Women are the future of so much in football and in the NFL! They are nearly 50% of our overall fan base and I am proud to work for an organization that sees the value of all females to our business and in so many ways!
Director of Vikings Women, Strategic Development & Cheerleading
×The interview with Tami Hedrick was conducted via a typed conversation prior to the start of the NFL season. Editing changes were made to make it easier to read while maintaining the voice of the interview.
Tell us about your roles as Director of Vikings Women & Strategic Development and Head Cheer Coach for the Minnesota Vikings. What does a typical day look like for you?
I have been with the Minnesota Vikings for 24 seasons this year. I’ve held different positions within the organization. My current role as director of Vikings Women and Strategic Development allows me to work with two other women in my department.
“Vikings Women” include every facet of females connected to our organization, including fan initiatives, social media, content, events, and merchandise. We engage our female employees in retention projects and internal small group mentoring groups. We host the coaches and players significant others for annual events and game-day hospitality.
Within our cheer department, I have two amazing coaches to assist. We have a robust youth cheer program with hundreds and hundreds of junior cheerleaders, flag runners, special needs stars, and competitive all-stars. The dozens of women that make up the cheer team are all professionals and full-time college students. They engage in over 400 hours of community events annually. You ask what a typical day looks like for you and I must honestly say no two are alike! As you can imagine and especially during this time in 2020.
I noticed you also are the WISE Twin Cities President. Tell us about this role! What enticed you to get involved with WISE and how do you find balance between WISE and your duties with the Minnesota Vikings?
Editor’s note: WISE (short for Women in Sports and Events) is the leading voice and resource for professional women in the business of sports. Their unique vision empowers WISE to celebrate and connect emerging and established women leaders, to promote one another in career growth and continue to change the face of our industry.
WISE Twin Cities is a new nonprofit in the Twin Cities area. I engaged with several women who were involved at the National level with WISE when I was first developing the women’s initiative department. I was asked to become the president of our local chapter. I have been honored to help lead the process for creating our launch and engaging the local sports community.
I balance this by hosting our board of directors meetings in the early mornings of most months or sometimes over a happy hour. And then, I try to dedicate a couple of hours each week to focus on WISE. The Minnesota Vikings have been such a huge advocate and supporter of this organization. We have several amazing women serving on the board of directors. They represent all of the local large scale sporting organizations and events.
Most people who work in the sports industry work up to a job in the NFL, and you started there. First, you were a Professional Cheerleader for the team and then you were promoted to Head Cheer Coach the year after – why? What were you doing to stand out and get promoted so quickly?
I was promoted to head coach for cheerleading after being a rookie on the team. I tried to raise my hand as a team member to do all I could to help and to prepare with excellence.
I came to the team with several years of high school and college dance team coaching experience and championship titles. I think my willingness to work hard and gain experience, along with the courage to say yes to pretty much every opportunity is what helped me to stand out.
I feel like I am a creative soul, always looking for what I can do to make things bigger and committing to valuing all opportunities, good or bad.
That is what led me to help develop our women’s initiative and create a department focused on it at the Minnesota Vikings. Women are the future of so much in football and in the NFL! They are nearly 50% of our overall fan base and I am proud to work for an organization that sees the value of all females to our business and in so many ways!
One of the main goals of Vikings Women is to connect women with the Vikings. What are some of your favorite initiatives you have created and implemented to do so? Do you think a program like this would work for and enhance other teams/leagues/organizations?
Some of my favorite ways to connect Vikings women have been through our women’s football camps, inspirational workshops, the special needs cheer program, and work out Wednesdays. We strive to engage women through events that vary so every woman can find their connection point to the team.
We are planning to host a virtual conference in March 2021 gathering all of the contacts from around the NFL that navigate events or activations specific to women’s initiatives.
We will be sharing best practices and I look forward to hosting this first time and hopefully annual event.
I feel our team has been able to be a resource to other organizations in major league sports on how to engage all pillars of women connected to your organization. We still have several projects we plan to add for our fans and hope we are just getting started.
How do you see fan experience playing a role in the growth of the Vikings Women? What tactics are used to ensure Vikings Women are engaged, excited and most importantly, empowered both on and outside of game day?
A recent way that I have seen our fan experience play a role in the growth of Vikings Women is connected to our newly launched Vikings WomenFacebook community. In just the first month, the organic growth of that page and interaction between women has been so rewarding to witness! Our fans are amazing!
We are launching a virtual inspiration conference this fall… Vikings Women inspiring other Vikings Women.
We did this as a live event last year and want to have the same impact and engagement so we will be hosting it virtually this season. We host small group mentoring sessions for our female employees as I mentioned above. I believe this empowers women to grow but also to share.
My advice to women entering the sports industry is to do things afraid! We all feel afraid at times, but do not let that hold you back from saying yes, taking on challenges, and finding a way!
With the unpredictable nature of COVID-19, we have no idea what the NFL will look like when it returns. However, I wanted to know how you have been engaging the Vikings Women in new ways despite the pandemic. What have you found successful?
COVID-19 has caused everything to be different. We hosted our audition process 100% virtually for the cheer team this year. We hosted our junior cheerleader program 100% virtually this year. And as mentioned, we will be hosting several of our Vikings Women events virtually this year. I have been with the team a long tenure, so it was challenging to not do things in a proven way.
But, I think it has also been a tremendous opportunity to re-create, get creative, and try new things! I don’t think we will ever go back to exactly the way things were before. However, I think change is good and we will have several wins to take from this unique season.
Hayley's Final Thoughts
As an advocate for women in sport, I was extremely excited to chat with Tami Hendrick. Tami built Vikings Women from the ground up in an effort to not only connect women with football but also to connect women with one another. As the initiative continues to grow, Vikings Women is able to connect with other organizations. Tami Hendrick’s willingness to share best practices across the NFL in the hopes that other teams will create programs similar to Vikings Women is commendable. As women, we must work together and Tami Hendrick is doing that by sharing her knowledge and passing the torch. The future is female and Tami is paving the way!