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Robin Roberts knows strategy. As a star athlete, she learned the importance of having a game plan. As a sportscaster, those same rules have led to her career victory.
As co-host of ESPN’s SportsCenter and ABC’s Wide World of Sports, the 36year-old Roberts brings with her the voice of experience. At the age of 10, she knocked down pins as a Mississippi State Bowling Champion. Later, at Southeastern Louisiana University, she sunk baskets to become the school’s third highest scorer and rebounder.
Bitten by the broadcasting bug while tagging along with her older sister, Sally-Ann, a television resorter/anchor. Roberts chose communications as a major in college. During her junior year, she marched into a country-western radio station to apply for a position as sports director. The position didn’t exist, but when she agreed to deejay on the weekends, one was created.
During that time, Roberts’ friends often threw towels at her as she jokingly signed off each show with “…and this is Robin Roberts for ESPN.” The fact is, she was only semi-joking, for her mission statement was already committed to paper. It read: “ESPN by 1990.” My coaches taught me that talk is for dreams, but when you write it down, it becomes a goal,” says Roberts. The paper on which she wrote that goal is still on display in a family scrapbook.
After graduating in 1983, Roberts turned down a high-paying news job and, instead, headed for the smaller markets in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. “I wanted to take my cuts in the minors,” she explains. At $5.50 per hour, Roberts was the weekend sports anchor for WDAM-TV. Breaking down barriers came easily to the Air Force brat, whose father was a Tuskegee Airman.
After two-year stints at television stations in Biloxi, Mississippi and Nashville, Tennessee, Roberts received two job offers–one from WAGA-TV in Atlanta and the other from her dream station, ESPN. But she took the job in Atlanta. Besides, it wasn’t 1990 yet.
“I knew that if I was to have any staying power, I needed more experience,” reflects Roberts. While in Atlanta, Roberts won fans by covering major league teams and doing local radio. It also didn’t hurt that the 5-foot-10 Roberts, beat NBA All-Star Dominique Wilkins in a free throw shoot-out.
In 1990–like clockwork–Roberts fulfilled her mission, scoring again with ESPN. Yet this time with clout. As the host for ESPN’s overnight SportsCenter, she moved to prime time a month later with Sunday SportsDay and NFL PrimeTime.
Over the past seven years, the two-time Emmy winner has hosted many specials, including ESPN’s coverage of the Olympics and her own show, In the Sportslight. In 1995, Roberts joined ABCs Wide World of Sports, nailing a six-year, $3.9 million dual contract with ESPN and ABC.
At every stop along the way, Roberts has taken risks. Her creed: “I’d prefer to regret the things I did rather than the things I didn’t.” An important ingredient to her winning strategy has been the influence from her many mentors, one of whom was the late Arthur Ashe. Today, she