Dreamer Spotlight: Kayce Smith
Kayce Smith: Dreamer Spotlight
Kayce Smith is fulfilling not only
dream, but a dream that
girls who love sports dream of, working and reporting for ESPN.
We're so excited to share our interview with Kayce about chasing her dream, her advice for others looking to chase a similar dream job, and the challenges she's experienced along the way.
When you were little, what did you want to be? What was your “dream job”?
Every time someone asks me this, I always get the same reaction. “Really? Come on.” But I am telling the 100% truth in saying that from the second that I could formulate my own thoughts about my future, I have always wanted to become a sports broadcaster. I may be aging myself here, but remember the ‘Talk Boys’ from Home Alone 2? I carried one of those around my house recording myself talking about football constantly. My mom recently sent me a questionnaire I filled out before my 8th grade graduation. One of the questions was “Where will you be in ten years?” My answer was ‘being an ESPN reporter and married.’ I guess going 1-of-2 isn’t too bad!
What’d you major in while in college?
I was born to go to Texas A&M. I swear I was that obnoxious kid who tried to convince all of my friends that being an Aggie was the only way to go. So naturally, I only applied to A&M. When I was in school, there was not a Broadcasting degree plan available… so I took the BA in Mass Communication with a minor in Journalism route.
Did you have any odd jobs along the way to make ends meet?
At one point in college, I was working a part-time job at a pet store, coaching jr. high track and high school basketball, and waitressing at night… along with working for A&M’s Athletic Department… all at once. It was pretty chaotic.
Where did your love for sports and football in general come from?
My dad! He loves the game of football. He took me to countless games growing up and I just had this natural passion for it. To this day, one of my favorite things to do is watch college football with him. Obviously I don’t get to do that much anymore, but if I get the opportunity, I am there in a heartbeat. I also played every sport you can think of growing up before sticking with Basketball and Track in High School.
How did you get your start in your career? Did you have a mentor along the way, or what did you find was most helpful in starting out?
Oh wow, there are so many people I could give credit to! Right out of school, I had a couple of internships: one at the Cannes Film Festival and another during the Houston Texans Training Camp. I met so many wonderful people during those few months that helped me. But I would say the biggest launching pad for my career came in my first full-time job for a local radio/TV show. The lead host and one of my very best friends, Gabe Bock, taught me pretty much all there is to know about sports talk radio. Looking back, that was honestly the best thing for my career. Being able to be comfortable kicking back and talking sports with ‘the guys’ completely unscripted is what really helped me get noticed for TV.
What was that moment like when you found out you’d be working for SEC Network/ ESPN?
First of all, I have the best agent in business. I swear without him, I wouldn’t be where I am today. In my first year working with him, I went from working as a producer/personality for a local radio show to working in the NBA with Fox Sports South to signing with ESPN for College Football coverage. (Thanks, Josh!!) I got an opportunity to audition for ESPN by being thrown in to their SEC Media Days coverage in 2014. One of the coordinating producers for the SEC Netowrk basically came up to me and said “we heard you on SiriusXM last night and want to give you a shot. You’ll be live in an hour.” From the looks of how things turned out, I guess I didn’t disappoint!
Challenges along the way? How have you overcome them?
I think any female in this industry can admit that being a woman presents small obstacles along the way, especially being a young blonde woman. I am by no means beating the feminist drum by saying that; it’s just the facts. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard “women can’t talk about football intelligently because they haven’t had their hands in the dirt.” You basically have to go into it knowing that you have to prove that you know what you are talking about and that you can hold your own – and have extremely thick skin - in a male dominated world. It’s an on-going process, but I love the challenge and wouldn’t trade it for the world.
I saw your tweet about Stuart Scott, and your own battle with cancer, what did that experience teach you?
Stuart Scott, along with every person battling cancer, has taught me how to live life to the absolute fullest. No matter the severity, anyone who has received that phone call knows that life will never be the same… but that doesn’t mean you can’t continue to pursue your dreams. Facing that reality at 24-years-old, I realized life is so much bigger than football or being on TV or the amount of people who follow you on Twitter. As of right now, I have been in remission for a year. I am one of the lucky ones.
I feel like most people only see the glamorous side of following your dreams, what sacrifices do you make in order to pursue your dream?
Well if you ask my parents, they would say it would be that I can’t come home for holidays anymore. (Sorry, Mom!) People don’t realize how often you are in a hotel or on an airplane. Don’t get me wrong; I love traveling. But as much as I enjoy being on the road, I have had to miss a lot of things that are really important to people that I care about. Probably the hardest so far was that I couldn’t go to my little sister’s college graduation because I was covering one of my four bowl game assignments. But it’s all a part of the job description. The sports world doesn’t sleep nor does it have weekends and holidays off.
Favorite interview you’ve done thus far? Who would be your “dream interview?”
I had the amazing opportunity to sit down with Alabama’s Head Coach Nick Saban during my coverage of Iron Bowl week for SportsCenter and College GameDay. He is one of the smartest and nicest people I have ever interviewed. Dream interview? So many options come to mind. Is Adam Levine an acceptable answer? :) If we’re talking current sports figures, I would have to say Tom Brady. The fact that he was the 199th pick in the NFL Draft still baffles me. Erin Andrews would be a close second. But I would request our interview to be set in a wine bar… Not only because she transformed the world of female sports broadcasters, but also because I bet she has some awesome stories.
Speaking of advice, what’s something that’s stuck with you that someone has said to you either about life or about the industry?
The first time I ever met Clay Travis of Fox Sports 1, he told me “any girl can stand in front of a camera and look pretty while talking for 30 seconds, but if you can hold your own in a solid conversation about sports and sound intelligent while doing so, it will set you apart… and it will do it in a hurry.” That really stuck with me. Clay has become one of my good friends in the business and has given me a lot of great advice since then, but I still remember that conversation like it was yesterday.
Advice to girls looking to get into sports casting, or follow a path similar to
Experience, a ton of practice and repetition. I always tell girls to grab a friend and work on your interview skills, even if no one is ever going to see it. Being on camera is a lot harder than people think and the more you do it, the better you will get. I cringe at the stuff that I did in college on camera. It’s all about getting better and having people around you who will be 100% honest with your work.
I also believe it is extremely important to learn what it takes ‘behind the scenes’ and appreciate the people who make it all happen. Working in production in college really helped me understand that you can’t just put on makeup and grab a microphone and be handed a national network job. You have to work hard to prove you deserve that chance. No one will just hand it to you.
Has there ever been a moment that you felt like you wanted to do something
At one (very brief) point during my senior year of college, I thought about going in to the Entertainment industry. Hence, my internship at the Cannes Film Festival. I had a blast in France getting to walk the red carpet and seeing how the film industry works. I was so
honored to be selected for such a once in a life time opportunity, but the biggest thing I learned from that internship was that I belong in sports and nothing will ever change that.
Knowing what you know now, what would you tell your 21 year old self?
God has a plan for your life even if you can’t see it at the time. Never give up on your dream, because while money is important, but it doesn’t make you whole. Success and true happiness comes from doing what you love every single day. Life is about who you are as a person, first; as a friend, second; and as a professional, third. If you can wake up every day and be truly happy with where you are in those three categories, you are living out your dream.
What are you most looking forward to in this year?
Working another college football season with ESPN. Because after all it is the most wonderful time of the year.
Website (Coming Soon):