In 2016, ESPN’s Coordinating Producer, Hilary Guy, had just started at the company when she found out she was pregnant.
“I was mortified. My bosses were all men. They were wonderful, but I was so worried about having those personal conversations with them,” Guy said.
Guy decided to continue working, and was assigned the 2016 NBA Finals between the Warriors and Cavaliers – even with her due date being two weeks after the scheduled championship game. She ended up going into labor six weeks early during Game 4.
“I was watching [Game 4] when I was in labor. I didn’t want to tell anyone I was in labor, because I was so upset that I didn’t make it to the finish line,” Guy said. “But I knew how much work I had poured into setting everybody up to still be there working and covering this memorable series.”
Guy watched Game 7 where LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers overcame a 3-1 deficit against the Warriors to win the 2016 NBA Championship – right next to her five-day-old daughter.
“I realized this is my life now,” Guy said. “There is never going to be a perfect balance, but I felt the contributions I made even already even when I had to go do this very important thing in my life at the same time.”
Guy’s story is not only a testament to her incredible work ethic, but also reveals a truth that many women within the sports world experience balancing a demanding career with motherhood.
“So much of my experience at ESPN is interwoven with this monumental moment of becoming a mom,” Guy said. It’s not a balance. You’re always feeling like you’re leaving something on the table in one realm or the other. I’m either killing it at work and not giving enough time to my kids, or I’m very present at home when I feel like I should be doing something at work. But that’s ok.”
Guy is the Coordinating Producer for ESPN’s NBA Studio group, specifically overseeing the hour-long daily show, NBA Today. She also manages the NBA analysts across all of ESPN’s shows, and previously led NBA coverage for all SportsCenter shows. Her career success is rooted in her passion for storytelling.
“My passion is the cross-section between humanity and current events and society and sports. What is a better place to do it than ESPN and the NBA, which is so progressive and people-forward. That’s really what gets me – when we can tell a thoughtful story that makes people feel something,” Guy said.
Guy’s strength of great storytelling is what inspires WNBA player and NBA Today analyst, Chiney Ogwumike, most about working with her.
“She just gets it. Our sport lives at the intersection of culture, news and achievement, and you need a holistic perspective to work in it. She understands that you fall in love with people, and not necessarily trophies and awards. She’s also my on-air big sis,” said Ogwumike.
Guy got her start in news journalism instead of sports. She was a broadcast journalism major at Boston University where she also hosted a radio show on the student-run station, WTBU. Her first job in journalism was as an intern at the Gainesville, Florida affiliate, WCJB TV20, where she cut tape for their morning and noon news programs at 4 a.m. for free.
“There was a lot of shark attack coverage, but I loved to watch the progression of a story and how people reacted differently to it,” Guy said. “I felt the importance of bringing people information and getting it right.”
Guy initially wanted to be on camera, but while working at NBC News she began to better understand and fall in love with producing. She refers to producers as the ‘glue’ to any production.
“The role of the producer is one that carries so much weight – creatively, logistically and managerially. You need to be the conduit to the talent. You’re sitting in the edit room or control room, and executing your vision and deciding what everything looks like,” Guy said. “I still am in awe of how much power and weight that holds being the driving force.”
Guy’s first producing role in sports was at the NFL Network prior to starting at ESPN in 2015. There she learned some life-changing advice from Emmy award-winning sports journalist, Andrea Kramer.
“She told me – ‘don’t feel like you have to prove yourself, just let your hard work show for it.’ Sometimes you’re in a room full of men, and everybody wants to be heard – I feel like I have to speak up just to say something. But in truth, your work will speak for itself,” Guy said.
Guy’s hard work ethic has earned her the role of a Coordinating Producer at ESPN, four News and Documentary Emmy Awards and multiple nominations for both news and sports. Despite all her success she still experiences imposter syndrome – a term loosely defined as doubting one’s capabilities or feeling fraudulent in one’s role. ESPN’s Doris Burke mentioned experiencing that feeling often.
“I almost to a fault frequently worry I’m not doing enough,” Guy said. “When I feel that way, I turn to what I know is true about myself. I know unequivocally that I am always there for every single person on my staff. Anybody can call me at any given time, and I will drop everything in order to make them feel supported and loved. That helps me combat the imposter syndrome feeling.”
ESPN host and reporter, Malika Andrews, said it’s Guy’s devotion to her and the rest of the NBA Today staff that makes her so vital to its operation.
“Hilary is the heart behind what we do. All you could ever want as a journalist on television is to be in the trenches with someone who is equally as invested as you are, but she also has two little children under the age of seven, a husband and a house to maintain. There is never a moment that I don’t feel like Hilary is in it,” Andrews said. “I admire her doing it all, because I just think it’s something that we only ask and expect of women. When I look at what Hilary is able to accomplish in a day, and the grace and power that she kind of exudes through doing it – it’s pretty impressive.”
Similar to how ESPN supported Guy when she was pregnant and on maternity leave, Guy hopes to instill that same support in other women.
“I had a manager who would call and check in on me just to say hi. It was hard for me to be on maternity leave and feel removed from everything. It’s important to me to bring us women together in the ESPN sisterhood, and be that touchpoint for women going through that shared experience,” Guy said.
As for advice she’d offer for those looking to follow in her footsteps, Guy has this to say:
“There’s so much glitz and glamor to what we do in sports. But if you put the work and time in – that gets noticed. This business is about the work. It’s about the passion. It’s about the product we’re putting out. If you pour yourself into that, people will notice.”