and writing blogs for NCAA.com.
As the semester wrapped up and I felt far less homesick, I knew Ball State was exactly where I needed to be to best prepare me for my future.
With seven classes and 18 more credit hours scheduled, I had no idea how demanding my course load would be in just my fourth college semester. Beyond the 18 credits, again were many hours doing Sports Link projects and NCAA work.
With the current NCAA extern, Kaitlyn Young, leaving to work for the Tampa Bay Rays in Florida, both Chris Taylor and my NCAA boss, Jeffrey Donley, mentioned my name as a possibility to take over the extern role. The additional role would work 10 total hours for the NCAA each week, including a trip to the headquarters in Indianapolis weekly.
After the interview process it, again, was an opportunity I could not pass up. This semester, my sport was a sport I have loved ever since my brother started playing it 12 years ago: lacrosse.
Along with working lacrosse, I was tasked to manage and tweet highlights during the women’s college basketball tournament.
Through 65 hours of a sport I never thought I could enjoy, my eyes were widened to the beauty of working in sports, no matter what sport it is.
About the same time, responses from the internships I had applied for in the fall semester came flowing in.
Though I appreciated the experience and resumé Sports Link had prepped me with, I never imagined being offered multiple internships and having to make such a tough decision.
This summer, I am working as a content intern in Las Vegas with the Ultimate Fighting Championships (better known as UFC).
After March Madness wrapped, I was privileged enough to put together a feature story on Ball State Baseball Player, Justin Kirkpatrick. Though my first feature story, it was another incredible opportunity that I was so blessed to have.
Wrapping up my second year, I was asked to film and produce videos for the NCAA at the Division 1 Men’s Lacrosse National Championship in Boston.
After booking my flights, packing, and heading to Boston I approached the first day nervous and wide-eyed at everything I would have to do.
With the need to learn and develop skills I never thought I had in me, pessimism once again rang in my head. However, after a few practices filmed and hype videos created, I realized again the skills Sports Link has equipped me with and the opportunities it has given me to learn are unmatched.
As the semifinals rolled around and I was at midfield in Gillette Stadium surrounded by Duke and Maryland lacrosse players about to work a game I had watched on ESPN for years prior, I took a deep breath, looked around and shed a couple of the most joyful tears I have ever shed.
Your 2018 #NCAALAX National Champions. 🐶🏆 pic.twitter.com/3iN8BcD7G8
— NCAA Lacrosse (@NCAALAX) May 28, 2018
As the list of unforgettable experiences gets longer and longer, all I can say is thank you to Sports Link for everything. Not even a 5-year-old kid with a dream to work in sports could have imagined the changes, relationships and opportunities this program has brought to my life.
To be that 5-year-old kid with big dreams and know 15 years later that my dreams are rapidly becoming realities, my only advice is this: Dream big, your ceiling is only as high as you’re willing to build it.