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Soccer’s Neatherton “Dances” at NCAA West Region in Glendale

By Sarah Neatherton, NAU Women's Soccer

GLENDALE, Ariz. - One of my best opportunities came after one of my greatest disappointments, but isn’t that how it usually goes? It was an eagerly anticipated few weeks as I waited for the phone call from ESPN to inform me whether or not I had gotten the summer internship I had applied for months earlier. The suspense was possibly worse than the disappointment.

It turns out ESPN had picked two other interns who had far more experience than me. Which was fine—you would not expect to see a soccer team score fifteen points very often would you? Well, you’re not going to see someone with little to no experience jump straight to ESPN either (lesson learned). So, instead, I looked for places to work and to gain experience elsewhere; CBS, just kidding! I started with NAU. I made people aware that I was willing to work for them. I was persistent and never let those people forget who I was.

As a result, I was called upon immediately to fill in for a graduate assistant and was asked to volunteer in Glendale, Ariz., to work the West Region Sweet 16 and the Elite 8 of the NCAA March Madness Men’s Basketball Tournament. This was in fact one of the best opportunities I have been given thus far. Perhaps I thought I could have gone from the top and stay at the top, but, as I learned, you have got to start from the bottom to get to the top. Well, if this is the bottom, consider me there!

I was told to dress business casual (I didn’t even know what business casual was), show up on time, and learn my responsibilities accordingly—all of which were luckily accomplished with a minimal amount of stress and chaos. Next, I was told to leave my biases in Flagstaff. This took a bit more learning—sorry UCONN! When I first arrived at the Glendale Arena, home of the Arizona Cardinals, I took a deep breath and assured myself that if I felt confident, I would look confident to others. After a couple right turns and two escalators down, I walked into the room titled “Media Center” where folded out tables were aligned in three long rows and laptops sat in front of all the media personnel waiting for instantaneous basketball updates. It was a “work place” filled with very experienced people, all joined there for one reason: the love of sports.

I couldn’t have imagined myself anywhere else. It was like Christmas, my birthday, and winning the Big Sky Soccer Championship all rolled up in one great experience. Since I didn’t have my laptop, I immediately asked if I could be of assistance anywhere. This led to my first, “volunteer” experience! Thirty minutes prior to the game I handed out the starting lineups, media guides and team stats to those who were interested. I did this for all three games, not to mention the Diet Coke I got for the photographers. Sure, my tasks may have been capable of a ten year old, but that wasn’t the point. The point was to network, meet people, get your name out there and most importantly, learn something. I asked a thousand questions to security staff, photographers, members of the NCAA board, and associates of Arizona State University—yes ASU, OUCH!

It didn’t matter; I was a sponge. I wanted to learn anything and everything I could. I wanted to learn how those people got to where they are, because where some of them are, is where I want to be. That person in particular: Rick Reilly. Not only did I muster up enough courage to introduce myself, I made sure that he would remember whom I was. Sure enough, he did. “Sarah, always standin’ around like she is doing something!” Jokes, sure, I’ll take jokes any day from Rick Reilly.

If you call your “troubles” experiences and remember that every experience awakens some latent force within you, you will only continue to grow. Remember, “attitude is the father of the action.” I took a positive attitude with me to Glendale and my actions followed suit. Experience is a great teacher. I learned a lot from my experience last weekend. And what was reinforced for me is how much I love being in a sporting environment and with that understanding and passion, I’m more committed than ever to pursuing my dream of working in the sports industry. This experience has allowed me to see what I need to do; that is start at the bottom, do whatever is necessary, take advantage of every opportunity to learn, and in time, with my business casual attire, pray that I get “my shot” at the big time. In the meantime, “what do you take in your coffee, Mr. Reilly?”