Behind The ScenesInside ESPNNCAAFStarting 5Team Player

Team Player: Jen Lada and Claire Atkins

Claire Atkins (L) and Jen Lada (Photo courtesy of Jen Lada/ESPN)

Front Row’s “Team Player” series continues this week with ESPN commentator Jen Lada.

Lada joined ESPN in 2015 and has contributed to a variety of ESPN sports properties, with a recent focus on the company’s college football efforts. Lada hosts College Football Live and is a regular contributor to College GameDay.

As Lada’s college football workload has intensified, she says she feels fortunate to have the support of several terrific college football production personnel. Among them is producer Claire Atkins, who has made a lasting impression and undeniable impact on Lada’s work.

What makes Claire good at her job?
I think Claire’s respect, passion and genuine appreciation for college football is evident in every show she produces. The conversations and debates we have during prep are lively and layered. She is always incredibly well-prepared and is really good at catering each show to the strengths of her analysts and their perspectives. That translates to interesting, informative, fluid and fun shows.

Producer Claire Atkins reflects on working with Jen Lada:

Working with Jen is a delight every day. Her knowledge of the game and critical thinking skills challenge the analysts to dig deeper with theirs answers every show. Plus, she doesn’t hesitate when I ask her to eat a donut bacon cheeseburger on-air. She is the definition of a team player!

How does Claire help you do your job to the best of your ability?
Claire encourages authenticity and creativity. We’ve been doing shows together for a year now and that familiarity breeds trust. I trust her to create a great blueprint to follow and I know she trusts me to navigate conversations efficiently and effectively. She also strikes a great balance between the X’s & O’s debates and the stories that complement the games which can sometimes be a challenge in a half-hour show.

Describe an instance when Claire went above and beyond to help you out?
Between hosting College Football Live, shooting features for College GameDay, presenting those features on GameDay and my first season sidelining games, I had a very exciting fall. There were days when I was at the College Football Live show pod with a feature to write or a podcast to track on deadline. But, I could always count on Claire (and the rest of the production and research team) to recognize that workload, help get the rundown finalized and put a quality product on the air. I wouldn’t have been able to navigate my most demanding weeks without Claire and this team having my back.