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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Athlete Spotlight: Olivia Woolam ’21


When Olivia Woolam ’21 was hired as the creative service intern for The Sky, Chicago’s WNBA team, she thought that her summer would be spent in Chicago, interning for The Sky and watching games all over the country. But the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic  forced the WNBA to play their season in a bubble (similar to that of the NBA’s) in Bradenton, Fla.. And two hours away, in Fort Myers, was Woolam—interning for the team from her bedroom.

Woolam is an art studio and English double major as well as a guard for the Grinnell women’s basketball team. While Woolam jokes that she originally chose basketball as her sport over softball and soccer so she could get out of the Florida heat and into an air-conditioned gym, basketball has become a defining part of her life.

Basketball is one of the reasons she came to Grinnell and one of the ways she found community amongst Grinnellians: “I don’t want to say that I solely define myself as a Grinnell women’s basketball player, because that would be a super limited view of myself, but I think a lot of who I am is because of Grinnell women’s basketball.”

Woolam is also an accomplished artist. During her first two years at Grinnell, she wished to use her drawing talents to work on animated movies. While she no longer dreams of working in the Pixar studio, she loves the idea of creative teamwork: “It always blows my mind, when the credits are scrolling, how many people it takes to make a movie.”

During Woolam’s third year at Grinnell, she decided that working in marketing or design could be a way for her to collaborate with a team while creating engaging content. Woolam thought that her knowledge of Adobe Creative Suite and her communication skills could make her a contender for jobs in the field of creative services. Then it clicked—what about taking her creative skills to the pastime she always enjoyed: sports?

Woolam spent last fall and early spring applying to creative internships with sports teams. She was excited when she saw internships for The Chicago Sky and applied to all of them. Thanks to a Chicago Sky connection from one of her Grinnell basketball teammates, Woolam was able to call the team in order to show her excitement about the position.

After interviewing for the role, Woolam was hired as an intern in the Creative Services department, in charge of the team’s photos, videos and social media. While the internship was unpaid, Woolam received summer internship funding from the CLS.

I don’t want to say that I solely define myself as a Grinnell women’s basketball player, because that would be a super limited view of myself, but I think a lot of who I am is because of Grinnell women’s basketball

During Woolam’s internship her busiest days were game days. Woolam would have to be on standby to receive live photographs from a coworker who lived inside the bubble during The Sky’s season. Woolam would then have to curate and edit photos for half-time and end-of-game social media posts. After each game she would also create a photo gallery for the website.

Woolam also went to virtual meetings with her coworkers to brainstorm ideas for social media and website marketing. One marketing project that Woolam is especially proud of creating this summer is a series of coloring book pages featuring Chicago Sky players that she designed for the family section of the team’s website.

Woolam spent her days waiting for communications through Slack, the business messenger software The Chicago Sky uses. Despite the distance between Woolam and her coworkers, she said the creative service team always made her feel comfortable.

When asked if she wants to continue working in sports marketing, Woolam responded, with a chuckle, “This is what I want to do, but get paid for it.” After Woolam graduates this coming May, she hopes to get a job similar to what she had this summer, and is looking into positions at the WNBA, NBA and USS.

Woolam will definitely be tuning into the WNBA more often than before. As a true Philly fan, she will only consider The Sky her team until Philly gets its own. If the WNBA is listening, Woolam suggests that Philly’s WNBA team be named Philadelphia Freedom, “a la Elton John.”

The WNBA was able to continue playing, in a bubble, as the pandemic rages across the country, but Grinnell’s women’s basketball team had no such option. The Midwest conference, which Grinnell’s team is a part of, plans on playing a shortened season, but Grinnell decided not to participate due to public safety concerns. Woolam said she knows this was probably the best decision Grinnell could make in these circumstances, but losing her last season—especially after losing last year’s season due to an ACL injury—is more than disappointing.

The Grinnell basketball team continues to be an important community for Woolam. This year she will be taking online classes alongside three of her teammates from her grandparents’ townhouse, an hour and a half outside of Philly. Woolam is thankful for her Grinnell community, as well as her coworkers this summer in The Chicago Sky’s Creative Services Department: “10/10 would love to work with them again,” she said.

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