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The Refined Collective Podcast

Jul 10, 2018

Love + Football:  Female Empowerment in a Male Dominated Industry with Samantha Ponder

This week, I am talking to Samantha Ponder, the Sunday NFL Countdown host on ESPN. Y’all.  She is the first female host of an NFL pregame show. She lives in New York City with her husband Christian, whom she married after three months of dating, and they have their third child on the way! This episode, I talk with her about how she got to where she is in her career, what it’s like being in a male dominated industry, and how she navigates marriage with her husband of five years.


Taking A Chance and Putting in the Work

  • Right after high school graduation, Sam moved to New York to pursue her dream.
  • “I didn’t know anybody, I had a couple credit cards with $250 maximums and some Wendy’s coupons and I figured it out.”
  • She credits her internship experiences as her ticket into a difficult and intimidating industry.
  • Every single one of her ‘all of a sudden’ moments was born out of hard work and dedication.


Battling Insecurity

  • Achievement doesn’t solve all of life’s problems y’all.
  • Before she got married, she thought marriage- someone choosing you for forever- would eliminate any insecurity. Through her own marriage, she learned that that’s an unhealthy pressure to put on anyone let alone her husband.
  • She finds that insecurities allow for connection with others, and let’s be real, nobody is perfect and even if there were such a thing, how isolating would that be?


Woman in a Man’s World

  • Sam notes that sometimes women will try to act like men  in order to work in a male dominated field, but it’s a flawed idea.
  • “We want to be empowered and independent and strong. We want all of those things but not at the risk of losing our ability to connect with other people.”
  • She notes that coaches have been warm because of her feminine ability to connect with others.
  • When faced with criticism, she remembers an important piece of advice: “The only thing that should really keep you up at night is if something has some truth to it.”


Love and Basketball Football

  • Sam’s love story began when NFL quarterback and now-husband Christian tweeted her! (Social media for the win!)
  • They met for the first time in September, and got married in December. In those few months, they were living in different states and would only see each other one day a week.
  • Five years in, and with their third child on the way, Sam has learned a lot about love.
  • She notes that they were both selfish when they met. “What I didn’t realize is so much of love is self-sacrifice.”
  • She now realizes all of the work that is necessary. “The goal should not be comfort. Comfort is boring. Let’s get messy. Let’s work through our insecurities.”


Sam has accomplished so much already in her life, and is so very wise. Looking back, she wishes she had slowed down a bit and appreciated the quiet moments. I am so grateful I got to talk with this inspiring woman. I’ll leave you with some of her advice.


“Enjoy the process,

Embrace the struggle,

Don’t be afraid to be sad.”


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