5 Questions with...CSN's Sarah Kustok

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5 Questions with...CSN's Sarah Kustok

Wednesday, Aug. 25, 2010

By Jeff Nuich
CSN Chicago Senior Director of CommunicationsCSNChicago.com Contributor

Want to know more about your favorite Chicago media celebrities? CSNChicago.com has your fix as we put the citys most popular personalities on the spot with everyones favorite weekly local celeb feature entitled 5 Questions with...

On Wednesdays, exclusively on CSNChicago.com, its our turn to grill the local media and other local VIPs with five random sports and non-sports related questions that will definitely be of interest to old and new fans alike.

This weeks guesta rising star on the Chicago sports media scene whos dedicated work ethic shines nightly on Comcast SportsNets SportsNitea standout basketball star in high school and college whos been able to make a smooth and successful transition from athlete to broadcasterplus, she one of the nicest people youll ever meethere are 5 Questions withSARAH KUSTOK!

BIO: Sarah Kustok joined Comcast SportsNet in 2009 as a feature and field reporter on SportsNite, along with occasionally co-anchoring the program. She was a sideline reporter for ESPN's college and high school remote football telecasts, as well as handled color analystsideline reporting duties for men's and women's college basketball. Kustok grew up in southwest suburban Orland Park, where she was a four-year varsity starter in both volleyball and basketball at Carl Sandburg High School. Sarah enjoyed a stellar college career at DePaul (2000-2004), where she was a team captain and later an assistant coach for Doug Bruno. At the end of her DePaul playing career, Sarah ranked 7th on the all-time three-point field goal list and 4th all-time in three-point field goal percentage. She graduated with a degree in CommunicationMedia Studies from DePaul University in 2004 and also completed her master's degree from DePaul in Corporate and Multicultural Communication last year.

1) CSNChicago.com: Sarah, as you can attest, its very common in our business to see numerous former athletes make the transition into sports broadcasting. As someone who has excelled in athletics for many years, what would be your biggest piece of advice for any athlete out there looking to get into the media biz and, a follow-up questionwhat would you say has been your biggest challenge so far in this early stage of your on-air career?

Kustok: The biggest piece of advice I would give to any athlete looking to get into the media industry is to take the same approach used for excelling in athletics and apply it to the challenge of breaking into this business. Whether it is sports, media, medicine, finance, you name itthe ability to work through adversity, embrace your own weaknesses, and find a way to make yourself better at whatever it is you are striving to become is essential. Competitiveness and athletics go hand in hand. It is much the same with media industry. More often than not, it is those people who are tirelessly working to improve their game that separate themselves from others. And with any dream, its a lot easier to chase it down if you are passionate enough to soak up all the good and bad that come during your journey to reach it.

Anyone in this business would tell you that challenges are present on a daily basis. I believe the biggest, though, is finding a way to truly be you. There are so many talented, successful media personalities in this city (particularly at Comcast SportsNet) that I love to watch, listen to, and learn from. They have become the best because of an ability to let their true personality shine through their work. It doesnt mean everyone will love you, but if you are genuine and real, it is much easier to be satisfied at the end of the day.

2) CSNChicago.com: There had to have been plenty of competition growing up in the Kustok household. Your dad Al played football at Illinois and your brother Zak will likely go down as one of the best quarterbacks in Northwestern history. Was athletics an intense part of your upbringing or was it something your parents wouldve been fine with if you chose not be involved in sports?

Kustok: From as far back as I can remember until today, all my parents ever wanted for Zak and I was for us to be happy. It just so happened that athletics always seemed to be the thing that I couldnt get enough of. Both Zak and I were blessed enough to have parents who supported us at every step of our athletic careers and made sure it was our own love to play sports that kept us involved. Just as important, I was fortunate enough to have an older brother that let me follow him around EVERYWHERE and always let me be a part of games as long as I could hold my own. Without him, I never would have achieved the success Ive found in sports or in life. By his actions, I learned more about perseverance, grit and hard work than anyone could have tried to explain to me. He may have been my best friend, but Zak had no problem giving me a black eye, bloody nose, or broken finger if it meant winning. So yes, it was intense, but those days of growing up playing sports have created some of the best memories that will always make us laugh.

3) CSNChicago.com: What broadcaster (past or present) do you admire most and can honestly make you say had a genuine impact on why you chose to get into sports journalism?

Kustok: I have always been and continue to be impressed by Robin Roberts. A big part of my initial intrigue about her work had to do with her athletic skill on the basketball court, but the more I watched her on ESPN and now Good Morning America, I am enamored with her ability to connect with people. Robin not only does her research and clearly knows her stuff, but also has a way of expressing a deep love for her work, which makes you sincerely interested in what she has to say.

4) CSNChicago.com: When youre not in the studio or covering an event, whats your favorite summertime activity in Chicago?

Kustok: Where do I begin?! I may be biased, but in my opinion, theres not a place that beats summertime in Chicago. The street fests and concerts are always a blast, but more than anything, I just love to be around the lake and enjoy how truly beautiful this city really is.

5) CSNChicago.com: If you can sit down and interview any non-sports related individual in the history of mankind, who would it be and why?

Kustok: Thomas Edison. It is difficult to really wrap your head around the ways in which he influenced and shaped the world we live in today. It would not only be fascinating to hear of the countless inventions and devices that he created, but where the formulation of his ideas even began. Creativity is inspiring to me and a mind like his that was constantly questioning everything around him would be amazing to dig into. Edison is a hero for his inventions, yet found a way to fearlessly overlook failure upon failure until he got things right. A conversation with a man like that would be a dream.

BONUS QUESTIONCSNChicago.com: Any upcoming appearances you want to promote Sarah? CSNChicago.com readers want to hear about it!

Kustok: I am truly honored for the second year in a row to emcee the Alzheimers Association Memory Rock event on Thursday, September 2nd, from 7-10pm at Joes Sports Bar on Weed Street. Alzheimers is a disease that affects over 5 million Americans and is the 7th leading cause of death in our country. Memory Rock is an opportunity to join together and help fight this disease. Plus, the night itself is a blast featuring live music, raffles, cocktails and a room filled with some really great people! I encourage everyone to click on the link below for more information and to purchase your tickets in advance. Look forward to seeing everyone there!

Kustok LINKS:

Alzheimers Association Memory Rock event on Thu, Sept. 2

White Sox Top Prospects: Jameson Fisher faring well with transition to outfield

White Sox Top Prospects: Jameson Fisher faring well with transition to outfield

Jameson Fisher entered the 2016 MLB Draft with experience at only catcher and first base.

When the White Sox drafted him in the fourth round (116th overall), little did he know he wasn’t going to start off his professional career at either of those positions.

The White Sox transitioned the Southeastern Louisiana product to outfielder. Fisher has a .953 field percentage in 35 games played at left field in the Advanced Rookie Class.

The 22-year-old credits outfield instructor Aaron Rowand and Great Falls hitting coach Willie Harris for helping him with the switch.

Fisher is batting .335/.425/.466 with three homers and 21 RBI this season with the Great Falls Voyagers. His .335 average ranks second on the team and his 12 stolen bases ranks third.

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This season at Southeastern Louisiana, Fisher had the best batting average (.449) and on-base percentage (.577) in college baseball.

Fisher played catcher in 2014 but transitioned to first base following a shoulder injury, which cause him to miss the entire 2015 season.

The White Sox signed Fisher for $485,000 on June 16.

White Sox: Miguel Gonzalez will head out for rehab assignment

White Sox: Miguel Gonzalez will head out for rehab assignment

Miguel Gonzalez will head on a rehab assignment.

The White Sox pitcher has been on the 15-day disabled list since August 12 with a right groin strain.

Manager Robin Ventura said Gonzalez pitched in a simulated game on Saturday and it “went well.”

“Everything’s good,” Ventura said. “Next step is he’s going to go out and see how that goes.”

After a bullpen session on Wednesday, Gonzalez said he felt “a lot better” and “didn’t feel anything” while throwing in the bullpen.

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If all goes according to plan, Gonzalez would be one of a few roster moves after Sept. 1.

How the White Sox will balance the rotation in his return is uncertain.

“We talk about that all the time,” Ventura said, “just being able to find the right spot to put a guy in, if a guy’s gonna come out of it, if we’re just gonna leave everybody in there and do it.”

Gonzalez is 2-6 this season with a 4.05 ERA and 78 strikeouts in 19 games (18 starts).

How walk-on Rob Regan became a secret weapon for Notre Dame

How walk-on Rob Regan became a secret weapon for Notre Dame

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — How does a walk-on safety have a Notre Dame game ball despite never actually appearing in a game?

On the surface, that sophomore Rob Regan received that family heirloom last October after Notre Dame’s win over Navy may seem weird given he didn’t play a snap that day. But to everybody who sees the work Regan puts in at the LaBar Practice Complex, especially during weeks in which Notre Dame prepares to face an opponent that runs the triple option, it’s anything but strange. 

“There’s no question about it,” defensive end Isaac Rochell said. “He deserved it.”

“I personally don’t know who we would’ve given it to besides him,” cornerback Cole Luke added. “If we didn’t have Robby, we definitely wouldn’t have been as prepared as we were.”

For Rochell, Luke and the rest of the Irish defense, Regan’s work as Notre Dame’s scout team — er, “Swag Team” — quarterback during triple option preparation was an important key to solving the antiquated-yet-confounding offense. It’s an attack Notre Dame faces more than most other Power Five schools with Navy on the schedule every year, but heading into last season, coach Brian Kelly & Co. had to double down on their efforts to stop it.

Notre Dame’s defense didn’t put up much resistance against Navy in 2013 (34 points, 5.3 yards per play) and 2014 (39 points, 5.9 yards per play), and with Georgia Tech joining the Mids on the schedule last year, fixing those triple option defensive issues was a paramount concern. Army is on the schedule in 2016, too, so for the second consecutive year Notre Dame will face two triple option offenses.

Former defensive coach Bob Elliott moved off the field into a special assistant role, with one of his chief tasks being to figure out a way to better defend the triple option. But the decision of Regan, who successfully ran a triple option offense at Hinsdale South High School in the Chicago area, to walk on to the team turned out to be a huge boost to those efforts.

In the past, Notre Dame’s scout team quarterback for triple option weeks wasn’t a natural at running it and had to read each play off a card. That lack of fluidity not only meant fewer reps for the Irish defense, but the quality of them was way off what they’d face from Keenan Reynolds or whoever the opposing quarterback on Saturday would be.

Defensive line coach Keith Gilmore said those sub-optimal triple option looks in practice are relatively common across college football, which makes sense — it’s not an offense used much at the college level. So having someone on your roster who ran in in high school can be a boon to preparing to face it.

Regan doesn’t have to read off a card because he knows the offense so well. And that means more plays and a look closer to what Notre Dame sees in games.

“It changes everything,” Kelly said.

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Of course, the scout team work can’t completely replicate game action — Notre Dame doesn’t do nearly as much cut blocking in practice as it’ll see in games from option offenses, given the injury risk involved. And guys like Navy’s Reynolds and Tago Smith, Georgia Tech’s Justin Thomas and Army’s Ahmad Bradshaw run the option faster than Regan can in practice, too.

But Regan still gives Notre Dame as good an option look as it could ask for on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

“You can sit and practice against Navy out here and your scout team can do a good job, but it can’t touch what that look like at game time,” defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder said. “They’re exceptional at it, it’s happening so fast. But the faster we can get it, the closer we can move it to it, the better.”

Regan doesn’t shy away from absorbing hard hits too, which helps Notre Dame’s defense play faster in practice. Former Irish linebacker Jarrett Grace marveled at how Regan was able to take so much physical punishment during practice — “I don’t know if it’s extra ice, if it’s shaking up the Space Jam water to get jacked up out there,” he said — while junior linebacker Nyles Morgan said earlier this month Regan’s role is “one of the toughest jobs I’ve ever seen."

“I like giving hits and taking hits,” Regan said. “I’m a physical guy — when I’m running the ball, I’d rather run him over than juking him out.

“I enjoyed it. It definitely took a toll on my body, but I was glad to be able to contribute to those wins.”

Regan initially played wide receiver for Hinsdale South, but was moved to quarterback two games into his junior year. Hinsdale South went 5-4 his junior year, then went 9-3 and reached IHSA 6A quarterfinals in Regan’s senior year. Regan rushed for 18 touchdowns and averaged 5.6 yards per carry in 2014.

“He’s a football kid,” Hinsdale South coach Mike Barry said. “(He) grew up playing football, has football smarts. We refer to guys as instinctual at times — he’s one of those type of players where he just has a feel for the game."

Regan was thinking about attending high-caliber academic institutions like Penn, Princeton, Washington University in St. Louis and the University of Chicago before Notre Dame came along. Kelly was in the Chicago suburbs to scout four-star Hinsdale South defensive end Joshua King — who went on to commit to Michigan State — and was pitched on Regan by Barry.

Once Notre Dame came into the picture (Regan, as you’d guess from that above list of colleges he was considering, had the grades to get in) it was an easy choice for him to head to South Bend. The combination of academics, football, location and faith made Notre Dame “the best fit for me,” Regan, who’s studying chemical engineering, said.

“(He’s) somebody that recognizes that, first of all, what a degree from Notre Dame is going to do for him, and somebody that’s got a lot of pride in playing team sports,” Kelly said. “He loves to play team sports. He knows that he’s got value.”

Regan’s ultimate goal is to get into a game before his time at Notre Dame is up — he’s hoping to get on a special teams unit, make a difference there and hope to get in a game at safety.

But he’s already been recognized by coaches with an honor only a handful of others received in 2015. Notre Dame held Georgia Tech to 22 points — 15 of which came in garbage time — and Navy to 24 points, totals that represent the kind of improvements made by the Irish in defending the option.

And Regan, the 6-foot-2, 200 pound walk-on, played a major part in those improvements. Even if he didn’t play.

“It was awesome,” Regan said of receiving the Navy game ball. “I never expected that I would be recognized like that. It wasn’t just me, it was the whole Swag Team, but I guess I was kind of the leader of that team. It meant a lot that coach Kelly took the time to recognize our hard work.”

And as for the game ball, which is in a case back home in Darien, Ill.?

“It might be a hand-me down for a couple generations,” Regan said with a smile.