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Thursday, February 29, 2024

Purpose > Comfort

Rob Knox went from ESPN to the athletics communications industry. He learned a lot along the way.

By Rob Knox, @knoxrob1

“Want to impress others? Talk about your successes. Want to impact others? Talk about your failures.” — John C. Maxwell

My journey to being elected into the prestigious presidential rotation of the College Sports Information Directors Association of America (CoSIDA) and becoming the second African-American president in the 63-year history of our wonderful organization started by being smacked with the news in 2013 that the future of ESPN didn’t include me.

It was tough. The next few hours for me were a spontaneous swelling of emotions as I started plotting my future. Ultimately, it proved to be a blessing in disguise.

The only thing I controlled was my reaction.

I got to meet Tamika Catchings, Hope Solo, Alex Morgan, Jerry Jones, Gabby Douglas and Jerry Rice during my time at ESPN.

However, it wasn’t all fun and games.

Working in corporate America is much different than working in intercollegiate athletics. My consistent shifts were usually 5 p.m. to 2 a.m., which meant I had to be in the office at 4 p.m. to set up, read and respond to around the 250 emails or so that greeted me daily, and have all of my applications needed for the evening production cycle open and ready to go by 5 p.m. It didn’t mean walking in the door at 4:45 or 4:55. That was a tough adjustment in the beginning. I usually didn’t leave the office until close to 3:15 a.m.

Anyway, for the first time in my life, I struggled and had difficulties with the terminology, writing production tickets, producing an efficient schedule for our employees, real-time decision-making and understanding the work flow from the live sport feeds we processed. Even though I improved, I always felt like I was playing catch-up.

I had some memorable moments that I was proud of like suggesting to news editors they lead a SportsCenter show with Louisville’s historic upset over undefeated Baylor in a Sweet 16 women’s basketball classic over the Louisville men beating Duke in an Elite Eight game best remembered for Kevin Ware’s grotesque leg injury.

As the sports lead, knowing that I helped increase men’s college basketball television ratings by introducing data-tracking initiatives during the 2012 and 2013 NCAA tournaments was a nice feather in my cap.

Making the decision to work at ESPN after receiving the CoSIDA Rising Star award in 2011 and being recruited by the company was one of the best decisions I made. It forced me to step out of my comfort zone.

Greatness never comes when you’re comfortable. Consistent challenges are good for the soul.

It’s why despite being insanely talented and already awesome, Kobe Bryant never stopped working to improve his game.

It’s only when there’s some turbulence, doubt, and sacrifice which allows you to grow, flourish and blossom. Battling through adversity is one of the many foundations for success. The struggles I had in adjusting to the fast-paced and wonderful world of ESPN provided me the strength, tools, mental toughness and fuel to accomplish plenty since coming back to the athletics communications industry.

Returning to media relations at Coppin State in 2013, it was eye-opening to see how much the athletic communications industry had drastically changed. I had to learn how to design graphics, find creative ways to share our student-athlete successes and write fewer words since a shift had started in the way consumers digested information. It was hard learning Photoshop and creating schedule posters.

I appreciated that God allowed me to be uncomfortable at ESPN. I didn’t understand it at first when that door closed for me, but I had a feeling I was being chosen for something greater. I’ve been blessed to share my passion for helping others, dispensing wisdom and displaying leadership.

Now, as I prepare to take CoSIDA’s presidential gavel in less than a year in Washington, D.C., I learned that God is not as concerned about our comfort as he is our purpose.

Rob Knox is currently the Associate Director of Media Relations at Towson University and the CoSIDA first vice president. An award-winning communications professional, Knox has over 15 years of experience in several sectors of the media including sports information, newspapers and television. A member of The Lincoln University of Pennsylvania Athletics Hall of Fame, graduate of the NCAA Leadership Institute and 2011 CoSIDA Rising Star Award winner, Knox is one of the most influential, passionate and accomplished athletic communications professionals in the country.

This piece has been presented to you by SMU’s Master of Science in Sport Management.

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