ESPN Anchor Nicole Briscoe Gives It Her All in Sports and Motherhood 
By Lia Kizilbash Gillet

Nicole Briscoe shares her perspective on "having it all." (Photo Credit: Daniel Stark/ESPN Images)

After years of dedication and hard work, ESPN SportsCenter anchor Nicole Briscoe is confident in her role.

To outsiders, Briscoe may have it all. She has a successful career at ESPN that will span 20 years at the conclusion of her next contract. She is married to eight-time IndyCar winner Ryan Briscoe and is the mother of two happy daughters, Blake and Finley. She loves her New England community and is even parent/teacher organization president at her daughters' school. 

Despite Briscoe’s confidence, she says “having it all” is impossible and candidly shares her perspective on being a working mom and a woman in sports.

“First of all, the concept of ‘having it all’ is a myth,” Briscoe declared. “What is ‘it’ and who defines ‘it’? And ‘it all’ might be different for you than it is for me.”

Instead of trying to have it all, Briscoe is giving it her all.

As the late-night SportsCenter host, Briscoe is on air at 11:00 p.m. EST. Formerly host of the morning show, she has the ease and confidence not only from years of experience, but also from writing everything she says on air in her own words. Doing so contributes to the authenticity she gives viewers.

“There was a time in my career where I said, ‘There is TV me, and then there is real me.’ In some way, I think that was to protect myself. That way, if you didn’t like the TV me, that was fine because you didn’t like the real me.”

Laughing, Briscoe recalls an early memory on camera while working for WREX in Rockford, Illinois, where she interned and started her career.

“It was a windy night, and a gust came by, and my hair blew all over my face, and I just stood there and kept talking,” she said. “I was just trying to do the TV thing and forgot to be human at that moment and that mistakes happen. Obviously, I should have just swept my hair away from my face. Bloopers happen on a nightly basis; I just try to own them now and move on.”

Today, Briscoe embraces herself and says who you see on TV may be a more pronounced version of herself, but she is the same person when the camera’s red light is on as when it is off. 

Since she was 11 years old, Briscoe had aspired to be on TV as a "“Monday Night Football” sideline reporter. Growing up in Roscoe, Illinois, she would get together with her grandparents and cousins every Sunday during football season to watch the game. At first, for Briscoe, football meant spending time with her family. When she got a little older she became passionate about it.

While watching the "Oprah Winfrey Show," her mom said to her, “You know, you could do something like that one day.” She pointed out women like sportscaster Lesley Visser and sports journalist Hannah Storm, and Briscoe began to idolize both.

“My mom didn’t know at the time that she was planting a massive dream inside me,” Briscoe said.

After high school and while attending community college, Briscoe’s internship at WREX became a production assistant role and quickly evolved to other roles at the station. She attended NIU while working to gain the real-world experience that earned her a position in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, as a reporter for WANE-TV. From there, she worked at WISH-TV in Indianapolis, Indiana, catapulting her career into racing.

“I had never been to a race or had even seen a race car on a track before,” she said. “But the Indiana Pacers were in the playoffs, and the established sports broadcaster went to South Beach to cover the Pacers, and so, by circumstance, I was sent to the Indy 500 as the newbie. I should probably thank him because it really turned into something. The Indy 500 is the crown jewel of racing, and that single opportunity turned into another opportunity and another.”

Covering racing was nothing like covering football, but Briscoe’s hard work and willingness to be comfortable with being uncomfortable contributed to her success. She became the pit reporter for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network. Eventually, she left Indianapolis for a role at Speed Channel, where she co-hosted multiple programs before landing at ESPN as the host of NASCAR Now.

“Early on in my career, I was advised to take chances and say ‘yes’ to every opportunity; because you never know who you are going to meet or what door will open,” she said. “In the end, even if you take a chance and fail miserably, you will learn something from it.”

Briscoe often feels the same way about being a working mother. She says she constantly strives to keep her “tiny humans” happy and ensure they know how loved they are.

“I struggled with infertility, so after miscarriages and years of infertility treatments, and just so many tears, when I became a mom, I think I may have been in even more awe than the average new mom is, and I wasn’t going to take any of it for granted,” she shared. 

Working nights on ESPN allows her to be present at home when her daughters wake up in the morning, when they get home from school and for dinner most nights. Briscoe says the hours are hard; sometimes she lacks sleep, but the schedule allows her to be around most of the day. Despite being a present mother, she said she has, at times, been treated differently than her male counterparts.

Nicole Briscoe returns to NIU to speak on a panel for National Girls and Women in Sports Day.

“When I do have to travel, I often get asked, ‘Who has the kids?’” she shared. “Or I get asked about juggling parenting and my career. Or the mom guilt I must feel when I am away. My husband travels for a living, and I have never once heard somebody ask him, ‘How’s the dad guilt being away from your kids?’ No one puts that pressure on dads. Questions are framed differently for working moms.” 

Briscoe says that when trying to balance everything, guilt sometimes comes with it, but it’s a guilt she puts on herself.

“I make many decisions based on the people who live in my house,” she said. “Sometimes I miss a dance class, but I also make big decisions—sometimes in my career—for their benefit. That goes back to ‘having it all’ and knowing that what’s important now might not be the same thing every day or next year; your goals in life change and evolve. Trying to have it all is an impossible standard to live up to.”

Recently returning to NIU to participate in a panel discussion celebrating National Girls and Women in Sports Day, Briscoe fielded questions relating to the perception of women in sports and taking an active role in supporting women.

“Women have a seat at the proverbial table,” she said. “Now we need to make sure women are heard. It’s really important that we support women, but it’s also really important that we support women who are doing the work.”

Briscoe values hard work and wants to instill this in her daughters.

“I want them to respect me because I think kids learn a lot from their moms," she said. "I try to take care of myself, set goals for myself, and push boundaries whether it’s at work or setting a goal like running a marathon. They see me working hard to achieve that and see all the different parts of me that make me this whole person.”

When asked what keeps her going, she replied, “I genuinely like what I’m doing; I work with great people. It’s fun! Most of the time I get to go to work, I don’t have to go to work. I do it for me; it’s something I love.” 

In a business that is constantly changing, where people come and go, Briscoe’s longevity is not something to be overlooked. 

“I don’t think you can keep going in something if you don’t love it, you’ll eventually fade away, you’ll burn out, it just won’t sustain you,” she said.

Briscoe serves as a reminder that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to success. Instead, it's about giving it your all and being true to yourself.