Hidden Heroes: Kaitlyn Heier

Will Glocker

As a young girl living in Lawrence, Kan., Kaitlyn Heier grew up playing sports and eventually helping her dad create at-home videos.

Back then, she didn’t know she would one day be creating video content for a division-one school. But in September 2017, Heier was hired for a full-time position at Iowa State University with Cyclones.tv.

She had just graduated from Kansas State University but worked with KStateHD.tv for three years while being a student.

“Going into the summer of my freshman and sophomore year, I learned of the opportunity of KStateHD.tv and their video department and applied,” Heier said. “I started out as a volunteer for a month until I could show my work was good.”

Everyone at KStateHD.tv loved Heier, especially the energy she brought and her creativeness. Heier is used as an example to most of Kansas State’s current students.

Andy Liebsch, director of video services, described her as having a very strong work ethic.

“She sees what she wants,” Liebsch said. “She put in her application that she wanted to be a producer for ESPN, but her work ethic drove her to be able to keep developing her skill sets to set her up to be in those positions.”

Liebsch has seen Heier grow exponentially over the years. Every now and then, she will get to travel back to Manhattan, Kan., with an Iowa State sport.

Liebsch said she has always belonged in sports video content creation, but her professionalism and demeanor have grown even more.

The shyness Heier once had is now gone. She knows she belongs.

Heiers’ first experience with video and camera use was when she and her dad created tractor-pulling videos. Her dad ran his own business and sponsored a two-engine, hemi-modified tractor for tractor pulling.

To promote his tractor, her dad bought a GoPro to create videos.

“We would hit record and mount it on the roll cage and get the tractor going on track,” Heier said. “I would cut it and put it together. They would use it for diagnostics to see if something happened.”

Junior year of high school was when Heier began taking video seriously. One of her teachers had a knack for video and learned that some other students did as well, so they formed a class.

With the small camcorders they had in the class, the students would create short films and sports videos for school.

Now, every year, her school does a 24-hour film festival. In the past few years, Heier’s old teacher has asked her to come back and be a judge for the festival. She could really tell that the class had really grown from when she took it in 2012.

With her love of sports and video, Heier found herself at Cyclones.tv as an assistant director of creative video. Here, she has gained the trust and confidence of the athletes she works with, the coaches and her co-workers.

John Walters, director of broadcasting, said Heier is a go-to person, very invested in what she does, and makes sure she puts her heart and soul into what she does.

“She’s invested in the university, in those sports and in this office every single day,” Walters said. “She pours her heart and soul into it. If you don’t get somebody with that type of energy in that spot, it’s just not going to work. You have to find somebody who is all in and I do whatever I can.”

Heier thanks her parents and how they raised her for all the qualities that people have used to describe her. Her creative side, however, she never really knew where that came from.

“In middle school, we had to take art, and I was terrible,” Heier said. “I can’t draw, but there was something about digital art, like editing and storytelling, that I kind of naturally have a knack for.”

When Heier started at Cyclones.tv, her position was more temporary. The position was newer, never had been filled before, and was very flexible to fit whatever she wanted to do.

She was able to dabble in all the sports at Iowa State, but the main ones she gravitated towards to produce content for were volleyball, women’s basketball and tennis.

A good video is able to sell a program to potential recruits and transfers. All those programs Heier works with feel like they have a leg up on the competition now because of what Heier is able to produce for them. 

Walters’ said that videos can help level the playing field for teams, and the school, instead of just verbally talking to the recruit about the program. Teams can show recruits videos and visuals of what their program is about and what it looks like to play for them.

Heier said that it took time to gain the players’ and coaches’ trust as it would anywhere else. Heier believes it took about two years of working with the coaches and team to feel part of the family. 

“I take pride in that they have a lot of trust in me to put their program out there and give me access,” Heier said. “Some teams can be very closed off and very closed-minded and let a lot of the stuff on the inside of their program out. Being able to share the inside of the team with the outside world is what makes my job fun.”

When Heier is not at work, she is either traveling, cooking or staying active. Heier said that everyone in the Cyclones.tv office always looks forward to her bringing in some baked goods.

Working in content production, there really is no off-season since the teams are always looking for content to promote their sport. Because of that, Heier believes having a good understanding of how to balance the job and her life is important.

“I think working on a work-life balance; it’s so fast-paced and go-go-go and learning to take a step back and working on your personal life, that’s just as important as your job,” Heier said. “So finding that balance is something I have worked on over the years.”