Angela Hucles, the U.S. Women’s National Team leading scorer in the 2008 Olympic Games, is a two-time Olympic medalist and two-time World Cup medalist. A graduate of the University of Virginia, Hucles was awarded with the 2009 Humanitarian of the Year award by the U.S. Soccer Foundation. In 2008 she was chosen for the Women's Sports Foundation Athlete Advisory Panel and assumed her role as Foundation President on January 1. We sat down with Angela to learn more about her goals for her tenure with the WSF, how sports taught her to be a leader and what being named President means to her.
Women’s Sports Foundation: In becoming President of the Women’s Sports Foundation, you are joining a list that includes pioneering female athletes like Lyn St. James, Julie Foudy, Dominique Dawes and Angela Ruggiero. What does it mean to you to take the torch from the amazing women who have served in the position?
Angela Hucles: “It’s definitely a huge honor. I accepted this role knowing that the women who have served before me have all accomplished so much even before becoming President of the Women’s Sports Foundation. The fact that this position leads an organization that Billie Jean King – really the embodiment of the word ‘leader’ in every sense – founded is something that is not lost on me and is just really phenomenal, a true honor and tremendous responsibility.
Sports are my first passion and are something both my family and I have been involved in for my entire life. In stepping into this role, I really want to have a positive impact, knowing that in 40 years the Foundation has accomplished so much, but also remembering that there is a lot of work left to be done to really advance the lives of girls and women in sports. This new role is exciting, it’s humbling and I am ready to tackle all the challenges we have today in furthering the mission of the Women’s Sports Foundation.”
WSF: What facet of the Foundation’s work is most important to you? What are your top goals for your new role as the new President?
AH: “What always strikes me is the Foundation’s impact and how much the Foundation succeeds in doing each day. One of my biggest goals is to make all this good work more visible. The Foundation and everything it has accomplished embodies this humility that I think is fantastic; I also want people to have a better understanding of who the Foundation is and what it does. WSF’s work is a little more discreet and I would love people to know that there is this organization out there that supporters can come to when they need help, when they have issues that need to be addressed. I want to help the world know that the WSF is a resource and one that they can really rely on.
I admire the full-circle nature of the Foundation’s advocacy work: from the young girl who is being denied the opportunity to play all the way to an athlete who is at the end of her career and is looking to fill that void in her next-steps. I believe there is a major opportunity for more women to get involved in the sports industry – for example, right now we are seeing a huge decline in the number of female coaches. I look forward to working to improve this issue during my tenure.
Lastly, my third goal is for those athletes who want to do more to give back, athletes who want to get involved with the Foundation or start their own organizations. There are a lot of athletes out there who want to offer their time and talent and I think the Foundation can be the perfect resource to help those athletes do just that.”
WSF: This year the WSF announced Sports 4 Life, a new grant program that specifically targets African-American and Hispanic girls, both high-risk and underserved populations. How does the opportunity to play change the life of a girl who might not otherwise be able to participate in sports?
AH: “Having the chance to play is huge. I know this from personal experience, but there is also a plethora research that backs it up and proves just how important playing sports are. And it’s huge on so many levels. It’s not just about what sports do for a girls’ physical health – being stronger, being more fit and decreasing the risk of diseases later on in life. There is starting to be a lot of research about how participating in sports helps the brain and its function; that playing sports can actually help children perform better in school.
The social element of playing sports is so critical and one that can’t be ignored, either. Sports teach you how to manage the dynamics of a group, how to make friends and deal with a lot of different personalities, a lesson that will prove important later in life. When you’re on a women’s soccer team with 20 different players, there are 20 different personalities one must learn how to manage.
Sports teach a girl about herself while also teaching her about life. It’s one of the biggest tools that can really set her up for a successful life long after her playing days are over.”
WSF: Leveraging sports to develop girls into leaders off the field is the fundamental goal of the WSF. Tell me about a time when you had to act as a leader off the field, when you drew from your leadership experience on the field.
AH: “What I love about leadership is that it doesn’t have to look like what we might think it does. Especially when we are younger, I think most people imagine a leader to be someone who is extremely vocal, maybe even aggressive, and someone who takes center stage. I love leadership because it comes in so many different forms. It’s about identifying in yourself what qualities you possess that can help you to be the most effective leader possible.
I was not that “traditional” leader on the field but what made me different was that I was always a leader to our team outside the game. My teammates could rely on me whenever help was needed. I took that responsibility seriously – I wanted to be someone my teammates could trust with a question or an issue, whether that had to do with soccer or not. There is an honor there; I felt like I could provide leadership to my teammates in a different way —it was more than just the game.”
WSF: You are the founder of Empowerment Through Sports Leadership Series. Tell me more about that initiative and how you see your work there complimenting your work with the Foundation.
AH: The Series and the work of the Foundation go so hand-in-hand and it’s quite exciting for me – the Series really aligns with everything I believe in and what has been my life’s work up until now. What I try to do in the Series’ conferences is not just say “this is how you can be a leader,” but help young girls identify how they are leaders now. I am helping girls realize that they already possess all the tools – I am just poking the fire a little bit to encourage them to own it. The conferences are a fun expression of sports – bringing together a group of girls to help foster relationships while giving their parents and coaches the resources they need to succeed, as well. With everything the Foundation does to advocate for girls and women and to encourage athletes to seek out leadership roles, there really couldn’t be more symmetry.”