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Friday, February 11, 2011

Small-Town Girl, Big-Time Goals

Whether it’s covering hockey, college football, poker or the MMA, 1998 Unionville-Sebewaing Area graduate Heidi Androl has proved you don’t have to be from the big city to become a big deal.


LOS ANGELES — It’s cool to be Heidi Androl.
And here’s why.
Covering the NHL for the Los Angeles Kings, NHL.com and NHL Network is cool. 
It’s cool to be Heidi Androl.
Covering the MMA for Showtime Sports, poker for ESPN2, college football for Versus, and working at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver is cool.
It’s cool to be Heidi Androl.
Hosting a live entertainment show in Los Angeles is cool.
It’s cool to be Heidi Androl.
Get the picture?
Androl, a 1998 Unionville-Sebewaing Area graduate, has parlayed her 2007 appearance on the television show “The Apprentice” into a budding sports and entertainment broadcasting career.
I recently contacted Androl via email and asked if she would be willing to answer a few questions about the sports and entertainment broadcasting industry.
She politely and energetically agreed.

Q. You are involved with so much when it comes to broadcasting, including the Kings, NHL.com, the MMA. Can you give me a rundown of all the sports outlets you are working for. And how did all of this come about? Did you have any broadcasting background at all?

A. I currently serve as a reporter for the Los Angeles Kings on Fox Sports West, reporter for NHL Network, reporter for Showtime Sports covering MMA, and host for “LA Live” covering music and entertainment. I have also covered college football on Versus and poker on ESPN2. I also serve as a producer for the Los Angeles Kings, writing and producing features for Kings Vision on LAKings.com and Fox Sports West. I had done a little hosting before I got started, but very little.


Q. What was your first experience in broadcasting on television and what was it like getting in front of a TV audience? I am sure it was much different than “The Apprentice.”

A. It was a show called Upscale LA — a lifestyle magazine type show highlighting the hot spots in LA. From there, I was hired by Luc Robitaille and Chris McGowan (LA Kings executives) with the Kings to help create their online video network. It was very different and a little scary, but I asked for as much feedback as I could get and continue to work at getting better.  Live TV is not easy and is nerve-racking, but so rewarding at the same time. No comparison to “The Apprentice.” They are two entirely different worlds.


Q. Obviously, there is not much hockey in the Thumb. What did you know about hockey when you first hooked up with the Kings and NHL.com and have you had to learn sort of on the fly? Were you a hockey fan (Red Wings?) growing up?

A. How can you grow up in Michigan and not be a hockey fan! My dad used to take us to Red Wings games all the time and to watch the Gears and the Generals at Saginaw Civic Center.   I sported a Darren McCarty jersey. (Hahaha!) After moving to LA, I started going to LA Kings games. 
Of course, being a fan and working in the industry are two very different things. I had to learn so much about the players and I am still  learning. That is the beauty of sports, things are always changing, stats are updated by the second and the game is very fast. When I got the job I focused on the players away from the ice. I asked questions that I genuinely wanted to know the answer to and I think that is what has allowed me to grow in the industry. I am very interested in the game, the intricacies of a well functioning power play or what the goalie saw before he stopped the puck. I have  had a great deal of support and help from the Kings organization and Fox Sports West, as well as my fellow broadcasters: Hall of Fame play-by-play Bob Miller, color commentator Jim Fox, fellow sideline reporter Patrick O'Neal, our head of broadcast for the Kings Mike Altieri, Kings President Luc Robitaille, Kings COO Chris McGowan and Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi. (There are so many more I can’t list them all). They have taught me so much. I am grateful to go to work everyday and have it not really feel like work because I enjoy it so much.

 Q. What are some of the challenges of being a woman in sports broadcasting?

A. There are challenges being in sports broadcasting, period. It requires a lot of hours, very little time off and a lot of research, hard work and travel... It is a hectic lifestyle, that is for sure, and being able to balance work and a personal life can be difficult.
 As far as being a woman in sports, I am blessed to be able to say I am one. I was not a former pro athlete who has the experience and the memories and the camaraderie to draw from. I have to work that much harder to create and tell the story and to be taken seriously in my role.  
My advice — don't be so serious. It’s sports. Have fun with it. At the end of the day, sports is entertainment.  I approach each broadcast asking myself, ‘Will this story be entertaining and informative at the same time?’ If not, I try to come up with one that will be. Being a female only presents challenges if you allow it to — and I choose not to. I am blessed to have my job. I work hard every single day and I know it could go away at any time — that keeps me motivated and hungry to reach the next level of success.

Q. Tell me about your work with the MMA and your work at the Olympics...

A. I have been covering MMA for Showtime Sports for about seven months now. It has been an incredible experience and I actually am headed to New Jersey (this week) to cover the fights this weekend. I work with an incredibly talented and knowledgeable group with Showtime and they have helped me to grow as a reporter and expand my portfolio of sports. It has been a blast. 
As far as the Olympics.... Wow. What can I say that will do it justice? It was three of the best weeks of my life. I will never ever be able to recreate another experience like it. Olympic hockey in Canada — ah.... The streets were packed with flags from every country. I had the pleasure of working for NHL.com and interviewing so many amazing individuals, from the Commissioner (Gary Bettman), Steve Yzerman, Scotty Bowman, Ryan Suter and his father, members of the 1960 and 1980 Olympic hockey teams, and so many other legends in the sport. 
I went to almost every game and fell in love with the city of Vancouver. I could absolutely live there. It is the Los Angeles of Canada. The mountains, the ocean, the nightlife, great culture and amazing restaurants. It is truly a gem. For three weeks that city was the happiest, most energetic city on Earth. It was special.

Q. Are there other things you are doing out of the sports world?

A. I am working for the NHL Network more regularly now. I worked the Winter Classic in Pittsburgh, the All-Star game in Raleigh, and fly to Calgary next week to work the Heritage Classic. 
As grateful as I am for the Kings and the support they have given me in Los Angeles, it is really rewarding to immerse myself in all 30 teams and challenge myself to learn more about the Eastern Conference.
I also host several segments for LA Live and have had the opportunity to host at the Grammys, the American Music Awards and interview some of the biggest names in music and entertainment. I also serve as the host for AT&T Uverse Theatre and Sports. I have the best job in the world and I look forward to continuing my journey toward being the best I can possibly be.  I have also written several non-scripted shows and am actively pitching them to various networks.


Q. If you are working for the Kings or NHL.com on a specific day, what is that typical day like? Is there a ton of prep work? Behind the scenes work? Do you come up with the questions for interviews? Do producers? How much “winging it” is there?

A. I go to the office everyday. I watch the morning skates, I talk with individuals in the organization to make sure I am conveying key message points, I talk with the players and the coaches after the morning skate or before the game. I then talk to my producer for Fox Sports West and outline my story ideas. I make sure he is happy and then I write them to fit the time the producer allots. I usually head home on a game day about 1:30 p.m. and have lunch and get ready, then head to Staples Center at 3:30 p.m. for our production meeting at 4:30 p.m. for a 7:30 p.m. game.  
Prep is the key and I do a lot of it. I am an over-preparer to a fault. I write all of the questions and all of the stories. That is the problem with being the producer and the talent sometimes. In all honesty, most of the time what you see reporters asking is what they want to ask. Sometimes the producers give you suggestions on topics or in some instances the questions, but it is very rare for me. I almost always write everything I do. I do a lot of research online and send a lot of emails and rely a lot on the relationships I have built over the years. Twitter is a great resource for fun stories, as well. 

Q. What can you tell a young person in the Thumb who wants to get into sports broadcasting? Tips, classes to take, places to live. Anything that would help...

A. I am so passionate about this! I would tell a young person from the Thumb they can do whatever it is that they want to do. I am proof. I would remind them that things often happen that are (not) part of the plan or mapped out. I would encourage them to embrace all opportunities with open arms and not be afraid to fail — for failure only makes you better.  
I never thought I would end up selling filtration systems for helicopters that would get me on “The Apprentice” which would indirectly lead to a job in sports. I certainly never thought I would be so interested in power plays and save percentages, but I am and it found me because I put myself out there and was willing to take a risk. 
I have failed, I have been fired in front of millions of people... I have made mistakes, but at the end of the day I did all of that so that I could succeed. Never stop learning. Never be afraid to reinvent yourself at any age. It really NEVER is too late.
As far as sports broadcasting in particular, there is so much that you can do now to get ahead. When I speak at universities I always encourage the students to “fill their toolkit.” You never know when that nugget of information or that skill will come in handy. I encourage anyone who wants to make it to focus on the behind-the-scenes just as much as the on-camera preparation. Learn to edit, shoot, light, write, produce, direct and be the on-camera talent. It is that which will set you apart from your competition. Take a class at a local community college or get involved with one of the local news stations to shadow their sports news team, start your own high school sports broadcast and stream it on the Web for practice. 
There are so many things that you can do and I am always available at info@heidi-androl.com to answer any questions or offer up suggestions. The emergence of social media and the Internet broadcasts out there now, there are plenty more opportunities for young hosts to get a start interning or getting experience.

Q. OK, so what’s your pick for the Stanley Cup this season? Do the Red Wings have a shot?

A. In all honesty — it is anyone’s for the taking. Once teams are in the playoffs, anything can happen. I would be surprised if Vancouver or Philadelphia wasn't one or both of the teams in the finals, but who knows.


Q. Heidi, thanks for doing this for our Tribune readers.

A. Thank you so much for doing this and for your interest!


Androl’s website is heidi-androl.com.

Heidi Androl with fellow Fox Sports West reporter Patrick O'Neal. (Photo courtesy LA Kings)

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great to see a Thumb person doing so well.
Congrads Heidi and continued success

Anonymous said...

the only reason she is there is because she is hot

Anonymous said...

I agree that Heidi is very attractive but there are a million beautiful women in Los Angeles. She worked hard to get where she is, took advantage of opportunities that came her way and deserves what she has accomplished. Conrats Heidi, here is hoping we see you on national broadcasts some day soon.