Dream jobs can cover a wide range of options, but Prim Siripipat certainly appreciates where life’s journey has taken her at a still young age.
Prim, daughter of Pallop and Ampai Siripipat), left Mexico, Mo., at age 12 to follow her tennis dreams at the high school, college and professional level and now works for ESPN as a sports reporter and anchor at the network’s world headquarters in Bristol, Conn.
“I only lived in Mexico until 12, when I moved to Tampa, Fla., to pursue my tennis dream. Nonetheless, I laid the foundation of who I am today,” she recalls. “Mexico may be a small, undiscovered, unknown Midwestern town, but it laid a strong foundation for me.”
Prim was born in Mexico and began playing tennis at age 7.
Five years later, she took the next step in following her dreams by moving to Tampa to attend Saddlebrook Preparatory School, a tennis academy in Wesley Chapel, Fla., which helped elevate her game to the next level by training with tennis greats such as Martina Hingis, Jennifer Capriati, Andy Roddick, and Mardy Fish.
“Moving (with her mom) from Mexico to Saddlebrook was a life-changing moment and, at that point in time, the most difficult I had ever experienced,” Prim says. (Her dad stayed back in Missouri to continue working, support the family and stay with older brother Nick, who was a senior in high school then.)
“I went from being somebody, a tennis star, to absolutely nobody, the new kid on the block. I had to adjust and tough -en up quickly.”
But she overcame the challenges of a major relocation to earn a top 10 national ranking, graduate as Saddlebrook valedictorian and receive a full scholarship to Duke University in Durham, N.C. She studied sociology and also received a minor in biological anthropology, and anatomy.
“Most everybody’s goal at Saddlebrook was to play professionally, but as I got older I realized I would have to make a sacrifice somewhere – either go pro at the age of 18 and forego college or go to college, get an education and maybe turn pro after,” she notes. “Thankfully, with the push and encouragement of my parents, I decided to go with the latter and attend college. My parents’ No. 1 focus for me was education; tennis was secondary.”
Prim soon discovered there were more life lessons to learn at Duke, however.
“My four years at Duke really prepared me for the real world. Tennis is a lonely, individual sport but playing on Duke’s tennis team really taught me some valuable lessons,” she says. “My team was top 10 in the country every year I was there and we had some of the best girls in the country on my team. So it was a challenge for me, arriving as a top 10 in the country junior, learning how to balance the fierce competition and my individual goals, while being selfless and keeping the best interests of my team in mind.
“Learning how to be a good team player might be one of the toughest skills to develop, but it is also one of the most valuable.”
Prim compiled an overall record of 52-18 and a 16-2 mark in Atlantic Coast Conference play in her four years at Duke. But, at the still young age of 21, Prim was forced to have three surgeries, one on her right shoulder plus both knees.
Like many a talented athletes in other sports, she realized her career would inevitably come to an end and she needed to face the reality of life after tennis.
“While at Duke, I became a better person just all around and my fellow students really challenged me. Even though I graduated as valedictorian with a 4.2-plus GPA, it was intimidating being surrounded by some of the smartest kids in the country,” she admits.
‘I wanted to remain in sports because I love that it entails – the adrenaline, the pressure to perform, the spotlight, etc. That’s when I began my endeavors in the television industry.”
Unable to travel with the Duke tennis team during her junior spring break because of her surgeries, Prim followed up on the suggestion of one of her college professors who said he could see her being on TV and spent that time off to shadow various people at ESPN. She immediately fell in love with the business and the work they do but took their advice to gain more experience in small markets before packing her bags for Bristol.
Fast forwarding through Prim’s next five years, she worked her way from being an intern answering phone calls in North Carolina to being a reporter for CBS in Miami. But on St. Patrick’s Day 2010, the pursuit of her dreams took a big hit when she was laid off from her Florida job.
“That was one of the most difficult times of my life, but I was determined to make it the best of times. During that period, I found out how wonderful my family and friends are. Two weeks after getting laid off, I was back on the tennis court coaching juniors; I also began acting and modeling.”
Guess what? Three hundred and fifty five days after getting a pink slip (being the hard-working, goal-oriented person she is, Prim knows exactly that time period), she was working for “the world-wide leader of sports” and loves her sometimes crazy/always busy life as an anchor for ESPN’s Digital Media Department as well as TV and radio work for the network.
But there were more challenges along the way before she nailed down her current position.
“A year after I began in the television business, July 2004, I tried out for “ESPN Dream Job” – the “American Idol” for sportscasters. At the time, I had just landed a new job as a news producer with News 14 Carolina in Raleigh,” she looks back. “Thousands across the country tried out and ESPN held auditions in 10 cities including Raleigh. I made it all the way to New York and the final 30; only 12 would be chosen for the “Dream Job” show and, unfortunately, I did not make the cut.
“I was devastated. I thought that was my one and only opportunity ever to work for ESPN. But that rejection was a turning point in my career. I used it as a source of motivation and worked extremely hard.”
By 2007, Prim had landed a job with WFOR in Miami as a sports reporter/anchor.
At that point of her life, the sky was blue, the sun was shining and her dream job seemed secure. Then came that memorable St. Patrick’s Day – not the luckiest day in her life perhaps but another obstacle she overcame by sticking to the values she first began to learn in Mexico, Mo. She decided to stay in Miami with hopes of remaining in the sportscasting world by doing sports radio. She also returned to tennis by coaching and mentoring kids; she began modeling and dabbling in the entertainment business as well, finding a boost in confidence with success in both. Eventually, her agent sent her tape to ESPN, the network liked her well enough to call her in for two interviews and, roughly a year later, she was working for ESPN.
“I am one of the hardest-working people you will ever meet and hold nothing but the highest standards and expectations for myself,” she has posted on Facebook. “But I vow to reach my dreams the right way – by being honest, respectful, kind, with integrity and humility. In my industry, those characteristics are often lost or forgotten; I will never forget where I came from and what I stand for.”
So what’s it like to be a national sportscaster? Prim says their jobs are a lot harder than they appear.
“It involves a lot of prep, research, studying, writing, then beautifying with makeup and hair, and then the presentation itself might be the hardest part. I absolutely love every minute of it, though.
“I love what I do because of the people, the experiences it brings me and the places it takes me. There aren’t too many people in this world who can say they love what they do but I truly do,” she observes. “Here at ESPN, and throughout my career, I have worked with some of the most intelligent and talented individuals. That includes producers, photographers, managers and athletes or coaches I have interviewed.
“Some of these people have also become some of my best friends. My career also has taken me on some wonderful journeys – three Super Bowls, Stanley Cup Finals (NHL), NBA games, Wimbledon (for tennis, of course), the ESPYs and other sporting events.
Prim regrets not coming back to Mexico “in a very long time,” but she wants to go back and continues to treasure the people and experiences that have helped make her who she is today. She remembers her dad treating the family to ice cream at Dairy Queen after hot summer practices there.
“I have memories at the tennis courts not just with my family, but with many others. Jean Hill was my first-ever tennis coach and I learned so much from her as a tennis player and also as a person,” she says. “Away from the courts, most importantly, I had my childhood best friends. Abby Garrett and others brought me so much happiness and love in my life.”
Now, having blazed a trail that has taken her a long way from her first home but given her so many rewards in exchange, Prim invites others to discover their own dreams and follow their own path to reach them.
“If you have a dream, believe in it, own it and if you do that, you can achieve it. I am a living example that dreams really do come true. If a small-town girl from Mexico, Mo., can do it, so can you. And on your journey, it is important you be yourself. We all experience pressure from society, culture, colleagues, even friends and family. But at the end of the day, this is your life and Your dream. By staying true to who you are, you are being honest with yourself, honest with others and you’ll be able to live your life freely without any regrets.”
(Some information for this story courtesy of the Duke University athletics website.)