The Official Website of the Southeastern Conference
The Official Website of the Southeastern Conference

'The More Experience The Better'

19 days ago
Georgia Athletics
Photo: Georgia Athletics

The following story, written by John Frierson, was originally published on georgiadogs.com.

Jaiden Fields wants to be on camera one day. A redshirt sophomore on the Georgia softball team, Fields wants to be the next Maria Taylor.

"I do. That is the goal," Fields said of following in the footsteps of Taylor, the former Georgia volleyball (three times All-SEC) and basketball player that has gone on to an excellent career in sports broadcasting with ESPN and ABC.

"I feel like a lot of people want to do that so we'll just see."

"We get a lot of 'I want to be the next Maria Taylor,'" said Corinne Milien, executive director of the Winning Edge Leadership Academy, a non-profit organization she co-founded with Taylor in 2015 to develop diverse leaders in the sports and entertainment business.

Milien said it's not easy to be the next Taylor, and for that reason, Winning Edge tries "to curb that a little bit" when aspiring broadcasters participate in their programs. That means trying to "get them to think about all the different opportunities, especially in broadcast production, and getting them to understand that having a pretty face is a very small piece of the pie."

Fields, from Kennesaw, Ga., is a utility player for the Bulldogs, capable of filling several different roles for the team. One thing Winning Edge does is try to make their "Game Changers" multi-talented, as well.

"Being able to edit your own work, being able to produce, being able to do a lot of different things that are the skills that are going to make a difference for you," Milien said.

Over the summer, Fields did a month-long internship with Winning Edge, and she expanded her skill set by doing something she'd never done before. Fields edited the Winning Edge podcast, #WeChangeGame, an 18-episode series that was hosted by another intern, a volleyball player at Oregon.

"I was able to do graphic design and work with different editing tools that I've never really messed with before," Fields said. "Overall, it was really good, and it was nice to be taught by some great leaders and just strong women overall. I really enjoyed it. ... It was pretty easy to catch on to it, and it was cool using different tools that I hadn't heard of before."

So how'd she do?

"She had some experience with editing but she didn't have experience with the graphic design that she had to do a little bit, and crafting the podcast episode descriptions and all that," Milien said. "She got a real dose of that for 18 episodes and she did a phenomenal job."

It may seem that Taylor went from playing for Georgia to working as a host or sideline reporter on SEC Network, and then on to hosting "NBA Countdown" or working the sideline on primetime college football games in the blink of an eye, and she did move up the ranks quickly, she also put in her time early on doing the less glamorous parts of broadcasting.

"Maria will be the first to tell you, she was carrying her own camera, editing, doing all that stuff early on," Milien said. "She definitely did a lot of work that a lot of people don't see, and she's always the first to let the kids know that it doesn't just happen overnight."

Fields knows reaching her goal of doing sports on TV won't be easy, which is why she was interested in participating in the internship, to gain skills and listen and learn.

"I'm trying new things and this internship led me in a different direction, so I'm just trying to experience things other than (being on camera) in the journalism world," she said. "I'm not strictly, I must be on TV, I must be Maria Taylor. We'll see what happens and I'll continue to try different things, but that is the overall goal, to do broadcast."

Fields has a unique perspective on journalism, having seen it from both sides. Her older brother is Justin Fields, the former Georgia quarterback now playing at Ohio State.

"Seeing it from the other side, I think that's what got me really interested in this whole thing," she said. "We'd have people come to our house and he'd do interviews and I'd just watch them ask questions. I always thought it was really interesting, how they put a story together. I think he did have some influence on my interest in journalism and broadcasting."

Fields is not the first Georgia student-athlete to work with Winning Edge. Sprinter Victoria Powell, who earned a journalism degree from Baylor and is now running for Georgia and working on her master's, shadowed Taylor last year when "College GameDay" was in town for the Notre Dame game. She also spent time in the production truck and got to film a few things, Milien said, that were shown on TV.

In addition, Kenneth Towns, a former walk-on wide receiver who is now an academic counselor with the football program, has participated in a couple of the Winning Edge's retreats.

"We also had the opportunity to come to campus and have a conversation with a group of student-athletes about what their career is going to be like after college," Milien said. "The Dawgs definitely come through and we try to support them as often as we can."

For Fields, who has barely scratched the surface on the softball diamond and on her march toward being a broadcaster, she knows she's just getting started.

"I'm part of the Winning Edge family now which is really nice and comforting to hear," she said. "I could definitely see myself doing another internship with them next summer, and if not maybe something else. I definitely do want to keep on growing my resume and getting more and more experience. The more experience the better."