Trojans in Business: Kelli Tennant

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Written by Andie Hagemann, USC blog contributor

Tennant-TWC.jpgName: Kelli Tennant

Resume: L.A. Galaxy Sideline Reporter

Sport at USC: Volleyball

Did you have any previous aspirations to be a sports broadcaster?

I knew from age 10 that I wanted to be in the media. Originally, I wanted to be a news anchor. When I was being recruited, USC has Annenberg, which is amazing and the other schools that I was considering did not have broadcasting or were in a good market. I always knew that it was what I wanted to do and I wanted the best fit possible. USC was the perfect choice. When I got sick during my sophomore/junior year, the athletic department knew what I wanted to do and they let me start covering teams and doing interviews.

How did you transition from USC into a career in broadcasting at the professional level?

It was an interesting journey. I knew what I wanted to do so I created a great network. It was so much of timing, luck and having great people around me. FOX Sports hired me while I was still in school during my senior year. I started doing hosting and reporting for them. After I graduated, they hired me to co-host the Lane Kiffin show with Petros Papadakis and Lindsay Rhodes. ESPN later hired me that fall to cover volleyball for them. Both of those jobs were my first taste of the business. After that, I was with ESPN for four years, the Longhorn Network and I covered volleyball for the Pac-12 Network this past fall. I covered high school sports in New York for a year and with E! News covering red carpet and celebrity events. It has been about taking each opportunity and trying to segue that into the next thing. Volleyball and USC sports were my foot in the door and then I used that experience to get to the next step and next level. I had known the Galaxy producer from ESPN. We had known each other for a long time and he was familiar with my work. It was the ideal move for me because I love LA sports.

Was it surreal to be working in the industry so early while you were still in school finishing your senior year?

Sometimes I have to pinch myself because I am only 25 and I have been able to do so many cool things, meet so many great people and work for the best networks in the country. This is what I love to do and I just can't believe it sometimes that people have so much faith in me to let me do it. At 20 and 21, I had no idea what I was doing and for some reason, they believed in me.

What has been your most memorable experience thus far in broadcasting?

I had two moments when I was working for E! that were pretty cool. At one of my first red carpet events was a charity event in Santa Monica and I got to interview Tom Hanks. Being from USC, we are constantly surrounded by celebrities and great athletes so to me I'm not starstruck. But, I thought, "Holy cow, it's Tom Hanks!" He was so nice to me and I talked with both him and his wife Rita. They were asking me how my day was and how I got in the business. It was the coolest experience. Also, when I covered the Toyota Grand Prix for E! as well that year, I got to go on a ride with Patrick Dempsey. We rode at 120 mph and I kept thinking, "I'm in the car with McDreamy," while I'm doing an interview during the whole thing. On the sports side, a highlight would be working in the ESPN studio this past December.

What advice do you have for student athletes that want to venture into sports broadcasting?

One thing that I tell people is that the first five years are the toughest. I am in my fourth year now and I am just now making a living. I did a lot of moving around and had to take advantage of my amazing wonderful friends that I have that let me live at their places. It's really tough to try to build a career and life in the beginning. I feel that is where the weeding out process really is. You think that you want to do it and a job comes around and you're not making the money that you thought, it's not as glamorous or whatever it may be and people fall off. I think the people that make it in this business are the ones that crank it out for four or five years. Once you start making a living, you've gotten past the terrible hump and you continue to work from there. Second, it's all about networking. I can't tell you how many jobs I have had that I felt I was not necessarily qualified for but I knew the right people to get my foot in the door. They knew I would work hard, prepare, and do my job to the best of my abilities.

What's next?

I think there are a lot of opportunities right now especially in Los Angeles. There's a lot of shuffling going on between Fox Sports 1, Pac-12 Network, Time Warner, and ESPN. For me, the next step is to get a football package for the fall and pair that with volleyball. Also, have another basketball package in the spring and hopefully be working with the Galaxy again. It is just about getting reps for me right now. I have my ideal job but I am focused on taking every opportunity that comes to me. I have the mentality of never say no to anything because you never know where it may lead you. I never would have thought that I would be a sideline reporter for soccer and it is probably one of the coolest things that I have done. I take everything as it comes but ideally lining up a college football package would be really great.

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