Episode 245: Maria Taylor – ESPN Gameday, Embracing The Grind, The Value Of Versatility

Maria Taylor is in her sixth season as a host analyst & reporter. In the fall of 2017 Maria entered a new role as co-host on ESPN’s College Gameday and sideline reporter for ABC’s Saturday Night Football.  In 2016, Taylor joined analysts Tim Tebow, Marcus Spears and Paul Finebaum as host of the SEC Network’s traveling pregame show SEC Nation. Taylor was also tabbed to host ESPN’s NCAA Women’s Basketball tournament selection show and coverage of the Final Four as well as report on Saturday Night Prime Men’s Basketball.  Taylor attended the University of Georgia where she played volleyball and basketball for the Bulldogs. She was named to the All-SEC volleyball team three times and was also a member of the USA A2 National Volleyball team. She graduated from Georgia in 2009 with a degree in broadcast news.

In 2015, Maria Co-Founded a non-profit organization called The Winning Edge Leadership Academy. The mission of the Winning Edge is to educate, foster professional mentoring relationships, provide networking opportunities and enrichment scholarships to ethnic minorities and women who are seeking careers in the sports industry.

Episode 245: Maria Taylor – ESPN Gameday, Embracing The Grind, The Value Of Versatility

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“I never said no to anything.  You have to be comfortable in the grind.  You can’t get discouraged.”

Show Notes:

  • How to quickly build rapport with the people you interview?
    • Be prepared with a purpose, truly try to learn about them as a person (quickly), it’s not just about their sport or their job.  Care about them as a person
    • Being viewed as an athlete — “It’s helpful working in the sports world that they know I played sports”
  • “As an athlete I was always a perfectionist, I always over prepare.”  — Maria sending her producers a copious amount of notes — thoughts on situations/games/ideas
  • How to earn promotions quickly? “I never said no to anything.  I was never too big for any game.”
    • Maria did high school football games, ACC digital.  She’s traveled everywhere, stayed in bad hotels, etc.
      • “You have to be comfortable in the grind, you can’t get discouraged.”
      • “If I’m not doing something (work wise), I feel wrong.”
  • Why Kirk Herbstreit is the best in the business — “He’s the most invested person I’ve ever seen.  He’s always the most prepared person.”
  • Adnan Virk “Always show up.” — “They remember how you made them feel.”  Be conscious of that
  • Balance?  It will never be perfectly balanced.  Think of it as a stew – vegetable and beef… Certain bites are vegetables and other times it’s beef.  That’s work-life balance.  There are moments where it is all work, all day, every day.  There are other times where you can relax at home.  It’s never a perfect 50 50 balance.
  • The story of Maria making the decision to be a sports broadcaster as a junior in college at Georgia… And then also earning her MBA as a backup plan!
    • She grew up loving sports.  Her dad played college sports.
  • Maria was recruited to play both volleyball and basketball at Georgia.
  • Our mutual feeling about the structure of being “in season” and how the routine helped us get better grades.
  • The first 90 minutes of Maria’s day:
    • Start the day with gospel music (worship/faith)
    • New York Times daily podcast
    • Joyce Meyer podcast
  • Why do multiple jobs? (Gameday, sideline reporter, women’s basketball studio host)
    • To diversify — “I don’t want to just be one thing.  It’s an opportunity to flex different muscles.”
    • “I try to investigate to find the best answer”
    • “I like challenges”
  • Person most enjoy interviewing?
    • Nick Saban.  “I try to steer him off the line he’s trying to stay on.”
    • Receiving coaching as a broadcaster… Who provides it?
      • SEC network producers
      • Feedback is just as important to what you put into your body.  It needs to be healthy and helpful — “What are we filling our minds with?”
  • How to handle “Twitter haters?”
    • “Sometimes I’ll put them on blast…”
  • What is an ESPN Gameday production meeting like?
    • A cast of characters – (listen around the 43:00 minute mark to hear the inside scoop)
  • Winning Edge Leadership Academy
    • Helping young women and minorities in broadcasting
    • Focused on student athletes
    • Doing a retreat in Miami
  • The sense of responsibility Maria feels as an African American woman
    • “Being black…. Half time spent assimilating and half time spent helping your people.”
    • The Jemele Hill story at ESPN… Maria’s reactions

“You don’t want to be just one thing.  I like the opportunity to flex different muscles.” — Maria Taylor on her versatility as a broadcaster

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