For Black Kids, Sports Set the Stage for Achievement and Joy 


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By Aziah Siid, Word in Black

Barrier-breaking Olympic gymnast Wendy Hilliard says students need the mindset that “you learn from sports and apply it to your education.”

Wendy Hilliard’s youth gymnastics team prepares to compete (WHGF)

With back-to-school season in full swing, teachers are getting their classrooms ready, students are buying academic supplies, and student-athletes are already practicing for upcoming games. 

Indeed, whether it’s football, volleyball, cheerleading, cross country, or gymnastics, fall is jam-packed with middle and high school students who are out to win. 

But, according to the NCAA, “Of the nearly 8 million students currently participating in high school athletics in the United States, only 495,000 of them will compete at NCAA schools. And of that group, only a fraction will realize their goal of becoming a professional or Olympic athlete.”

So if they’re not statistically likely to earn a college scholarship or go pro, why encourage Black youth to participate in sports?

“I’m a huge believer in what they call Olympism, which means you should be very good in sport, you should understand art, and you should understand education, and you should work the three of them together,” says Wendy Hilliard, founder and CEO of Wendy Hilliard Gymnastics Foundation. 

In 1979, Hilliard was the first Black person to compete internationally for the United States in rhythmic gymnastics. She was on the national team for 10 years, moving up to become the national team coach, and then an Olympic athlete. 

Once her competitive and performing days came to a close, Hilliard seized the opportunity to bring the sport back to Detroit, a decision that wasn’t easy but seemed so right. 

Founded in 1996, the Wendy Hilliard Gymnastics Foundation provides free and low-cost gymnastics to youths from all backgrounds. With a gym located in her hometown of Detroit, Michigan, and another in Harlem, New York, WHGF opens doors for thousands of underserved children with a passion for movement.

And that passion for movement can help students gain the mindset they need to excel academically as well.

Read more in the original article.

Read about other sport options for Black young adults in this Breaking News article about HBCUs.

Find even more Breaking News here.

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