Five Questions With: Wendy Hilliard
Wendy Hilliard is a former champion rhythmic gymnast and President of the Women’s Sports Foundation. She now acts as the Director of our GoGirlGo! New York City program, making sure all Big Apple girls have their shot at a healthy, happy life through the on-the-ground girl-serving programs who use our award-winning GoGirlGo! curriculum. Last week Wendy traveled to Los Angeles to represent GoGirlGo! at the LA84 Foundation Summit, an inaugural event featuring a line-up of national experts who discussed the impact of youth sports and the future of research on the topic. Wendy joined the panel “Making the Case for Youth Sports” and after the event, she shared with us some of her takeaways from the conference and her personal perspective on why sports for girls matter.
1. Why is it so important for the public – every day you and me’s -- to be vocal advocates about the need for sports opportunities for all girls?
The lack of physical activity and sports for girls touches everyone’s lives. A generation of young girls who have no or not enough knowledge, understanding or respect for their bodies and physical fitness has already proved problematic to the physical health, self-esteem, and ambition of young women. We are trying to swim upstream through rough waters, trying to reverse the consequences that removing regular physical education from school systems across the country has produced.
2. What is the legacy that the Los Angeles Olympics established for the following generations of young American athletes?
I was very impressed with the LA84 Foundation and its success of developing, supporting and preserving youth sports in the Southern Californian region. It is the gold model for Olympic sport legacy organizations.
3. As a former elite athlete, do you believe your academic success was nurtured by your success in gymnastics? In what specific ways do you use skills learned in training or competition in the classroom?
There is no doubt that the discipline and focus I developed through gymnastics carried over to my academics. I became a better student when I became an elite athlete and graduated college with honors, despite my rigorous training schedule and traveling demands. Sports gave me the skills to push myself and strive for excellence and to focus on the work at hand. My time was limited and I learned not to waste it – so I was really motivated to do well in school.
4. What is the strongest takeaway from the conference?
There are great organizations doing wonderful work for youth fitness and sports. The research, especially from the Women’s Sports Foundation, supports and highlights the positive impact that sports and physical activity has for academic achievement. The biggest challenge is the ability to make sure that the best programs are accessible to everyone.
5. Why does sport matter to you?
Sports opened the world to me – literally. I was able to travel the world through sports and train with and compete against athletes who’s everyday lives where so different from mine-- but through sports we were all the same. The fact that I was able to receive world class training from top coaches at the Detroit Recreation Department drives me to make sure that sport and quality physical activity is available to all.