Professional sports are a big part of daily life for Kayla Knierim, but the Fox Sports Midwest Girl still considers herself a Republic Tiger.
Her life now might take her from a Cardinals game to a Blues game in the same afternoon, but it wasn’t that long ago that she was more at home cheering on the Republic Tigers.
Kayla is a 2006 graduate of Republic High School. She said she grew up playing sports at Miller Park and dancing at Springfield Ballet.
Even then, as a young Republic Tiger, Kayla had a dream of being on TV, her mom Diane Knierim said. She wanted to be on “Full House” with Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen.
“I thought it was cute, because when I was little I wanted to be on “Brady Bunch,” and I thought, ‘well, she’ll grow out of it.’ But, she really didn’t.”
In high school, Kayla was one of the Tigerettes on the pom squad.
Pom coach Cindy Mais said Kayla was very easy going, disciplined in her work ethic and kind.
“She was just a bubbly, wonderful person to be around,” she said.
From Republic, Kayla moved on to the University of Missouri where she kept performing as one of the school’s Golden Girls as she earned a degree in communications.
Her dreams still centered around becoming an actress, so Kayla said she moved to Los Angeles, got an agent and picked up a few part time jobs while she pursued her dream.
The beginning steps were falling into place, but Kayla said something was missing.
“I missed my family back home in the Midwest,” she said.
On top of the homesickness, Diane said the three jobs it took to pay for the cost of west coast living were stressful and were starting to burn Kayla out.
After her frequent flights home started to become a familiar pattern, Kayla said she was encouraged to either move back or make the expensive visits less often.
Kayla said she began reaching out to connections—people she’d met at Mizzou or in L.A. that she thought might know of a job-opening closer to home in the Midwest.
She got an interview, which got her a second interview, which didn’t go quite as well. So she kept looking.
It was just five hours after she’d asked her college dance coach if she knew of any openings that she learned of the opening with Fox Sports Midwest.
It was the perfect combination of her desire to be on TV, her passion for sports and her communications background.
Kayla said after a screen test in L.A., an interview with the vice president of marketing and a week of waiting later she had the job.
As one of two Fox Sports Midwest Girls, Kayla is the fans’ connection to the Cardinals, the Blues, the Rams and the Mizzou Tigers.
“A lot of it is social media related,” Kayla said.
Every day she posts to the Fox Sports Midwest Girls Facebook and Twitter accounts and helps guide fans through the Fox Sports Midwest TV lineup. Any time Fox has a promotion at a game, she said she’s usually there helping out.
Kayla’s dad, Ken Knierim, is a sports enthusiast—one that Republic residents might recognize as the “Voice of the Tigers” who has announced RHS football and basketball games for more than 20 years, as a former school board member or as a former KY3 meteorologist.
In addition to the common ground that provides conversation fodder when father and daughter catch up, Ken said it has been neat to see Kayla achieve her dreams.
“It’s one of those things as a parent, you hope that whatever they go in to they’re able to be successful and do well,” Ken said.
It’s a big step from the RHS sporting events Kayla found familiar less than a decade ago. There are a few things she attributes to her success, and she said one of the most important is her drive.
“If you have a goal or a dream, you can’t give up,” she said. “... It’s all about how bad you want it. I’ve just kind of had that relentless attitude.”
She’s had the drive, but Kayla said the confidence hasn’t always been there.
“I came from being such a shy kid,” she said. “My mom had to come to school sometimes when I was little, because I was so shy.”
Kayla said everything she’s done in life—from performing with the Tigerettes, to her college experiences, to living in L.A.—have slowly added to her confidence along the way.
From here, Kayla said she hopes to someday become a sideline reporter, but she’ll always remember her Republic roots.
“My friends and my family are there,” she said. “It’s home. There’s nothing like home.”