Meet Sarah Spain: ESPN anchor, epic athlete, and IVY member (Chicago) who self-describes as “unusually tall, remarkable sarcastic, and absurdly competitive.”
A former heptathlete and a huge Chicago sports fan, she has dedicated her career to promoting equality in sports and giving back to the larger community. Read about her top initiatives, and connect with her below!
What should members know about Hear the Cheers?
My co-worker Julie Foudy, who is a former Olympic gold medalist and soccer star, started a charity with her 5-year old daughter, who once told her she wanted to sell her barbies to help kids who didn’t have toys. The idea of the charity was: “kids can choose to matter.” I thought it was a really cool campaign! Learning to get involved in philanthropic efforts at a young age is really important.
I don’t have kids myself, but I had met a seventh grader named Eliza Peters. She was a huge sports fan and wanted to be a news reporter, so her dad e-mailed me saying that his daughter would love to spend a day with me in the studio and learn what I do. They were the nicest family in the world and I thought Eliza would be great for the program. She has hearing disabilities, and I learned that most insurance doesn’t cover hearing aids—which is crazy! You can break your arm and have insurance, but you can be born with hearing problems and you can’t get insurance. You have to pay up to $4,000 per ear for a hearing aid. We decided that our “Choose to Matter” campaign was going to be centered on raising money for young athletes who have hearing loss. We called it “Hear the Cheers!” It’s crucial to be able to hear if you want to listen to you coach, or your teammates, or the crowd rooting for you. These kids probably couldn’t play sports otherwise.
As a former competitive athlete, what are the ways sports impact a person?
Growing up with sports was key to my self-esteem. I was a very tall (5’11” by 8th grade), dorky kid with unruly curly hair and a tomboy spirit. Excelling at athletics, finding friendships with teammates and being a leader on the court and the field gave me a ton of confidence. An Ernst & Young survey from 2013 found that 96% of women in the C-suite played sports at some level. The confidence, discipline, hard work, leadership skills, teamwork skills and the ability to overcome obstacles are all skills learned in sports and carried over into the business world.
Would you say sexism still exists in sports today?
In addition to the anchoring I do, I am a columnist for ESPNw.com, which is geared toward female athletes and sports fans. The more I write and the more I become a spokesperson, the more I realize that there are still so many inequalities. People still view sports as a male world. It’s crazy to me, because growing up, it didn’t occur to me that I couldn’t do what anyone else could do. I’m always pushing for better coverage, and especially more well rounded coverage—so talking less about how hot the female athletes are, and instead focusing on how talented they are. There’s a lot of BS you have to deal with, but you have to push through it, because you’ll start clearing a path for other women.
How did you get to ESPN?
I actually grew up wanting go be on SNL, but I was always an athlete, so the acting programs always conflicted with sports. I was an English major and had a creative side, so I finally just moved to LA after school and tried acting. I did Second City and the whole conservatory track there, which I loved and excelled at, but I wasn’t as good at acting as I would have liked, and I also didn’t particularly like the industry. Then, I took a hosting class in which I hosted a fake sports show. After that I thought: why wasn’t I focused on this the whole time? At the time, I didn’t see a lot of women on TV hosting the way I wanted to. There weren’t really any women who were sarcastic and funny and knowledgeable at the same time. I decided to do it and just be myself.
Collaborate with Sarah:
- If members have compelling prize to donate to a Hear the Cheers fundraising raffle, please connect with Sarah on IVY! Cool prizes can include sports tickets, signed jerseys, and restaurant certificates – anything that would encourage people to donate.
- You can also check out the Hear the Cheers campaign on its website.
- Please help spread the word by sharing the campaign with your friends!
In the meantime, catch Sarah on ESPN here: