Growing up in BC, playing sports in her hometown and spending hours locked in her bedroom editing videos of her high school basketball team, Olivia McDonald is now making waves in the sports industry. As the TV Host and Digital Producer for the Calgary Wranglers (AHL) and the Calgary Roughneck (NLL), Olivia is the girl you see doing all the interviews on and off game days. Whether that’s on the ice or the field, she also does content production, so any of the videos you see on the socials, she came up with. McDonald films a lot of the stuff on a camera or a phone and takes photos as well. If it’s not a professional photo or video you see on social media, it was most likely Olivia doing her thing.
Not only is she working for the teams in Calgary, she also hosts for TSN with the NLL (National Lacrosse League). She does the broadcasts for certain games with them.
When I asked Olivia why she chose her particular career path, she brought me back to being a teenager at home in BC. Her parents asked her the same question every parent asks their teenage child; what do you want to do with your life? Like most kids, Olivia didn’t know until she was given the best piece of advice she had ever been given. Her mom asked her, “What do you do in your spare time that's not sports or hanging out with friends, the things that you like to do as a hobby? I was like, I don’t know, and she said to me, you literally spend all your time in your room editing videos of whether it was like my basketball team that had just been on a trip like whatever it was, I was always putting videos together. I had this thing called the O Show. I used to pretend to put on a talk show and stuff. I wanted to be like Oprah Winfrey. So my moms said to do that for a career”.
Olivia went to university in Calgary, Alberta, to study Broadcast Journalism. She originally went into this program with the idea of being behind the scenes and doing the editing side of things, but when she got into writing scripts and having to be in front of the camera, she fell in love with it and knew that she could make that her career.
After finishing her schooling in Calgary, she moved around a little bit but somehow always found herself back in the city. “I fell in love with the city when I was living out here. I’ve moved back here… five times since university. I just keep coming back, and it's the joke between my friend group that Calgary is clearly where I'm meant to be if I keep coming back, but it's just such an easy city to live.”
With a job as enthralling as hers, I asked Olivia what her favorite part of it is, and her answer is as moving as it gets. “The connections I get to build with the guys on the team and the team in general, whether it's like the coaches or anybody involved. The connections I've been able to build, have been incredible.” Like many relationships, they take a while to develop, but that just makes them mean that much more. “I'm just in year two with the Roughnecks, and I'm heading into year two with the Wranglers, and it takes a while to build those relationships, which I didn’t quite realize when I started and now… they’re like my family to me.” But the personal connections are the only ones she's made. Living in the city and being part of a team daily has led her to develop some emotional relationships with the teams and their respective sports. “Every single game day, you cheer like you're part of the team, winning the games and stuff, you get so emotionally involved, which maybe I get a little too emotionally involved, but yeah… just the team aspect of it is so fun”.
Like many athletes and sports personnel, Olivia has her own pre-game traditions. On a Roughnecks game day, you can find Olivia, the social guy and PR girl, with lattes in hand, watching morning practice and preparing for the day ahead. Game days are long days filled with note-taking, script-making, filming content, a good luck run and in-game interviews.
We all have that one piece of advice that sticks with us, and when I asked Olivia what her advice to young girls hoping to get into sports would be, she gave me quite a few important notes, “I'm a strong believer that if you’re passionate about it, you can do it, there are people that’ll make it, and there are people that won't make it but all the people that I know who have made it just love sports and want to work in it so bad and are willing to volunteer without the money and just focus on the actual job.” She also told me that as a woman in a male dominated industry it can be difficult, but we need to help ourselves out. “There's definitely barriers and challenges we face. I met Evanka Osmack (Sportsnet host) when I was younger in university, and she gave a speech, saying always have thick skin and don’t let things get to you”. This obviously stuck with Olivia and will stick with many women. It can be daunting to stand up for yourself and stay true to yourself but that is one of the most important things women can do for themselves in any industry. Olivia told me, “It doesn’t matter if you're in a room full of men or a room full of women. Speak up for yourself, especially as a woman in this industry, because there's not a lot of us, hopefully, more as the years go by, but just stick up for yourself”.
Olivia is a great reporter, interviewer, content creator and, most importantly, a wonderful woman in sports. She is a role model and someone I admire, and many young girls do, too. As her career continues to grow and she takes on new challenges every day, she pushes through the barriers and helps make a path for women in the industry.