It has been years since she dominated on the hardwood but Lea Olsen is still at the top of her game, this time as a broadcaster. The Minnesota Lynx TV analyst, entrepreneur, executive speaker and mother has become extremely successful in her career and attributes her accomplishments to simply trusting the process.
“One of the things I’ve learned is that to have success, you have to trust the process and the processes of the everyday commitment to what you are doing,” Olsen said.
Trusting that process began in south Minneapolis, Minnesota in a blended family that created many social hurdles for Olsen. It was during this early period in her life that Olsen was taught her first lesson for success — don’t let anyone define you, and if your look does not fit the mold, break that mold.
Becoming a Big Ten athlete and skilled broadcaster was not even on her radar when she entered high school. In fact, Olsen was a late comer to sports altogether. At first, she did not have the opportunity to play sports as her initial high school offered no athletic programs. It was because of urging from her brothers, after she dominated them in the backyard, that the now six-foot, one-inch Olsen transferred to Minneapolis South High School and joined the basketball team.
She began her basketball career her junior year in high school, and after dedicating immense time to developing her game, Olsen found herself with a walk-on spot for the Minnesota Gophers Women’s Basketball Team. It was there she became the first walk-on in team history to serve as captain, and is where she found her identity. Surrounded by her team, while doing what she loved, Olsen found her passion for the sports world.
“It did change my life more than I would ever possibly know. I just think I was a little naïve because I was not that familiar with the sports world at the time,” Olsen said.
Her appreciation for the vital role the “process” plays in experiencing success blossomed. Eventually, that trust would transfer into the classroom. After help from her teammates, Olsen transformed her success on the court to her major in journalism. She set her goals on a career in sports broadcasting during a time when those who looked like her did not have many opportunities.
After college, Olsen was hired as an intern for the Minnesota Timberwolves in their front offices. Once she got her foot in the door, she pursued her goal of earning a role in the broadcast department. After five seasons and an incredible amount of hard work, Olsen was moved into the broadcast department. Then an amazing opportunity that Olsen describes as, “the perfect situation,” took place in 1999 when the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) expanded, adding the Minnesota Lynx. Olsen, after again trusting the process, became a broadcast TV analyst for the team.
Olsen has only grown from there, expanding her broadcasting career to places such as NBCSN, ESPN’s national WNBA coverage, Minnesota Timberwolves, college, and high school. She is also looking to preserve the joy in youth sports by founding an organization called Rethink the Win. The program is geared toward coaching younger athletes who face the same experiences as Olsen did, focusing on the development of identity as a complete person by sharing the positive impact of sports beyond the game.
“It’s not just about how much you start, or how much time you play in the game. It’s whatyou can take from this game that will serve you and your community as you move forward,” Olsen said.
With her unique perspective on winning in sports, business, and life, Olsen has transitioned to being a thought leader and speaker. She strives to motivate athletes, professionals, and businesses to stay true to their process, just as she did to get where she is today.
It is the inspiring life of a truly remarkable individual who broke the mold -- playing in college, being a strong advocate for the women’s game, making her mark in a broadcast world that did not have many women, transforming that passion into a business, and becoming an executive speaker. Trusting the process built the foundation that Olsen stood on to get to this point, and her story will inspire others to do the same.
Success is always within reach. Olsen believes that to truly reach that pinnacle, anyone willing needs to work hard, have faith, stick to their goals and do one more thing.
Trust the process.