Shannon Spake: "I am a huge advocate for sports for kids"
By Greg Bach
Shannon Spake’s love of swimming – and competing – was ignited in the pools of her South Florida youth.
It was there, often in the early morning hours while the sun was still climbing, that strokes were honed.
Friendships were forged.
And life-defining skills were learned.
“I think sports molded me into the person that I am today,” says Spake, the well-liked, respected and versatile sportscaster who works the sidelines covering college and pro football and college basketball for FOX Sports, as well as anchoring its NASCAR coverage as the co-host of its popular NASCAR Race Hub program. “I still work out and I feel more confident when I’m working out then I do when I don’t. It sets the tone and the base and the foundation for everything that I am today. That’s why my kids already do basketball, soccer, swimming – anything that we can kind of get them into to see what they gravitate toward.”
Spake led an active childhood as well. Her dad, a retired marine who fought in Vietnam, would go on long runs and she’d ride her bike alongside him.
They would stand in the front yard and throw a football back and forth. “He’d take half the air out of it so it wouldn’t sting as much when I caught it,” she says.
And they would hit the water.
“That’s where I found my love of swimming,” she says.
“I AM A HUGE ADVOCATE FOR SPORTS FOR KIDS”
Spake swam competitively all the way through high school, and even earned a scholarship to Broward College where she competed before moving on to complete her degree at Florida Atlantic University.
All those experiences – the workouts, the races, the team camaraderie – were incredibly valuable in her development.
“I am a huge advocate for sports for kids,” Spake says. “I think that it teaches them so many lessons at such a young age that you don’t really realize until you get older and I think No. 1 for me was discipline. As a swimmer you’re waking up at 4 in the morning a lot of times for practices and that’s not something that you just can kind of do part-time. That’s a full-time commitment. So for me, that discipline, and being part of a team, and holding your own weight and doing all of those things was something I was taught at a very young age – and I loved it. I loved everything about it.”
She also met her first dose of adversity in the form of scoliosis.
But she never leaned on it as an excuse.
Or let it affect her passion for the sport.
“I actually had the rods put in my back when I was 13 years old so I think that my whole life has been overcoming something that not everybody has to deal with,” she says. “It’s a deformity but swimming was perfect for me because it was low impact.”
ACTIVE CHILDHOOD, ACTIVE ADULTHOOD
Spake lived life in the fast lane of the pool, competing in sprints.
And those competitive fires continue to sizzle these days, as the married mom of twin boys finds time to train and compete in marathons and triathlons.
She’s run the Disney and New York City marathons. “Seeing New York on foot for 26 miles was a really cool experience to see the different neighborhoods and how they changed from one to the next,” she says. “I loved it.”
She also completed her first half ironman triathlon last year.
“People always ask me where I find the time,” she says. “I had someone tell me this perfect analogy: When you are a working mom you are always kind of filling other people’s cups, but then what are you doing to fill your own cup? And for me it’s going out for a five-mile run, even if it’s at 4 in the morning. Or getting on my bike and riding for an hour. I don’t put too much pressure on myself to always have to do it but most of the time I end up wanting to.”
BIG STADIUMS, BIG GAMES, BIG MOMENTS
Spake has covered some of the biggest college football and basketball games, first at ESPN and now at FOX.
She also worked the 2015 NBA Draft and covered multiple NCAA men’s basketball tournaments and Final Fours.
And she fully appreciates it all.
“I’m blessed,” she says. “I feel like there are a lot of times where we become uber focused on what we are doing in our jobs and we don’t take a breath and look around and realize how fortunate we are to be doing what we are doing so I do try to take it in. A lot of times during the national anthem is where I’ll give myself that moment to kind of take a deep breath and pray and take a look around and see where I am and realize how lucky I am to be there.”
It’s been a fascinating journey for Spake, full of priceless moments.
And it all began in the water, where she was introduced to the power of sports at a young age.
She’s carried those lessons that were learned, and the experiences, with her wherever she goes.
“It was just the camaraderie of being part of a team,” she says. “I remember if it was thundering or lightning just the things that we would do as teammates out of the pool, and those hard practices that really helped you bond. Just doing something so intense with so many people who were in it together I think was one of the coolest parts for me.”
Use these tips from U.S. women’s volleyball great Kelsey Robinson to help your young athletes navigate the all-important mental side of competing
Olympic gold medalist Jordyn Wieber, head gymnastics coach at the University of Arkansas, on the importance of young athletes experiencing failure and developing that all-important resilience to excel in sports and life
Former University of Michigan All-American gymnast Olivia Karas and her father Jim share what parents and young athletes need to know to help them navigate their athletic journey in their new book CONFESSIONS OF A DIVISION-1 ATHLETE: A DAD AND DAUGHTER'S GUIDE TO SURVIVAL
Former University of Louisville volleyball player Courtney Robison-Dixon, author of the new book LIVING IN REAL TIME, on helping young girls navigate the intense pressures imposed by social media and flourish on and off the court