Sam Ponder’s Top Tips for Networking and Following Your Dreams in the Sports Industry

How Sam Ponder Made a Name for Herself in the Sports Industry: Tips on Networking and Following Your Dreams

Sam Ponder is a well-known sports commentator and host of ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown. Throughout her career, she has made significant strides in the male-dominated sports industry. But, how did she get there? In this article, we’ll discuss Sam’s approach to networking, boldness and path to success.

Her Story: Pursuing Her Passion

From a young age, Sam knew that she wanted to talk about sports on television. Coming from a family of coaches and being an athlete herself, this was the only plan she ever had. She moved to New York City at 18 to become a hostess at the ESPN Zone restaurant in Times Square, hoping to network for the sports broadcasting job of her dreams. Sam eventually met two people who ran the internship program at ABC, which helped her get her foot in the door.

Follow Your Fear

Sam followed her fear to its logical conclusion when pursuing her passion of becoming a broadcaster. For Sam, this meant thinking through her decision to max out her credit cards to fly from Phoenix to New York every Saturday to maintain her internship and relationships at ABC, even when she knew she was running out of money. Thinking through the logical conclusion of a big scary step takes some of the fear away from pursuing your biggest goals.

Relationships Matter

Maintaining relationships is crucial in any career, and Sam credits her success to her ability to connect with others. These relationships helped land her job offers after her internships with ABC, and maintained them throughout her career. Sam’s ability to network and create genuine relationships has allowed her to advance in the industry and make a name for herself.

Nos Are an Everyday Thing

Although Sam received a big yes that led her on the path to achieving her dreams, there were plenty of setbacks and rejections. Sometimes, those rejections came in the form of a “no” or no response at all. In one instance, Sam was refused an interview at ESPN by a person who said, “I’m sorry, I just don’t have time today. You’re really young. Just keep working.” She didn’t let it get her down, though, and continued to pursue her passions, eventually landing her role at ESPN and becoming a respected commentator in the sports world.

Handling Stereotypes

In the male-dominated world of sports broadcasting, women can often fall into stereotypes or lesser roles, but Sam has used the things that are typically the result of stereotypes to her advantage. As a young, blond, attractive woman, she knew she would land in a sideline reporting role. Instead of viewing this as a setback, Sam leveraged the opportunity to be close to the action and set herself up for the next step in her career.

Dealing With Critics

Building a career in the public eye can invite criticism from all angles. Sam has faced her fair share of keyboard critics – people on the internet who love to say negative things about her appearance, hair, and clothes. At first, Sam found this criticism hard to handle, but she has since developed a mindset of resilience. She reminds herself that she is not there to please everyone and is OK with how she looks for her job. Sam’s wisdom provides us with a great narrative in this age of social media.


Sam Ponder’s dedication and hard work to achieve her goals can provide inspiration for anyone trying to make their name in any industry. Building relationships, being bold, and following your passion can all lead to success. Utilizing criticism and stereotypes to your advantage, Sam has become a well-respected commentator and host in the male-dominated sports industry, teaching us all that it is possible to achieve our dreams.


1. Has Sam Ponder won any awards for her commentary work?

Yes, Sam Ponder is the recipient of the 2019 Gracie Award for Outstanding Sports Host-Studio.

2. How did Sam Ponder land her role as host of Sunday NFL Countdown?

Sam Ponder started her career working for Fox Sports and ESPN’s Longhorn Network. She later moved onto working as a reporter for college football.

3. Was Sam Ponder’s tenure at ESPN always controversy-free?

No. In 2017, Sam Ponder drew criticism from the public for her comments regarding former ESPN colleague, Barstool Sports. Her Twitter post sparked some criticism, but she replied promptly.

4. Who inspires Sam Ponder in her field?

Sam Ponder admires Suzy Kolber, ESPN’s first female anchor, and Linda Cohn, who has been with ESPN since 1992 as a sportscaster.

5. What does Sam Ponder like to do outside of work?

Sam Ponder likes to spend her free time with her husband and three children, exploring local parks and biking trails.