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Dear Olivia

Name: Olivia Phelps

Hometown: Corona, CA

DOB: 11/21/90

Professional Sports: Reporter | Feature Producer | Writer | ESPN3 | Big West Sports

Dear Olivia,

Let me start with, your directions to The Washington Times building will fail you, miserably, on the first day of your internship. Be happy you left the dorm early because you’ll still make it on time, but you’ll be so flustered in the middle of changing from your Uggs to your heels that when someone comes to escort you to the sports section, you’ll meet everyone with a heel on one foot… and an Ugg on the other.

Don’t worry, you’ll laugh about it later. But your cheeks will be red from blushing for the rest of the day.

That internship will change your life. You’ll learn from some of the best in the business and you’ll remember sitting in your editor’s office, listening to the sound of promise.

You’ll be bold enough when you get back home from the UCDC program, to apply to be the Sports Editor back at UC Irvine, after just one year as a staff writer.

You’ll spend every Sunday the next year in that newsroom. You will love it. You will hate it. You will learn. You’ll be so exhausted during the Super Bowl (you never miss the Super Bowl), that you fall asleep on the couch in your room before you make it out to Newport for the game.

You’ll also blog for ESPN that fall, thanks to a former editor at The New U, and your current boss. Be grateful those stars aligned.

You’ll graduate without a job in the spring, but with big, beautiful, terrifying, visions of sports and sidelines and storytelling.

Keep pushing, I promise it gets good.

That summer, you’ll cry, a lot. You’ll wonder if you made a mistake. You’ll wonder if all the writing at 4 am before class, if watching the same episodes of SportsCenter over and over, if going to more games than you can count, was insignificant.

It wasn’t, trust me.

You’ll apply to hundreds of jobs and there will be one you keep contacting.

You’ll call. You’ll email. You’ll leave messages. No one will answer.

And then one day, they do.

You’ll get all dressed up. You’ll pray before you open the doors. You’ll have a brief meeting, you’ll be upfront about what you want to do long-term, they’ll invite you on the team.

You’ll stand in the entryway on your way out and remember, “Know your sport. Know your record book.”

That will stick with you. You’ll write it on a post-it note on your computer. It will be your mantra that first year.

You’ll spend the next five years working almost every single day. You’ll work for an incredibly talented Sports Information Director who will stay late every single day for months to help you learn the job. You’ll work for that same Director who gave you a shot at blogging for ESPN, and he will believe in you fiercely. Thank them, regularly. Patient mentors are hard to come by. You are so very lucky.

You’ll also meet an incredible producer who gives you a spot in a TV truck, where you’ll work more than 100 games.

That same producer will give you confidence when you tell him you don’t want to do graphics anymore, but that you want a shot on TV.

Finally, finally, you’ll be a reporter.

You’ll hold that mic in your hand for the first time and you’ll feel more terrified and more calm and more excited and more electrified than ever before.

The missed holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, opportunities, relationships, will seem a little less, meaningless. You’ll understand they will always have meaning in their absence.

Your circle will get smaller, but that’s ok. The people who are meant to stick around, understand you have a really, loud voice inside, telling you this matters. More like yelling at you at very high volumes, but you already know that.

They’ll understand when you talk about what it’s like to go live. They’ll understand what it means to you to be able to sit down with someone to tell their story.

That interview space is sacred. Always, always treat it with respect.

You see, we’re wired a little differently.

This vision we have, this love we have, this incessant desire we have, to believe in the beauty of a game… makes us different.

We’re a little obsessed.

We’re a little crazed.

We’re a little aggressive.

But you aren’t the only one.

The athletes you’ll meet.

The coaches you’ll meet.

The crew you’ll meet.

They become family.

What “they” don’t tell you, is that for as exhilarating as it is, it’s exhausting.

You’ll question if it’s the industry for you.

Sweet girl, you’re wondering that now.

But then, you’ll be sitting across from a student-athlete talking about how softball makes her stronger than her cancer.

You’ll talk to a student-athlete in a decorated hallway about an injury, and a month later you’ll be sitting down to talk to him about his national championship.

You’ll be sweating in Fullerton when a student-athlete sends one over the fence in a Super Regional, after breaking his nose earlier that season.

So, what I’m going to tell you, is that, all the madness, it matters.

It matters so much to them, and it matters so much to you.

Sure, there’s a life outside of sports, but it isn’t your world, not yet.

This world, is beautiful.

Sports are beautiful.

They teach us humility.

They give us glory.

They show us the meaning of a moment.

Honor those moments.

Because there will come a day you can no longer do this, but today is not that day.



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