Robin Roberts: From The Heart
Part 1 of 3
Roberts will appear in Indianapolis on Friday, June 22, to share those insights and thoughts pertaining to her book, when she takes part in the Fever's Inspiring Women Night. Prior to her visit, she talked with FeverBasketball.com's Kara Albert, as part of a three-part Q&A detailing her career, her life as a former basketball player and sports broadcaster, her new life as co-host of ABC News' Good Morning America, and her thoughts on success.
Part II will appear Sunday, June 17. Part III will appear Monday, June 18.
Robin Roberts: “Well, I think my sports background has truly helped me in every step of the way. Just the basic skills I learned as an athlete, have helped me first of all with ESPN. And also in being bold enough to make the transition and having the courage really, that we look for in making life-altering changes; which I felt helped me transition from sports to news – which I never planned on, never thought. I just wanted to be an athlete pure and simple from the get-go. That changed from wanting to be an athlete, to wanting to be a sports journalist, to wanting to be a journalist. Just the intangibles, that for generations men have learned from playing athletics, to go on and be successful in business and in life. I really feel that it has been the strong foundation of all my decision-making, and all the good things that have come my way.”
FB: What gave you the courage to take the next step and move onto news instead of solely sports?
RR: “It was not being afraid anymore. I remember having a conversation with Billie Jean King because I was getting a lot of feedback from people and from my family as well. They were all saying, ‘You can’t do that, you can’t leave! You’ve worked so hard and it’s something you want to do!’ I was working with the WNBA and had really worked very hard in helping to lift the profile of women’s sports. I thought I would be seen as abandoning that, and I didn’t want to do that. So I go to Billie Jean in part because I think that she is going to confirm this to me, so I can take the easy route and stay doing what I was doing, and she did just the opposite. She basically said, ‘Snap out of it! Of course you should go to news. It’s a bigger platform, you’ll be able to take us with you. You are just afraid, as we all are about making changes.’
“So I just had to realize that I was limiting myself by just doing sports. I still do it. I still talk about it and do sports stories, but they’re not the only stories that I do anymore. Once I wrapped my mind around that and realized that I was limiting myself, I didn’t want to do that anymore. [The decision] became a little bit easier.”
FB: You have covered such a wide range of topics and issues on Good Morning America and on ESPN. How do you prepare for a particular interview or story?
RR: “Preparation. As an athlete, what do you do? You scout your opponent, you’ve got a game plan. It’s the same way when I was a sports journalist and it’s doggone the same way now. When I am going to talk to anyone – I don’t care if it’s a sports figure or it’s a politician or if it’s an entertainer. It doesn’t matter who the person is. I do as much research as I can on the person and do as much research as I can on the story that I want to do. I am at my best – and I’m the same way on the court – when I am prepared. If I hadn’t put in the work, oh boy, I was a little knee-shaking. That’s how I look at it. I read as much as I can on the subject I’m talking about. It’s just preparation. It’s really feeling that I have a wealth of knowledge of the subject matter. That gives me confidence.”
FB: What are some highlights and favorite aspects of your current role at Good Morning America?
RR: “No two days are the same. I love it. There’s something to be said about news – it’s definitely new!
“You know when the WNBA finals are going to take place, for instance. You may not know who is going to be playing in them – except for the Indiana Fever this year, we do know that! Except for the teams, it’s pretty much set in stone. The Olympics are here, Wimbledon is here. With the news, you have to be so reactive. I like the fact that I can … a few weeks ago, for example, I was having dinner with the Queen of England at the White House. Then I went out and played golf with Tiger Woods, and then I’m talking with Michelle Obama, the wife of Barak Obama, doing her first TV interview. I’m so appreciative of the opportunities and just the difference everyday, what it brings. I never know, and I am truly appreciative of that.”
FB: How did you come to choose broadcast media as a career?
RR: “Well, first and foremost, I wanted to be an athlete. If someone said, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?,’ my answer was, ‘be a pro-athlete.’ Then they’d say, ‘Well what’s the sport?,’ and I would say, ‘I don’t care!’ I just wanted to be a pro-athlete.
“I realized in high school that yeah, you can have heart and desire and all that, but if you don’t have ability to go along with it, it’s more difficult. My older sister, who is eight years my senior, is a journalist. She has a morning TV show in New Orleans, and she is so passionate about journalism and always had been. She was the one that kind of peaked my interest about broadcasting and it was very helpful to have a sibling that was excelling, and so generous in teaching and wanting to help me see the opportunities there. Initially, because of her, I combined my passion for sports and my interest in journalism. Then that quickly turned into a passion for journalism that I had.”
FB: What were some of your other goals as a child growing up in Mississippi?
RR: “Wimbledon! (laughing) Really, a lot of them were sports related. I wanted to go to college, I wanted to get a college degree. I can remember that. I just think that there really has to be a focus and a goal. It can’t be taken for granted. Especially how competitive it is in the work environment, I don’t care what you want to pursue. I always used to dream of being a professional bowler, then it was to win Wimbledon, then it was to be an Olympian. So they were always pretty much sports-related, the dreams and goals that I had.”
FB: Did that help you with the idea of writing your first book? Did any other things come into play when deciding to write a book and what to write it about?
RR: “The book was really because of Hurricane Katrina. It was truly just being so devastated by witnessing it first-hand the morning after. Being in the region for so long because of family and friends, I was at a loss for the first time in a long time. It was the first time in a long time that I had felt helpless and hopeless. I started keeping a journal during this time just to kind of help me and to remind me, ok I’ve been in low places before and low spots in my life, so what did I do? Just recounting in my mind and writing down some of those life skills and life lessons that I have learned and that have helped me and that’s pretty much where the book was born.”
FB: What is the goal of the book? Who do you hope to reach with your book?
RR: “That’s a really good question, because originally I thought it was going to be for the college grad, or someone that’s starting off in life and the book would be really helpful, and I feel that it is. But it turned out that my goal was that I can’t be a psychic. I don’t know what’s on people’s minds. I don’t know what issues people are dealing with. But I do know that we all have Hurricane Katrinas in our lives.
“I literally had Hurricane Katrina, but we all have that something that just knocks you to your core and knocks you down. So my hope for the book is just for wherever anybody is in their life, whether just starting out, whether they’ve lost their home because of a storm, that they can find and glean some things from the book that will help them get back up on their feet and go for it and to realize no matter what we lose, we still have blessings. I just realized how abundantly blessed I was and I want everyone to feel that way. I want everyone, no matter where they are or what they’re doing, to have the same feeling that I have when I get up at 3:45 every morning and head off to work, that this is a good life and I am very thankful and I want people to feel that way about their situation.”