This story starts back in junior high in Magna, Utah.
I’m not certain of the exact situation, but I started to stutter when I talked. Over the next 15+ years, I just dealt with it. I would have days where I would stutter all of the time, yet days where I was very fluent. I could never get a read on how clear my speech would be on a particular day until I would have conversations with others.
But I never let that stop me.
I have always had a dream of being a sports broadcaster—ever since I was a little kid. My inspiration came from the late Utah Jazz broadcaster “Hot” Rod Hundley. In 2010, I began my journey of living my dream, starting as an intern for ESPN 700 in Salt Lake. That led to what I do now: midday producer and host of Sports Saturday on the station.
I was presented with an incredible opportunity.
The management at Broadway Media—ESPN 700’s parent company—met with the “Intensive Stuttering Clinic” at the University of Utah. It includes 60 hours of speech therapy from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday for two weeks. They just had a client cancel their spot and were excited to take me in. When Broadway Media and ESPN 700 presented me with this opportunity, I jumped at it.
The fact that my boss was willing to let me miss work for two weeks to do something that would change my life shows how top-class Broadway Media is.
My journey to speech success began on Monday, July 31st.
I was nervous. I had no idea what to expect with this experience. I had been imagining what this process would be like for two weeks, and now it was finally happening.
I started by meeting with a student clinician, who would be assisting me the entire clinic. We filled out a stack of surveys and personal information. Our group of strangers, who would spend the next two weeks together, introduced ourselves to one another. I felt like I was starting a new job.
My goal for my time at the clinic was to tighten everything up with my speech, so that I would be able to get more on-air opportunities at work. I made plans for this goal, fixed on achievement.
After a long first day filled with a load of information, we began exercises that would begin the process of success. Just like in sports, if you want to get better at something, you need to practice and practice and practice some more. That’s what we did. If you did it right, you would see progress.
I had a great feeling about the clinic. My nerves of day one gave way to excitement on day two.
Everything was starting to settle in. I got into a routine and was becoming familiar with everyone that shared the journey. I continued the long road to learn the tools to improve your speech.
You start out by talking slowly. VERY slowly. But I understood the point of it.
We sped up our speech, and had to do our first speech in front of the group. My clinic director thought it would be cool to do my speech with me calling play-by-play of some golf shots at our slow pace of speech. Safe to say, it worked, and the group seemed to enjoy it.
We also watched a video about adults who struggle with stuttering and how it impacted their lives. It turned into a positive, powerful group conversation of how to accept your stutter and not let it hold you back. That showed me that these people don’t only care about improving, but to show others who struggle with a stutter they can do something about it!
As we are ended the first week of the clinic, we had more discussions while continuing to speed up. I started to feel and hear results. It ended the week on a great note. (Day Five…½)Going through a weekend, you can get a little rusty if you don’t use the techniques that you’ve been taught. I was lucky enough to practice while hosting Sports Saturday on-air. I felt like that was the most fluent my speech has been doing a radio show in my entire career, and I have been doing the show for two years.
We learned a couple more techniques—more tools in my speech arsenal. We did our second speech in front of the group. I demonstrated how to broadcast different sports at different speeds. I enjoyed working on that, and felt like I did really well.
We started to speed our speech to a more comfortable rate—not quite normal, but pretty close. I was excited when I was fairly fluent, and looked forward to the last four days.
We were now at a “Controlled Normal Rate” which is much more comfortable to speak at than what we were doing the last six days. Our group had to make ten phone calls to legitimate businesses, asking questions and using our techniques that we learned. For me, it wasn’t that nerve-racking because as a radio producer, you talk on the phone a lot with guests and listeners. I have had a lot of practice. But I know that others don’t have the same luxury as I do, so I thought it was a good exercise and a great way to help us get more comfortable.
This was the day that we were going to put all of our skills and techniques to the test. The clinic had a survey for us to do and turned it into a contest. All of the clients were to go on campus at the University of Utah and walk up to students and staff members to ask them some questions about stuttering. You had to try and get the most people surveyed. I was able to collect 16 surveys with 45 people involved (lots of groups). Did you know that 1% of adults and 5% of kids stutter? I was blown away by that statistic. I felt like I had a lot of success with my speech.
The second-to-last test was on the horizon. Rather than doing surveys, the clinic decided to make a trip down to the City Creek mall to use our techniques around the shops. The student clinicians gave us challenges. I had to go into a store with a ton of bath soaps and had to ask for “Lavender Bath Bomb.” The group had a good laugh with that.
The last day finally arrived. It was the culmination of all of our skills and techniques that we learned over the last ten days. The day started with practicing our final two speeches that we would say to a group of friends and family of all of the clients and student clinicians. It was about 30 people who attended. My speech talked about my journey to radio and how I would overcome stuttering, and how I could still manage to host a show, and where I am today. It was very emotional for the group and it was an amazing experience to see the other clients transform their lives.
When I started in the clinic, I had no idea what was going to happen. When I look back on ten days and 60 hours of intense therapy, I can proudly tell you today that I am fluent in my speech and feel very good moving forward in my career.
I would not have been able to do this without the support of my family. It has been great to be able to have them by my side through this journey. I would also like to thank Broadway Media and ESPN 700 for the opportunity that they presented me. I know it took a lot for them to allow me to be away from the studio for two weeks and missing work (I still did what I could remotely, but I wasn’t there running the show). Finally, I would like to thank the wonderful people at the University of Utah. Dr. Michael Blomgren organizes a great program and Director Amy Krantz and all the student clinicians. They work so hard to put this program on. They do it without any visible issues and have changed many lives.
I would like to take a moment and reach out to those people who read this that may stutter, but have held back from doing what they want to do for their careers. I know that it seems difficult to be in radio and have a dream to be a broadcaster while having the struggles of stuttering. I know for a fact that you can do anything, and that you can achieve your dreams. Only you can hold yourself back from reaching your goals not your stutter.