Sports have always been my thing. I started playing soccer when I was three. It was my first love, but I never thought 19 years later it would be the reason I landed my first job.
Growing up, I was a tomboy and always wanted to spend my time around anything to do with sports. With a fitness instructor mom, a football coach father, and an extremely athletic older brother, sports were always happening around our home. SportsCenter was the show of choice in the Conklin household and schedules were always made around weekday practices and weekend tournaments.
Blacksburg, Virginia became home for me after a late recruiting process. My mom went to Virginia Tech, and as a little girl, I dreamt of playing soccer in the ACC for the Hokies. My dad knew how badly I wanted to be a Hokie, but we kept to what extent of it from my mom knowing she wouldn’t be able to hold it in.
I’ll never forget leaving Blacksburg after a soccer camp in 2010 crying to my dad in the car about how badly I felt Tech was the place for me. I didn’t know why. I just had this feeling and knew it was where I needed to be.
My recruiting process was interrupted during my sophomore year in high school when my dad was diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer. Soccer was my emotional and mental outlet, but searching for schools fell far down my to-do list.
My dream came true a few months later when I received a call from Chugger Adair, the head coach of Virginia Tech, on my way home from an indoor track meet. He invited me up for a visit on campus. I remember trying my hardest to keep my cool, but once I hung up, I screamed at the top of my lungs with tears streaming down my face. My mom did the same when I called her after I caught my breath.
I visited campus once more and committed on April 2, 2011. Five years later, I look back at my four years on the Virginia Tech women’s soccer team and truly feel like I have accomplished my childhood dream; the only thing I ever really envisioned as a child.
I earned a scholarship after my freshman year, we made it to the College Cup my sophomore year, and I earned a starting position by my junior year. I had an assist on my first and last games on Thompson field, and even as a defender, I scored a collegiate goal.
Five years later, I also look forward to a new dream that came to life during my time in Blacksburg, one that finally answers the question of why Blacksburg seemed so special to me when I was in high school. Yes, it is a special place. I think anyone who has ever visited Blacksburg, Virginia will tell you that there is something about it. And they can’t quite say what it is; you just have to experience it for yourself.
For me, Blacksburg is the place where my dreams have come true. Both soccer and my dream of being a sports broadcaster – neither would have been accomplished or put me on the path to accomplishing them if it wasn’t for the time I spent at Virginia Tech.
Since sixth grade I wanted to be an orthodontist. I love teeth. I had braces when I was younger and loved them. I also like working with people and loved the idea of being able to help people with their confidence through helping them with their smile.
I was a straight-A student in high school and got a C in the science major biology class, which was a required class. I would make sure I got 100’s on all my homework grades because I knew I was going to fail the tests. After making a four-year plan of the classes needed to graduate, I called my mom, believing I was having a premature quarter-life crisis and knowing I wasn’t cut out to be a science major.
Then came the real issue of having to figure out what I wanted as my major and what I wanted do with my life after soccer. I felt like a failure because all I knew was that I liked sports and working with people, but that’s just what led me to broadcasting.
My dad’s brother, also my godfather, works in an industry surrounded by professional athletes and celebrities. To this day I call New Jersey my second home due to all the time we spent visiting him as a child. Visiting him threw me into a world where all these professional athletes were around.
Through those experiences I was reminded that, at the core, they are just normal people. The time we spent around different celebrities made me comfortable interacting with them. Charles Barkley once told me and my brother he would kick our asses if we didn’t do well in school – see – normal.
After realizing how important it was to work with people and how much I l loved the sports industry, I decided sports broadcasting would be a dream career for me.
I switched my major to Multimedia Journalism, and one of my first assignments was to interview a professional in the field I wanted to work in. As a member of the athletic department, I knew people worked to cover the Tech sports’ games but didn’t know who they were or exactly what they did.
I googled “Virginia Tech sports broadcasting” and came across Bill Roth’s name. I knew the legendary name Bill Roth, Voice of the Hokies, as he had called Virginia Tech football and basketball for 27 years.
I didn’t want to seem like an inexperienced student by reaching out, even though I was, so I emailed Andrew Allegretta. Andrew is the Assistant Director of Broadcasting and voice of the baseball and women’s basketball teams.
I learned Andrew was in charge of the student broadcaster internship through IMG at Virginia Tech. When we met, he explained that they call all the Virginia Tech Olympic sports games, so his students were the ones covering my games. My interest was sparked, but it was going to be somewhat of a challenge to find my niche.
Andrew mentioned they had not had women in the internship before. He thought I would be a good addition to their soccer coverage, but more importantly, he was willing to work with me to create opportunities. I mentioned I was interested in sideline reporting and we worked together to create that position for ESPN3 games.
I started in the internship in the fall of my junior year doing color commentary for the men’s soccer games on HokiesXtra. Then Andrew was brave enough in the spring to put me on my first ESPN3 broadcast – covering Clemson vs. Virginia Tech baseball. I’m not sure why he trusted me, but it was probably because he knew I had been studying every possible sideline hit and post game interview done by Samantha Ponder that I could find.
That brings me to today; I have worked four ESPN3 games as a color commentator for men’s soccer and women’s volleyball and over 10 games on the sideline covering all different sports such as softball, baseball, women’s lacrosse, men’s soccer, and men’s and women’s basketball.
I also worked with Andrew and covered the 2015 Virginia Tech spring football game. By far one of the most surreal moments of my short career was working that game and interviewing Bud Foster on the sideline in Lane Stadium.
After my senior season as a member of the soccer team, I really focused on post-graduate opportunities. As an ACC student athlete, there are opportunities within a post-graduate internship program called ACC Futures. There are six companies that hire ACC Futures Interns.
In order to get an interview, I had to pass the application round through my school and then once again through the ACC. By the time interviews came around I was one of 16 students interviewing for six openings with companies such as the ACC, the Orange Bowl, Fox Sports South, and Fox Sports Florida.
When I met with Fox Sports Florida, I knew they were one of my top choices. The job description was something that I was extremely interested in, and once I met with one of the producers within the company, I was hooked. We had a 30-minute interview and then a 15-minute break after the fact. I went into my interview a few minutes early and ended up missing my break because I was talking with them for so long.
One week later I got a call; they offered me a position at Fox Sports Florida as a production intern. At the time of the call, I was actually in San Francisco for Super Bowl 50 weekend with my brother and godparents. To this day, that was the best weekend of my life.
My story has highs and lows, but now I look back and know exactly why I cried to my dad about wanting to go to school at Virginia Tech.
As for the future, I don’t know what it holds, but all I know is I am moving to Florida in a few months with an open mind and thankful heart, ready to enjoy the ride.