Dream Jobs Can Become Real Jobs.

Photo: Vikings.com
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As someone who is really just getting into writing about major sports teams, I’ve read a lot of content, I’ve followed important people on Social Media, and I’ve tried different things myself, to get an idea of what works and what doesn’t.  In my very short time doing it, I’ve already learned that covering professional sports can be intimidating, time consuming, and at times, a flat out struggle. It’s more demanding than many realize. But it’s a dream job.

Nobody knows that better than Minnesota Vikings Staff Writer/Assistant Editor, Lindsey Young. I recently caught up with the Andover, MN native, to talk about her journey from childhood Minnesota sports fan, to College courses with big dreams, to a Timberwolves internship, and eventually into her role now with the Minnesota Vikings… and I’m certainly glad I did:

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BH – Has writing always been something you’ve been passionate about?

LY – Pretty much! Some of my earliest memories are of filling up spiral notebooks with stories and coming up with different characters and chapter titles. In fifth and sixth grade I had a teacher, Ken Koch, who gave us weekly journal assignments by writing a prompt up on the board, and we had to respond to that prompt. Sometimes it was the first sentence of a fictional story that we had to write, or it would direct us to implement specific characters, or it would be a question about our summer break, dream vacation, and so on. You get the idea 🙂 It wasn’t uncommon for me to turn in journal assignments that were longer than assigned, and I always appreciated getting Mr. Koch’s feedback.

One day he mentioned that I could be a writer, and that comment really stuck with me. Although I had always been told from family that I was creative and had a gift for writing, it was significant to hear it from someone other than a parent. There are two (or, I guess, three) parts of writing that I especially enjoy.

One, I am passionate about telling people’s stories. I love football, so being in a career that allows me to tell lots of football-related stories is a dream come true. But really, I think everyone has a story that can be told, and I enjoy having the opportunity — and challenge — that comes with that. Two, there’s a lot of creativity involved in writing. I took several creative writing courses in college and have been asked if I regret taking them after ending up in journalism rather than something like fiction or poetry writing. But those creative classes were fantastically helpful with what I do on a daily basis — I enjoy trying to describe something to a reader in a way that he or she can picture the scene in their mind. And the third reason I enjoy writing is because I’m definitely a grammar nerd and have an affinity for editing. But that definitely doesn’t mean I don’t make mistakes in my writing, as readers can attest to; honestly, I find it much easier to find typos in other people’s writing than my own.

BH -What has been the biggest challenge for you throughout the process? 

LY – I think the biggest challenge, honestly, was the four-plus years between graduating college in 2010 and joining the Vikings full time in December 2015. To be clear, in hindsight it truly feels like a brief amount of time to wait for one’s “dream job.” But while living it and sometimes feeling unsure if my hard work would end up paying off, there was a lot of discouragement and self-questioning: “Am I a strong enough writer to do this full time? Will my introverted tendencies restrict me from a career in sports writing? Maybe I should stick with my current full-time job and just writing on the side. Will this be too difficult to get into as a woman?

People often ask me about that latter topic, wondering if it’s been extremely difficult to be a female writer in an industry that tends to be more male-dominated. I know every woman has her own experience, but I can say that I’ve felt incredibly respected and supported in my role, and I’m grateful to work for the Vikings organization and be surrounded by so many fantastic co-workers.

BH- What has been the biggest surprise for you through this process? 

LY – I really had to think about this one … I really don’t know if I can put my finger on something that I’d call a “surprise,” although that likely is because I talked to several people who worked in sports before I got to this point myself, and I also interned with the Timberwolves (more on that below), so I felt like I had a pretty good idea of what to expect. One of the things that can sometimes be a good reminder, though, is how down-to-earth a lot of athletes are. They are on a major platform, to be sure, but it’s important — especially for me as a writer — to remember that people are just people, and we all have a unique story to tell.

BH – Was writing for the Vikings your dream job?

LY – As cliche as it sounds, yes! I knew that I wanted to work in sports, and growing up I thought it would be incredible to work with the Vikings or Timberwolves. My dad and I watched a lot of sports together, and I particularly got into basketball and football, so it was something I thought about from a fairly young age. I remember going to one or two Timberwolves games most years at the Target Centerand going to Mankato for Vikings Training Camp with Dad in junior high, and those were really special times for me. As a senior in college, I was fortunate enough to work as a web reporter intern for the 2009-10 Timberwolves season, which often felt surreal to me. And even though I’m entering my fourth full NFL season, I still find myself reflecting on the journey that brought me here and having that similar surreal feeling — I can’t believe that I’m not only working in sports but also for my hometown team that I grew up with.

BH – What advice would you give someone who wants to do what you do?  

LY – Network, don’t stop writing (and reading!) and don’t give up. Networking was huge for me because it helped me learn so much about this industry and roles closely related to the field. One of my biggest mentors throughout the process was Robby Incmikoski, who formerly worked as a reporter for FSN before transferring back to his hometown of Pittsburgh. Robby worked on TV, and I knew that my passion was leading me toward writing versus on-screen, but he was able to shed a lot of light on working in sports. He asked me the right questions, challenged me in the right areas and also supported and encouraged me, down to talking with me and offering me tips prior to interviews. Robby is just one of the many people that I’ve met through this journey, and there were several times that meeting someone new and sharing my story and my interests helped open up an opportunity, small or large.

Additionally, don’t stop writing. When I graduated from college, I moved back in with my parents for a year and worked as a server, but I never stopped writing whenever I could. I did do some contract work during that time, but I also wrote things that I knew might never be seen. I would watch a Timberwolves game from start to finish and write a recap, just to make sure that I continued practicing, strengthening my skills and increasing my postgame speed. Things that I wrote five years ago seemed strong to me at the time, and when I look back, I realize how much I’ve learned and grown as a writer even since then. Don’t ever allow yourself to think that you’ve “arrived” at the ceiling of your skill set; I promise you, you haven’t. You can always get better. I can always get better.  Lastly, don’t give up. That also is probably overused, but I do think it’s important to stick with something if you’re passionate about it. As long as you enjoy something and have a dream surrounding that, keep pushing yourself and keep looking for opportunities. You never know where one open door might lead.

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When people use the phrase “dream job” it can be taken as something we only dream about, and never can actually have a chance to achieve.  Lindsey’s story is proof that if you set your mind to something, and want something badly enough…  You can absolutely achieve it.  There is always so much conversation about the content, opposed to who’s producing it.  Sometimes all it takes to get started is getting an idea of what it takes.

Brian Heintz | Minnesota Sports Fan

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