Leighann Strollo, who studied sports journalism at IUPUI and graduated in 2018, is the manager of marketing and communications of at Indy Fuel Hockey Club, Indianapolis’s minor league men’s hockey team. She fell in love with hockey in middle school when her little brother started playing the sport. We asked Strollo about her journey to her job with the Fuel:
1. How did you hear about the Indy Fuel job and why do you think you landed it?
“It was actually a bit unconventional. I was working at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis for about four and a half years after I graduated. I started as a seasonal employee and worked my way up to being a supervisor. I contemplated putting all my focus on a career in the museum industry, which would have surely been rewarding in its own way, but wasn’t really what I had always intended to do, especially because I got my degree in Journalism. While working there, I wrote freelance stories about hockey and was contracted with a few blogs that covered hockey. Mostly I covered professional women’s hockey for The Ice Garden, which is one of a few sites completely dedicated to women’s hockey.
At the museum, we were partnered with the Fuel and had a few summer events where some players and staff came out to the museum. My current boss at the Fuel had attended one of these events and recognized me from being very prominent on ‘hockey Twitter’ and from some of the work I had done interviewing players, previewing tournaments, and live-tweeting women’s hockey events. She had this marketing and communications role open and essentially pitched it to me. So, a little bit of fate was involved in that I was the person they ended up working with when they came to the museum. After a bit of contemplation on completely changing the course of my career, I took the role and could not be happier.
I think the connections made from existing in an online space about hockey, committing to freelancing, and taking small-paying jobs in hockey while still having a full-time museum job was key. If I hadn’t built a following on Twitter or through hockey blogging, she likely never would have known who I was or encouraged me to take this job.”
2. What are your typical day-to-day duties and what is your typical schedule? How do things differ when it’s hockey season vs. when it’s not?
“On a typical non-game day, I’m usually in the office from 9-5. When we are in season, I’m typically prepping for the next upcoming game. I am responsible for writing a game preview, helping push ticket sales with digital promotions, and helping with any graphic design work needed for promotions or games. My favorite part, because I am a bit of a hockey nerd, is updating our roster sheets and updating any stats to make sure we know if players are coming up on milestones or breaking records. I also create a weekly newsletter that gets sent to over 20,000 fans and write a weekly ‘Pit Stop’ post for the website that is basically a collection of current stats or streaks or sometimes just fun facts about the team. We are a small department so there are other things I may help with on our social channels or website.
On game days, it’s a bit different. I arrive early in the day and stay until the game is over which can be 10 or 11 p.m. some nights. Those days, I make sure all the pregame content is posted and prepare game information for both teams, the broadcasters, and referees. During games, I clip highlights from the game, write the game recap, and sometimes live-tweet the game.”
3. Are game days stressful for you?
“They can be. They were especially stressful when I first started and was still learning. But now that I’ve worked 40 home games and have a routine, it is a lot less stressful. At the end of the day, all the stress and long days are worth it because I get to end my evening watching my favorite sport! On game days, I am responsible for making sure all media members are credentialed, that the goal review cameras and game audio streams work, and that any game information gets delivered to both teams and the referees. These can be stressors if things don’t go smoothly, but there are usually easy fixes!”
4. What is your favorite part of your job?
“As cheesy as it may sound, I love that I get to work for a hockey team and be a part of the organization that gets to help tell this team’s story. I am there to cover the big wins and the hard losses as well as the growth of players individually. It’s awesome to experience. I have always been a huge sports fan so getting to be in this world never gets old. When it comes to tasks, like I said earlier, l love working with the team stats. Being the one to figure out when a player may break a record or reach a milestone is really rewarding and fun for the sports nerd in me.”
5. What are some classes that you took or experiences you had at IUPUI that have helped you with your career?
“I cannot give enough credit to the sports journalism professors at IUPUI. There are wisdoms that Malcolm Moran instilled in me that I still go by today. In class, we learned about interviewing players and coaches, which was admittedly a big hurdle for me, and learned never to ask the dreaded ‘Talk about…’ question. If I ever find myself about to say that, I just think of him! I also learned that as writers, we are there to tell athletes’ and coaches’ stories – not get a quick quote and try to fit it into our narrative.
The classes I took with Pam Laucella and Chris Lamb will always stick with me too. I learned a lot about writing and researching from them. Additionally, I was part of the Campus Citizen all four years I attended IUPUI, which had a major impact on me when it comes to writing for deadlines, crafting stories from start to finish, and interviewing people. Without being pushed a bit out of my comfort zone by those professors and working for the Citizen, I absolutely wouldn’t be who I am today professionally!”