Beautiful, smart, athletic and can talk sports – what more can one say?
ESPN analyst and reporter Maria Taylor is a winner no matter the arena.
Monarch Magazine: Growing up was there a push towards sports or did you stumble into it
Maria Taylor: I always played a sport growing up. I started out in softball and then when my family moved to Georgia my next-door neighbor invited me to play in her church basketball league and I instantly fell in love with the sport. And going into my freshman year of high school I started playing volleyball and originally it was just to get out of basketball pre-season conditioning, but I ended up falling in love with the sport too.
Monarch Magazine: Volleyball is just as American as apple pie, but there don’t seem to be a lot of African Americans involved within the sport. During your time playing, were there any experiences that you felt pushback or negativity due to race?
Maria Taylor: No. I actually played on an all-black club team called Atlanta Boom. Volleyball is a very expensive sport to play and so a lot of times minorities do not play club because of the pricey fees. But my club helped out parents who couldn’t afford to pay. We practiced on the south side of Atlanta where fewer girls were exposed to the sport and my club director was motivated to making sure minorities had the opportunity to play volleyball. We always had our own songs and other teams would cheer us on. We thrived in the understanding that we were different and our coach would always tell us don’t just be the black volleyball team. Be an excellent volleyball team.
Monarch Magazine: Did you always have your sights on ESPN?
Maria Taylor: When I was a junior in college I filled out a “Get to know the players” questionnaire for the volleyball team, and as my dream job I wrote ESPN reporter so my sights have always been focused on working at the Worldwide Leader. Monarch Magazine: How did you hone your interviewing skills? Maria Taylor: I think I’m still working on that. Every sit down interview I do teaches me something about how to engage the subject and how to adjust my interviewing style to best suit the individual. I also watch a lot of different interviews not only in sports but in news or documentaries to see what others use as their best practices.
Monarch Magazine: You make this look easy, but as we all know that means you are simply that good. Take us through a day of how you prepare for a show.
Maria Taylor: For the women’s basketball selection show preparation starts a week early. As everyone is finishing up their conference championships I’m taking notes of the teams that I know will receive an automatic bid and trying to get some good nuggets of information on each team. The day of the show we usually have a production meeting and also have a teleconference with the NCAA selection committee to best understand how they came to the conclusions they have. And then I work with our researcher to provide a fact about every one of the sixty-four teams in the field during the selection shoe. I write all of my own scripts so it probably took four hours of just working through information and facts to get it all done.
Monarch Magazine: Being a female athlete do you believe you are often typecast?
Maria Taylor: Not necessarily. I think it is a positive thing to be a female athlete in this industry. The respect I receive from coaches and players is a great perk, but also a responsibility that I do not take lightly. I have also worked very hard to be perceived as well rounded. I did not just want to be an analyst; I wanted to prove that I could also host or report. I think former athletes, male and female, do often get type cast as just analyst.
Monarch Magazine: Women are breaking new ground pushing the ceiling, making what seemed impossible the norm each day. Who would you name as a few women that broke ground for you?
Maria Taylor: Lisa Salters, Robin Roberts, Pam Oliver, Carla Williams. These are all black women who have boldly gone where no other before them has and I am thankful that I have the great examples and representation that makes me believe I can follow in their footsteps and create my own career goals.
Monarch Magazine: You are unashamed to claim that you are a believer in Christ. Has this been challenging in your career?
Maria Taylor: No. I think that my faith in Christ is the reason I have been allowed to have so many different career options and favor in broadcasting. Television is a fickle career that can be here today and gone tomorrow just because the preferences of fans or viewers or bosses change. I am by no means perfect in my faith, or perfect in my career, but I know that if I have a relationship with Christ that “all things work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose.”
Monarch Magazine: You also have a non-profit organization called The Winning Edge Leadership Academy. Can you share what caused you to launch a nonprofit and what you would like to accomplish with it?
Maria Taylor: I noticed throughout my career that the diversity on the field of play did not match the diversity that we see in athletic administration or in decision-making roles in sports, and I wanted to be a catalyst for change in diversity in sport. Our goal is to be the bridge between quality minority candidates and teams, colleges and universities dedicated to hiring a diverse workforce. I have a passion for developing young people and I have a heart for student athletes especially. I hope we continue to build a bridge between minority candidates and sports industry jobs.
Monarch Magazine: What does the future hold for you?
Maria Taylor: I hope my future includes being a part of content creation and working towards developing new sport media, whether it’s in the podcast, digital, or linear space. And I hope that future involves continuing to work on my craft as a broadcaster and using my platform to lift up the next generation of sports industry professionals.