I first heard of A.J. Mleczko Griswold when she helped The Taft School, where we both went for high school, win three straight New England titles in Girls' Ice Hockey from 1991-93. She set the Taft record with 111 career points. AJ attended Harvard and became captain of the 1999 national champion Women's Hockey team, while earning All-American honors. She also earned the Patty Kazmaier Award, given to the nation's top college women's ice hockey player, due in large part to the most prolific scoring season in NCAA history.
Mleczko Griswold played on two Olympic teams, earning a gold medal in Nagano in 1998 and a silver medal at the Salt Lake City games. Since ending her playing career, Mleczko Griswold has commented on Women's Hockey in the last two Olympics.
What skills and characteristics were needed to be successful in your career as an athlete? Have you been able to use any of these in your career in broadcasting? If yes, how so? Do you plan on continuing broadcasting?
Sports can teach people so many different life lessons, including (but not limited to!) dedication, perseverance, grit, determination, learning to be a good teammate, learning to take orders from a coach, among so many others. As a child these lessons are embedded in playing sports. Once I reached high school and college, I would add organization to this list, as we had to balance our school work with a full slate of games and practices for a variety of sports. One of the reasons that I encourage my children to play sports is that all of these skills are incredibly helpful in so much of life. For me, there is a definite translation with broadcasting. Since I primarily work on hockey, my knowledge of the game is the cornerstone of what I do, but these other skills are just as critical. I have to learn to get organized to learn the teams I am covering, and dedicate my time to learning this information. As far as being a good teammate and learning to take orders form a coach - both of these are true in broadcasting too! I have a crew of people I work with both on and off air, including producer and director talking in my ear feeding me information as well as pulling the show together, and we all have to be working towards the same end goal.
What advice would you offer to someone who wants to become an Olympian?
I get this question fairly frequently and all I have come up with is to make sure you are ultimately having fun. I love to play hockey and that is how my career began. That is not to say that I enjoyed every minute of training for the Olympics - as of course there are incredibly difficult days on the ice, in the gym, on the road. But at the end of the day it was all worth it as my teammates and I loved to get out there and play a sport we loved.
What do you enjoy most about being a mother? What are the challenges you face?
Parenthood is so different from many things in life. When I was training every day, I had teammates to help me stay motivated and a coach to give me near-constant feedback, both good and bad. I think many jobs are similar. Broadcasting certainly is…whether it is a producer or nameless, faceless viewer via Twitter, someone is very often there to tell you what you did wrong (and hopefully sometimes right!). Motherhood, on the other hand, is challenging in that you rarely get positive feedback and you rarely are told that you are doing a great job like a boss might in other fields. Folks are much more prone to criticize and judge you through your children, and we all know kids have plenty of off-days that always reflect on their parents. My reward therefore, lies in watching my children grow up, become more and more independent and form their own personalities. I am amazed at how four children from the same parents can all be so different from each other. A challenge I think about is how to celebrate their differences as they develop and grow up.
Do you still run your charity hockey game? Can you discuss the importance of the game to you and its origins?
I no longer hold Charity on Ice. We had a great run of 10 years. We started it in 2002, the year the rink was completed on Nantucket (side note: rink was completed 48 hours before first annual Charity on Ice - VERY stressful that year as we waited to see if ice would be ready for game!). Anyways, the rink incurred a $1 million debt during construction and they needed to pay it off. Initially they couldn’t even break even on operations costs. My mother was president of the Board and so we hatched this plan and used some of my 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic connections to get some hockey players (NHL, Olympic etc) to come over for a celebrity exhibition game. After 10 years we had paid off the debt and I am very proud of that fact and the event itself. I was born on Nantucket and never had a chance to skate here since there was no rink. Combining two passions - Nantucket and skating - was a no-brainer for me. But I felt that it was time to move on since the rink did not need that amount of money annually. Maybe someday we will resurrect it for another cause!
Thanks so much to A.J. for contributing to this project. You can follow A.J. On Twitter.