Sports Spectrum Magazine Summer 2021

ESPN's Maria Taylor says identity in Christ has helped her in her broadcasting career

On Monday Night, as you watch Alabama and Georgia face off in College Football’s National Championship, keep an eye out for Maria Taylor doing sideline interviews and covering the game for ESPN.

Maria is a graduate of the University of Georgia, where she played volleyball and basketball from 2005-2009. She was named to the All-SEC volleyball team three times and was also a member of the USA A2 National Volleyball team. The Alpharetta, Georgia native graduated from Georgia in 2009 with a degree in broadcast news and then returned to the University to pursue her Master of Business Administration, which she completed in May of 2013. 

Maria’s broadcasting career started to take shape when she was hired by ESPN in 2013. Since then she has worked her way up the ranks to now being a part of ESPN’s signature college football show, College Gameday and doing sideline work for both college football and college basketball.  

On the Chris Craft podcast, Maria shared about her faith, how it impacts her work daily and where she first was introduced to Jesus.

“I didn’t grow up as per se in the church when you think every single Sunday you wake up and go to church,” Taylor told Craft. “We would go on Easter and maybe Christmas or Christmas Eve. I didn’t even understand the true meaning of Christmas or what we were celebrating.”

Taylor didn’t have a walk with Christ through high school despite going to a few FCA events but it was in college when she was introduced to church by her best friend and teammate Katie and then things began to change.

“I enjoyed being there and seeing what these people seemingly had. Everyone seemed nice. From that I started going to our Bible studies with a group of student athletes. It was all women. It was a very comfortable setting, you could be very open and honest. And finally we started having real discussions and that’s how I was kind of introduced to what having a relationship with Christ looked like.”

Maria’s faith walk has grown through the years and she’s now comfortable in understanding who Christ is and the difference between religion and relationship.

“We can’t do anything to be loved anymore. It’s about knowing that God is worthy and He wants a relationship with us,” Taylor shared. “It was a long and tedious journey and figuring out that I’m not the athleticism, I’m not any of the skills I have. I am who God is in me. And that’s it. That has helped me a lot.”

Taylor says her identity in Christ has helped her deal with the criticisms that come her way everyday in her broadcasting career and being a public personality.

“It’s very subjective,” Taylor shared. “Sometimes people can hate you and sometimes they can love you and you can find worth in that and that can be dangerous and deadly. It can lead to anxiety and depression. I still deal with it but it’s nice having that backbone of a relationship with Christ to fall back on during those times where I feel inadequate. You just have to remember that you are more than adequate. You have to feel that way.”

In 2014, Maria had a conversation with Corinne Milien, who was working at ESPN as an events manager and teaching sport management classes as an adjunct professor at Johnson C Smith University, an HBCU in Charlotte.

During their conversation they talked about the lack of minorities and women in their respective fields of sports business, and discussed the gap of experience many of them faced as these students started their journey into the sports industry. They wanted to do something about it.  Maria and Corinne discussed how mentors and an influential network helped them, and wanted to pay it forward.

Out of that conversation birthed “The Winning Edge.”

In August 2015, Maria and Corinne launched their first class of game changers, providing 11 college students with industry professionals as mentors. Together, with a network of influence, these mentors served as a community that guided women and minority students, providing insight and a variety of opportunities to gain experience. Their mission was simple, change the landscape of the sports industry to reflect the diversity on the playing field.

For more information on “The Winning Edge,” you can check them out at their website http://winningedgeleadership.org