By Joe Lonegro, Staff Writer
LIU Athletics recently added two new Assistant Directors of Athletic Media Relations, Donny Chiarel and Olivia Henley. They take on the role of helping all sports teams behind the scenes and making sure that everything runs smoothly. Covering every sport from Brooklyn to Post is no easy job, but these two have worked extremely hard through long days and hectic weekends.
Chiarel, a recent graduate of Wingate University, described how it worked out just right for him to be here at LIU.
“I graduated in December of 2021, but I found the job in August. I applied for it just because I wanted to be in this location and college athletics. Obviously, they didn’t offer it to me because I was still in school, but then December rolled around, and it was still available, so I interviewed, it was the right fit and here I am,” he said. “It’s wild, it just kind of fell into my lap, and the fact that it’s worked out this way and that I’ve been able to get this experience, I can’t really be upset about it.”
Before becoming a Shark, Chiarel was a Bulldog in North Carolina at Wingate University and mentioned how much of a great experience it was.
“I got my Bachelors in communication and sports broadcasting from Wingate University, a small Division II School 30 to 40 minutes out of Charlotte, NC. While I was there, I was very fortunate to get a lot of hands-on experience with the athletic department working in communications and broadcasting on pretty much every sport we had. I had a unique opportunity to do a lot of things in front of the camera and learn what I wanted to do,” Chiarel said. “Being involved in college athletics in a small environment where everybody I interacted with was coaches and athletes, it was very easy to walk into someone’s office or practice and get to know them on a personal level. When you are covering them, it’s cool to see a guy or girl succeed in whatever they’re doing, and that’s one thing I wouldn’t trade.”
Chiarel feels he had an advantage over someone who may have gone to a more competitive school due to more chances at productive work experience.
“I know people who went to school for broadcasting at bigger schools like Syracuse or South Carolina. At some of the bigger schools where it’s hard to stand out, you might fall through the cracks, so that was one thing I wouldn’t ever take for granted,” he said.
When thinking of his time on Long Island so far, Chiarel has made the most of his experience but is still getting used to a long winter.
“It’s been cool. It’s been an interesting transition because I did graduate early, so I technically should still be finishing my degree if I had stayed for the full four years. Everyone’s been really welcoming and kind, and it’s been easy to make friends that find similar interests. The world of sports can look like it’s so big, but in reality, it’s small. There’s a lot of things you can tie to a lot of people in a lot of different places, so that’s always been cool to learn,” he said. “Being in a new place is really exciting. It’s not the same in terms of weather, I’m still not used to wearing a puffer jacket in April, but we’re getting there. It’s been good learning a lot of new things like doing statistics and a lot of the written publications online, and just fulfilling the needs of coaches and players as they come, and it’s been a really fun first step out of college for sure.”
Chiarel spoke about his favorite sport to cover and his goals for the future.
“My heart is always in basketball, I’ve always been a big hoops guy, and it was cool to see our men’s team make a little bit of a run and win a lot towards the end of the regular season. For my goals, I would say, in some capacity, to be in front of the camera, and help operate at a high level in a very credible and well-known department. Whether it’s professional or college, to tell the stories of athletes and coaches because I think there’s a beauty in that,” he said. “Some people may think it’s the same sport all the time, but at the end of the day, no game or athlete is ever the same, so you can find the uniqueness of that and roll with it. As long as I can tell the stories of athletes and promote them in the best way that I can, I would say that’s what comes close to fulfilling the dream. Who knows where my career will take me, but I’m excited for it.”
Olivia Henley remembers how she found the job and found LIU a few years back.
“I’m the Assistant Director of Athletics Media Relations here in Brooklyn. Occasionally, I go out to Post. I found it through a website called CoSIDA, and a few years ago, right after I graduated undergrad, I had a friend who was a volunteer assistant coach for volleyball. When I saw the posting, I decided to head up to New York,” she said.
Henley mentioned her past before making the journey to New York and described her time here so far.
“Before I was at LIU, I was a recent graduate. I just got my masters in April of 2021 and was still working the two part-time jobs I had in Nashville throughout grad school before I decided to come up. I studied sport and administration at Belmont University, and the way Belmont structured that program was that you had to have an internship each semester. I had to take a finance class and a law class so you can get a full background in business, but with a focus on the sports industry,” she said. “My time here has been interesting. I have a lot of support in terms of the coaches’ understanding of the amount of work on my plate. I enjoy the environment, I like being in Brooklyn, and I like having the big city vibes. I lived in Chicago for a while, so coming back to the big city was nice for me, I like interacting with the players, and I don’t have a car, so with softball being at Post, I have to take the team bus, and it’s been a nice experience to interact with the players and see the personal side of why I got into sports in the first place.”
When thinking of her favorite sport, Olivia remembers back to her undergrad years as a reporter.
“As an undergrad, I was a reporter in my junior year. My favorite sport to report on was soccer, and I just loved working with our men’s soccer team. I loved the coach and the players. My favorite sport to work with here is tennis. Some matches can go an hour, and some go 3 1/2 hours, and you don’t know what you’re going to get when you show up,” she said. “I worked with both men’s and women’s tennis teams in undergrad, and I haven’t been involved with tennis before, but I enjoyed it. A sport that I’m looking forward to working with is water polo. I am their contact, and I’ve been to three matches now. It’s super exciting, so I’m excited to dive deeper and learn more about that sport itself.”
Olivia mentioned her dream job, and even though it would take her overseas, she would go in a heartbeat.
“It would probably be athletic communications or sport communications with either an English Premier League team or a Bundesliga team. I speak German, I followed the German National Team before I followed any other national team,” she said. “But also my heart belongs in England, Liverpool is my club, I’m kind of a ‘Do Or Die,’ watch on my phone while I’m at other events, type of person. I worked for Nashville SC when I was in Nashville, it was kind of different because I had never worked for professional sports before, I had worked the collegiate and national side. The environment of soccer is something that I have holistically enjoyed. Everyone’s super laid-back, it’s always a business casual dress for the day kind of thing. We would go play soccer on Fridays at work when I worked at US soccer and I just love that environment.”