If you’re a sports fan, odds are you can’t make it through a week without inviting ESPN’s Sara Walsh into your home. Walsh is a SportsCenter anchor and one of the network’s most recognizable personalities. In addition to making a successful career talking sports, the Florida native has terrific athletic credentials as well. She was a four-year starter on the women's soccer team at the University of North Florida where she still holds school records for most goals and points in a game and ranks fifth on their career points list. As a sportscaster, Sara won multiple regional Emmy awards for her work prior to ESPN. This is her Y1 on 1:
1. What have you learned from sports that have helped you most in life?
Perseverance. As a high schooler I went through some pretty tough times dealing with back-to-back knee surgeries my junior year. The thing I loved the most, playing, was taken away from me. The hardest thing for any athlete to do is sit out, and it was definitely a struggle for me as I spent months rehabbing my way back. The entire experience taught me to enjoy the moment more. I was so wrapped up in winning, and scoring goals, that I didn't realize how it important it was just to have my health until that was taken away from me.
2. Who helped guide you on your path to become a college athlete?
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I had several coaches along the way that put me in a position to succeed. My parents were incredibly supportive without being overbearing or pushy. They never missed a game or meet. For all the practices they had to drive to, and all the weekends they gave up traveling to tournaments, I wanted to make sure it was all worth it by having my college paid for by an athletic scholarship.
3. What is the greatest moment(s) in your sports career and what do you recall most about it?
The greatest moment didn't come in my career, but my husband's just last week. After 10 years of playing in the minors, he was called up to the big leagues. That long road, when it seemed to be against all odds at times, was incredibly difficult. Being able to sit in the stands in Arizona and watch him accomplish his lifelong dream by far exceeds anything I've ever accomplished.
4. Whether it be good or bad, share a pivotal memory from your time as a youth athlete.
After I missed most of my junior year of high school from two separate knee surgeries, I vowed never to miss another game. Sick, hurt, you name it, they were going to have to drag me off that field. What I didn't have in talent, I'd make up for in toughness. I played through everything, food poisoning, even a fractured foot. I stuck to it, and by the time I graduated college, I had played in every game for my 4 collegiate seasons.
5. Would you advise youth athletes to play multiple sports or specialize and focus on only one? Why so?
I think playing multiple sports keeps you well-rounded. It also makes you a better athlete. I believe in youth sports there's far too much emphasis in trying to specialize early on. Growing up I played volleyball, soccer and track. Whatever season I was in, that sport was my focus. Not only does it break up the monotony, it helps kids avoid burning out. Ultimately, if you're amazing in one sport, playing multiple sports will only enhance your athletic ability.
6. What specific advice do you have for youth athletes?
Learn to be a good teammate, work hard when nobody is watching, and never quit on your dreams even when they seem beyond your reach.
7. Looking back, is there anything on your journey that you would have changed or done differently?
I think I would have just enjoyed playing more. I was really hard on myself, and for me, no performance was good enough. While that competitive nature can drive you to be the best, at times, it can also be destructive. Sports should be fun. I learned through injury, playing is a privilege because at any moment it can be taken away.
8. Outside of sports, what are some of your other interests?
My dream job, other than the one I currently have, would be to become a professional surfer. (Tough to train for this living in Connecticut!) I'm obsessed with horses and if it was possible, or legal, to have a zoo in my backyard, I would try.
9. Do you take part in any philanthropic endeavors or work with any charities that you would like to share with our readers?
There are so many worthwhile causes out there, but I'm partial to the Make a Wish foundation. The work they do is so inspiring. I was lucky enough to be a part of someone's wish who wanted to be a sportscaster years ago in Nashville, and try to return there every year to to help the local chapter there where (former Titan) Kevin Carter is doing amazing things to raise funds for that foundation.
*Photo courtesy of ESPN Images
*Additional photos courtesy of Sara Walsh