Communications and PR for Ole athletics has expanded greatly since the addition of Michael Abdella ’13 to the department. Abdella, a 2013 St. Olaf graduate, joined the department two years ago in August 2018 as Assistant Athletic Director for Strategic Communications.
Abdella’s journey in sports information and communication began as a student at St. Olaf working under Assistant Athletic Director Mike Ludwig ’03. Before returning to the Hill, he worked as the Assistant Director of Athletic Communications for St. Anselm College in Manchester, NH. Prior to that he served as a Sports Information graduate assistant at University of Wisconsin, Madison.
Coming into the job, Abdella shared the position with Chelsey Schulenberg. This was the first time the school had two people working full time in sports information. In January 2019, however, Schulenberg took a position in Texas. The office now consists of Abdella working full time and 10-12 student workers, i.e. student photographers, stats recorders.
Abdella’s role in the department focuses mainly on communications and PR work. His responsibilities include writing recaps of games and events, updating statistics and livestreams. Additionally he oversees the department wide Instagram @oleathletics, runs the website and posts schedules. Abdella states that coming into the position he had no explicit goals. His hope, however, is “to promote cool things student athletes are doing.”
The department has been revitalized by many projects spearheaded by Abdella.
“Big things we’ve done that were different than before is trying to do more video, highlights after home games, interviews win or lose and more social media,” Abdella said. “Those are the two areas where we’ve put most of our time and energy.” Abdella’s work has shed light on the lives of student athletes and has opened up the department as a whole to the rest of the St. Olaf community.
With 27 division III teams, St. Olaf is one of the largest schools in the MIAC conference. Abdella states that one of the biggest challenges in his position is managing the workload. The job also involves attending sporting events, which requires working nights and weekends. He adds that “burnout can be a challenge.” Fortunately, Abdella states that coaches are very understanding, taking some of the pressure off.
Although Abdella has only been in the department for two years, he has already witnessed many changes. He notes that part of working in athletics involves turnovers in coaching positions. The current department has a “good mix of coaches who have been here for a long time and others that are newer,” according to Abdella.
Relationships play an integral part of Abdella’s day-to-day role. Part of that involves learning to work with different people. He states, “It’s not a bad change, just different.”
Physical additions to athletic facilities have also helped rejuvenate the athletics programs. New fields and the ice arena indicate an investment by the College in athletics.
Already, Abdella has heard positive feedback from athletes and coaches regarding the work of the communications department. Moving forward, he hopes to continue expanding projects and finding new and creative platforms for telling the stories of student athletes.