Hayley Elwood, Team Reporter for the Los Angeles Chargers

What does your week look like during the regular season?

The NFL season is like a school year, so you usually know what to expect in some capacity. During the season, I attend press conferences, possibly writing off them or conducting interviews if they can be scheduled. On game days pre-COVID, and hopefully we’re trending that way again, I sat up in the press box during the game before going down to the locker room to do interviews. The last few years, I have also done a podcast called Playmakers, which focuses on women in and around the NFL. That is usually a recording session on Mondays and Tuesdays and I post them on Wednesdays. There is a lot of planning and scheduling weeks in advance.

What is your preparation process for interviews?

That’s a great question because that’s the most important part of my job. It’s a lot of tabs open on my internet browser. I used to be a diligent writer and took notes by hand, but I think working remotely has transitioned me into doing more on my phone and computer. It’s a lot of research, looking up different articles and tweets, and I have a running document of factoids and quotes – either from our Chargers PR staff, which does a great job of sending quotes around from press conferences, or other interviews on NFL Network and other media outlets. I make a note of everything and stick it in my back pocket for when I might need it. It’s an endless fact-finding mission, which is kind of fun.

When I do those Homecoming features, I have to learn about a pre-NFL guy. It’s a lot of research from local papers or college clips and recaps. Sometimes it’s even going back to high school coverage, which is the stuff I started out doing. It’s a process that never really ends.

I’ll say this, too: Part of being a good journalist, host, talent, etc., is being prepared. We have fantastic producers at the Chargers and we have a very symbiotic relationship. They know I’m going to show up to an interview prepared. Being self-sufficient is huge and sets you apart in this industry.

What is the most challenging part of your job?

I think most people would defer to the time and the schedule, but you know that going in. You know from the end of July to, and fingers crossed, the middle of February that you’re overloaded and weeks are crazy. But I think the most challenging part goes back to preparation because you always have to be tapped in. I think part of that is finding that balance of not always watching your phone and the news, but it’s all still very fun to me. If it ever becomes a chore, then it’s probably time to move on.

Adding to that, when you look at an event like the draft, you don’t know who your team is picking. I might have 20 minutes to fully learn about a player before you get him on Zoom for an interview. That’s a challenge but it has gotten easier as the years have gone on because I know what study habits work best for me.

Finding a balance is challenging, for sure. Now, let’s pivot and talk about mentorship. Do you have any mentors who have helped you in your career? And what advice have they given you?

In almost every job I’ve had working in sports, I have been hired by a woman. I think that’s so cool. Denise White at EAG Sports Management, Nicoletta Ruhl at the Chargers and Lisa Estrada hired me at the Los Angeles Lakers when I hosted for them in 2015-16 – that was Kobe Bryant’s final season. It’s been really cool to have eyes on so many amazing women as I’ve started.

In terms of mentorship, Alex Flanagan and Laura Okmin are two huge sources for me. I remember during my first season covering the draft with the Chargers, I was in the media center and Alex, who used to be a reporter with the NFL Network and has since moved into the agent world, was in there. She was so welcoming and sweet, and we have stayed in touch ever since. When I had the opportunity to become the Chargers’ preseason sideline reporter, it was a role that she had previously held, and she actually reached out to me asking to get coffee and discuss the ins and outs of that job. She didn’t have to do that but that’s just the type of person she is. Laura, who works for Fox Sports and runs her GALvanize program, does so much for so many. She doesn’t have kids of her own but she has hundreds of daughters in this industry, essentially. I connected with her years ago when I was kind of at a crossroads, and she was such a great sounding board for me in my career and personal life, giving tips for how to do your job and navigate life. She is phenomenal and I will always sing those praises. Her program is helping to make it easier for younger women to come into the industry.

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