From FLCC to ESPN: Nikole DeBell ’11

Woman holding a trophy in front of an ESPN banner
Nikole DeBell ’11 participated in “Jimmy V Day” at ESPN. By supporting the V Foundation for Cancer Research, she was given the opportunity to take a photo with an ESPY trophy.

On the job one day, Nikole DeBell ’11 accompanied ESPN “SportsCenter” anchor Lauren “Elle” Duncan with a camera and a mini basketball hoop. Elle dunked hoops over the heads of unsuspecting people and Nikole captured it on camera for a segment on the Saturday show.

“It was a really fun day and I got paid for that,” said Nikole. “Then to see what I produced on TV was really cool.”

That was a few years ago, when Nikole worked as an associate producer at ESPN. In May 2019, she transitioned into her current role as ESPN Next training and development coordinator. The position has her charged with training new production assistants, planning out yearly curriculum, running a peer mentor program and planning networking activities.

Like most everything else, her job has been affected by the pandemic.

Cover of Laker magazine showing five people plue the text "Stories of resolve and resilience"
This story is one of several in the Fall 2020 edition of The Laker magazine. Click this image to read the electronic version.

“My role has changed pretty drastically due to COVID,” she said. “One of my main responsibilities is training new people, and we aren’t currently hiring new people.

So, the development side of my job has really come in to play. I’ve had to come up with creative ways to virtually develop and advance the people we have in our program now, which has been challenging and fun.”

Nikole has been with ESPN for four years. It’s a dream job – and fitting, considering her background.

The daughter of an NFL official and gym teacher, she was a three-sport athlete at Dansville High School: soccer, basketball, and softball.

“My goal was to pursue a career in which sports could still be a huge part of my life, once my personal sports career ended,” she said, adding that she originally wanted to be a sideline reporter “because honestly that’s the only job I thought women could have in sports when I was growing up.”

She added, “Once I went through school, internships, and working in the field, I realized there are many different career paths in sports media for women.”

Nikole chose FLCC not only to pursue her educational and professional goals as a student in the communications program but also because it provided an opportunity for her to continue her basketball career. As a member of the women’s basketball team, she discovered a group of women to connect with and felt welcomed during her first year of college. “I was able to establish friendships and form bonds that I still have today,” said Nikole.

She continued her education at Rochester Institute of Technology, earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism in 2014. She then went on to work for NFL Films and WROC-TV Rochester before joining ESPN.

What does she enjoy most about her job?

“Seeing people that I trained succeed and thrive in their new role. Especially because I used to do their role and understand the content they are producing. Knowing that I prepared them to succeed at that makes me feel really good.”

Author: Lenore Friend

Lenore Friend is the community affairs director at FLCC and the college's liaison with Finger Lakes TV. Contact her at (585) 785-1623 or

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