[00:00:00] The first time that I felt like. My gender affected what I could do was when I won the Olympic trials in the 2004 Steeplechase and it was an exhibition-only event because the steeplechase was not added to the Olympics yet for women. And so I had won the Olympic trials, set an American record, a US all comers record. It was the number 2-time in the world and I couldn’t go to the Olympics because they didn’t have my event yet for women, and that was the first time. So I was 22 and that was the first time I ran into that issue.
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Jesse: [00:01:22] Welcome to the Smart Athlete Podcast. I’m your host Jesse Funk. My guest today is a former Division one athlete at the University of Nebraska, the former American record holder in the 2000 and 3000 meters steeplechase. Woman after my own heart, though I’m sure much faster than me as I ran the steeple in college.
It’s a great time for anybody who has the opportunity. She is the 2004 US Olympic Trials Steeplechase Champion, currently the director of technology at Dimensional Innovations here in Kansas City. She’s on the board for win for K.C. and the board for U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton. You can find her on Twitter at anngaff. Welcome to the show Ann Gaffigan.
Ann: [00:02:02] Thank you for having me. A fellow steeple chaser. I miss that to know.
Jesse: [00:02:06] It’s a small it’s a very small tidbit in my history, my tendency, which is how I kind of became an endurance athlete in the first place, is I go, what is the thing everybody else hates doing? I’ll do that thing. So that’s kind of how I was. I feel like people come you’ve got much deeper experience in steeplechase than I do.
[00:02:34] So let me throw this theory at you. I feel like people come to the steeplechase from two avenues generally. One, as mentioned, the everybody else that hates this. So I’m going to kick ass at it. And coach says I’m not good at anything else. We need points to like, just throw just throw me in the steeplechase and try to get some points because there’s not enough people in the event. Those are the two avenues I feel like having the most often for that event.
Ann: [00:03:02] Well, I’ll throw in a third one. Maybe it’s like. Second or 2a but might be a third. So when I was a freshman at the University of Nebraska, that was the first year that they had the steeplechase for women at the collegiate level. And so the reason that I got into it is because my coach was like. I think that the people that get into this event first and figure it out are going to have the most success, at least early on. And he felt like with my background as a soccer player and just multi-sport athlete, that I would be able to handle the the pounding.
[00:03:40] And it is much more pounding than than a typical flat race, especially with the water jump that I’d be able to handle it and not get injured as much or as as as likely to be injured. And that really excited me to be a part of something that was brand new. So that was kind of my avenue in and I feel like we should explain what it is because not everybody knows what it is.
Jesse: [00:04:06] So it’s been long enough. I’m going to get this wrong. Two or three.
Ann: [00:04:12] I’ll fact-check you. I’ll fact-check you.
Jesse: [00:04:13] 3000 meter race. So just shy of two miles, seven and a half laps around the track, first lap or partial lap as it is, you do not go over the water barrier. There’s 24 barriers. That’s the part I always –.
Ann: [00:04:26] 35. There’s there’s five barriers per lap.
Jesse: [00:04:29] Five barriers. Okay. So that’s the part I like that Math doesn’t seem like it checks out. So four barriers and the pit or the steeple. The steeple pit, I think and this is something I haven’t checked. Collegiate pit distance is ten feet and pro is 12 feet?
Ann: [00:04:50] No, it’s 12 all around. And that was actually that was —
Jesse: [00:04:53] We definitely have a shorter pit in high school.
Ann: [00:04:55] There are some ten. So that was actually an issue for the women because originally the women’s pit was supposed to be ten collegiate and professional international, what have you. And the problem with that was not all pits around the world were built to be shortened. You know, they couldn’t move the the barrier on all of them. A lot of them were just built to be where they were. The pit was what it was.
[00:05:22] And so that actually held up the women getting added to the Olympics because it has to be an event, has to be contested at a certain number of championships before they get added to worlds and then to the Olympics. And the reason it wasn’t is because not everybody, not all of these venues had a ten-foot pit. So I ran on a ton of ten-foot pits in college and then host collegiately at some point in the 2004-2005 range, they changed the official women’s distance or pit distance, pit length to 12 feet so that you didn’t have to worry about that. Everybody’s doing a 12-foot pit.
Jesse: [00:06:01] That’s something I could never figure out because we, the college I went to, had a ten-foot pit in. Like by my junior year, I finally had the strength to clear the pit consistently. And then when we raced conference that year, they had a 12-foot pit in my whole bike balance was —
Ann: [00:06:16] Totally changes everything. I mean my coach, he’s a he’s a stickler for stats and so if we raced on a on a ten-foot pit he did not count that as your PR and there was some kind of adjustment like 10 seconds or something. So it makes a pretty big difference.
Jesse: [00:06:33] Yeah. And for those who’ve never done the event, you do want to land a little bit in the water to soften the blow, but not too much. Because then not only are you water —
Ann: [00:06:43] Then you’re trudging through the water.
Jesse: [00:06:45] Right. You’re wasting time. For the few steeplechase chasers I’ve — so this is now turned into steeplechase however. So sorry for you, the listener. We’ll get on to other things. I always. I always have to ask any other stupid chaser. And again, I’m sure you’re much more experienced in steeplechase than I am, but my theory is that no matter who you are, your very first steeplechase hurts like hell, despite whatever preparation you’ve done to to make sure that it’s not that way. And so can can you remember the very first time you raced it?
Ann: [00:07:22] I do, and I don’t remember it well. I shouldn’t say I don’t remember it hurting, but that’s not the most significant thing I remember. I just remember being very terrified of the water jump because we had not had a chance to do it back in Nebraska yet because of the weather. So there hadn’t been a warm enough day where we could put water in the pit and listen, we would have done it if it was 37 degrees. Right, like it had not been above freezing.
Jesse: [00:07:49] Yeah.
Ann: [00:07:49] And so the first steeplechase that I did in a race, I had done plenty of barriers, but not a water pit. And I was trying to warm up on the water pit and do a water jump. And I just kept stopping at the at the barrier. And so I was I couldn’t get myself to jump over the thing. And so I was terrified that that’s what was going to happen in the race. I was just going to run up to the thing and stop.
[00:08:11] And so I had to leave the track. I went for a run around the fields that they had nearby and just had to talk myself into it and then come back and I got one in. Before the race happened. The comforting thing was the same thing was happening to the one other woman that was in my race. And that’s just how it was for us because it was such a new event. She was having a hard time too, so at least I didn’t feel like the only one dealing with that.
[00:08:39] But I will say after the first race, every season, and this wasn’t just the first time, but the first race of every season, I could walk for the rest of the week because I was so sore.
Jesse: [00:08:52] And for clarification, if you’ve never, you the listener, if you’ve never watched the steeplechase, unlike the sprint hurdles, 100, 200, 300 400, whatever it is you can actually. These are barriers rather than hurdles. So you can say —
Ann: [00:09:09] Yeah, they don’t collapse. You do.
Jesse: [00:09:11] Yeah, right. If you hit them. You are not going to win that battle. But with the pit in particular, generally speaking, you’ll occasionally see like a pro guy try to just fly over the whole thing, but typically you’re stepping on the barrier and then jumping off of it or lunging off of it however you want to say it. I always like to tell people like, because I think you and I could probably both sit and watch any men’s or women’s 5000, 10,000 on the track and kind of see what’s going on and who’s playing like and kind of understand the tactics of what’s going on track. But Average Joe, I think for most people, they’re like, I don’t like why? What’s going on? Why this is boring?
Ann: [00:09:55] They’re bored. Yeah.
Jesse: [00:09:56] But I felt I got my family to watch the steeplechase and they were, like, thrilled with the steeplechase. So I always suggest if you have the opportunity and you’re like a distance running on the tracks, dumb or boring, watch the steeplechase. You will definitely be entertained. There’s a lot more going on. There’s a lot more movement —
Ann: [00:10:16] A lot more things can happen.
Jesse: [00:10:18] Yeah.
Ann: [00:10:19] Yeah for sure.
Jesse: [00:10:21] It’s — I always try to give it a little bit of push and maybe make it less of the like redhead stepchild that I kind of feel like it. Maybe I was or whatever it involved in the steeplechase, so.
Ann: [00:10:32] Yeah, for sure.
Jesse: [00:10:35] So. We’ll move on. The thing that I want to ask you about that you said people always ask you about is given that you were steeplechaser, how do you get involved with USA Bobsled and Skeleton? Because before we were recording, you said people would be like, what do you know about Bobsled? And I was giving you a hard time because it’s just you just jump over things and you get what you’re not. As you mentioned, no ice involved with the steeplechase, so.
Ann: [00:11:08] Right. How does that happen?
Jesse: [00:11:09] How do you get there?
Ann: [00:11:11] Yeah, well. So, you know, if you look at the board members of any NGB national governing body, it certainly is not filled with people who are experts in the event. And that’s by design, right? There are some representatives that certainly come from that. But the idea of a well-rounded board is to bring a variety of backgrounds and experience and expertise together, not just for the good of the technical aspects of the sport, but the financial stability of the organization, which feeds the technical aspects.
[00:11:50] So I was heavily involved as an athlete with USA Track and field from the time that I was an emerging pro all the way through multiple years after I had retired as an athlete, I was on the Athletes Advisory Committee, which is pretty robust, relatively speaking, for a national governing body in terms of how many people are on that committee and what influence it has in the organization.
[00:12:19] So I was in what they call an event leader for a long time. I represented women’s 500 meter to 5K, I believe, and then eventually was was one of the elected officers. And so after that I moved on from that maybe in 2019 ish and was just really looking for a way to stay involved in an Olympic sport, and there was an opportunity to do that with the USA Bobsled and Skeleton through some connections that I had. And I thought that it was really interesting because it’s a winter sport.
[00:12:59] It is a sport that we kind of consider a sister sport to USA track and field because it is not uncommon for some of the team members on USA Bobsled and Skeleton to be former track athletes, whether out of college they transition to bobsled and skeleton or after at the end of their pro track and field career, they transitioned over.
[00:13:20] So, you know, there is that connection and also it is a smaller NGB than USA track and field. So I felt like maybe I can lend some expertise as to how, where, what we could get to and how we could continue to grow and evolve. And then just from a business standpoint, doing what I do, I felt like, you know, being a leader where I am and having that business background that I could lend some expertise there.
[00:13:50] And so the way it works is you got to know somebody. They’ve got to ask you if you’re if you want to be nominated, they nominate you. And then there’s a committee that determines who’s the right fit, who fills the gaps that they have on the board. And so I was lucky enough to be selected, and it’s been really fun. I joined during the pandemic. So last weekend was the first time that I attended an in-person board meeting, which was great.
[00:14:19] Got to finally meet everybody in person. It’s just not the same. Doing things over Zoom and meet a lot of the athletes who were there for the annual meeting. And that was such a relief because I need another Zoom board meeting like I need a hole in my head. So it was great to meet everybody and, and tour the Olympic Museum too, which was really awesome, so.
Jesse: [00:14:42] So I guess talk to me a little bit about what as a board are you doing? Are you guys working on the development pipeline, which I’m kind of interested, like I’m more familiar with, like USA Triathlon’s Development Pipeline as I was involved in that post-collegiate league for a number of years. And I know each sport kind of has their own set up kind of, and how they find potential athletes to become Olympians or pros. So so what is the function of the board? What do you what are you guys meeting about? Basically.
Ann: [00:15:22] Yeah. You know, in terms of development pipeline and stuff, that’s really on the CEO and his staff. The boards ‘ purview is to be stewards of the organization and make sure that we are upholding the mission. And the mission is around the athlete being successful on and off the track. So and that’s that off the track part is a new addition to the mission statement. As of maybe I feel like we talked about the first board meeting that I was in. And so we are making sure we’re not directly making decisions on a day-to-day basis.
[00:16:00] We’re making sure that overall everything is working towards that mission. And I would say one of the most important jobs that we have is helping ensure that the organization is moving to a more financially stable place. And that’s probably our biggest concern is just funding. As with all US Olympic NGBs, we are not funded by the government the way a lot of our competitive competitor countries are. And so we’re really relying on sponsors and private donors, and that’s tough. It’s a constant battle, you know, especially when you’re an Olympic sport.
[00:16:37] And every four years is when everyone wants to be a part of it and then they disappear. And so I think it’s even tougher for winter sports because for whatever reason, they aren’t quite given the spotlight that the Summer Olympics are. I mean, they’re on TV just the same and all of that. But for some reason, it just doesn’t garner the same level of support financially that the summer sports get.
[00:17:03] So, I mean, the bulk of our conversations is around money, where we need it, where we have it, what the athletes are having to pay for and what we want to work towards. And in terms of them not having to come out of pocket to represent Team USA, how we do that, how we work our own connections to bring in either value, in-kind or or money. So one of the biggest one of the biggest kind of related points there that costs money, but indirectly was about money with technology and our ability to stay competitive with the other countries and our athletes are really good.
[00:17:47] And we win medals every Olympics and every World Cup because our athletes are just that good. But we are actually pretty far behind from a technology standpoint, which is, as you can imagine, really important in the sport because of the sleds, sled technology is everything. And so we’re getting behind these other countries and we’ve got to figure out how to step it up. So that costs money.
Jesse: [00:18:14] Yeah. Well, I think maybe one of the. Speaking of the challenges of winter sports in particular, I also kind of felt like. I don’t know if it’s somehow a roundabout effective like I call it COVID mania. But just like a change in mindset from everybody being shut in for a couple of years, it seemed like even like the Summer Olympics didn’t quite get the same kind of, I’ll say, fervor as it feels like it’s had in the past just for Tokyo and then to have the Winter Olympics followed right up. I think it was like it almost felt like. Maybe just speaking from me and I’m generalizing almost like burnouts, a little bit dramatic, but something like that where it’s like, you know —
Ann: [00:19:05] You’re not wrong. You’re not wrong. The numbers in actually the the Olympic Committee CEO, Sarah Hirshland came in and talked to us for part of our meeting. And that was one of the things that she said was that the viewership numbers for summer and winter were down. And that’s a trend that this is not the first Olympics where that was a trend that they saw. And it’s it’s not so much COVID related as it is. The Olympics are taking a PR hit these days with for a lot of reasons, you know, in the United States, there’s been issues with all of the gymnasts that were sexually abused by a doctor and they felt like the USA Gymnastics did not come to their aid, nor did the Olympic Committee.
[00:19:56] And that’s a bad look. Understatement of the year, right? It’s not good. And the International Olympic movement has been taking hits for years because they will award the Olympics to countries that are known for human rights violations and then continue those, by the way, that they use. The way that they abuse labor. To get ready for those games. So all of those things you know when we were kids, right? The Olympics are this wonderful thing and it’s a unification of the countries together. And it’s you know, there’s so much pride in it and everything.
[00:20:44] And unfortunately, recently, it’s also been representing some of these bad actors in situations where the powers that be are using their power for bad and not good and not protecting the athletes or the people that are boots on the ground. So it’s really a shame and we have a lot of work to do to right that ship and fix those things, not fix the reputation. And the reputation will get fixed when it deserves it, but fix those things and those those atrocities.
Jesse: [00:21:23] Yeah, I know. I’ve seen comments online and again, I never know quite how representative of the whole it is because I feel like, especially now, we often get siloed into our own little corners of the internet in some ways. I definitely seen like critiques of the IOC and what they’re doing and at the same time to give them a little bit of difference. They’re sitting in the seat, not us. It’s kind of backseat driving the Olympics for many of the public going, “Oh, no, I would have done this or that.” It’s like, “Well, you’re not the president of the IOC”, so I don’t know that I have the right answer there.
[00:22:04] But another thing that may be confounding things for us in the US, which for you, the listener, you probably aren’t familiar and I’m sure is not that he’s the greatest source of everything. But interestingly, I was listening to 96 five the other day and Laszlo was talking about the Olympics for some reason and mentioning like the idea of people are being so divided in the country right now, like we couldn’t even come together as a unified country to support the Olympics.
[00:22:35] There wasn’t even that feeling of national pride just for that that period of time. So I don’t know whether that’s another co-factor in kind of declining viewership or whatever, because I kind of would agree with him. Past Olympics have felt like. You know, everybody’s for Team USA, right? And then now there’s this division. Stronger division in the country at the moment. And I just don’t know how much or if that’s influencing, I’ll say, national pride or something like that, that kind of plays into lack of viewership.
Ann: [00:23:19] It certainly could be, you know. It certainly could be. And I think, you know, with the Internet and streaming and all these different ways to gain information, there’s lots of negatives to that. But there’s also things are coming to light that previously were much easier to hide. You know, so and those things really run the gamut between sexual abuse and like, financial, I guess, disparity.
[00:23:52] So, I mean, when I was a kid, the Olympics, all the athletes were understood and supposedly required to be amateurs. Right? And that was held up as this wonderful thing because they weren’t doing it for the money. And isn’t that awesome? And I think people’s understanding and opinion on that has evolved just like it has about NCAA athletes, where it’s like, “Well, that’s all fine and good as long as others aren’t making billions of dollars off of their free performances.”
[00:24:22] And that is exactly what’s happening, you know. So, I mean, if you are if you are on the IOC Committee, whether it’s board or it’s a related committee on the IOC and you travel which — depending on your position, you could be traveling 300 days a year. That would not be uncommon. Your per diem is close to $1000. So think about that. You travel 300 days a year. You’re on the IOC committee. You’re not paid a salary. But you’re getting $1,000 a day per diem. That’s a lot of money. You could do that for a job and be sitting pretty. Right? What are the athletes getting paid? Zero.
Jesse: [00:25:10] Right? And then also. You know, restricted from I think —
Ann: [00:25:18] Restricted from representing their sponsors?
Jesse: [00:25:20] Sponsors, logos on —
Ann: [00:25:22] Yeah.
Jesse: [00:25:23] Right. Which —
Ann: [00:25:23] So I mean, a lot of that is, is coming to light these days because it’s easier to get that information out there than when we were kids and how old you are but like.
Jesse: [00:25:33] Early thirties.
Ann: [00:25:34] Okay. So when I, when I’m when I was five, I don’t think we had more than 20 channels. So there’s only so much information you can get. And that isn’t the type of stuff that they’re talking about because that’s no fun. We want to talk about the heartwarming stories and what have you.
And so now the the stories are much more colorful and they’re coming from different places and people feel differently about them and argue about them. I mean, when you were saying, jeez, it seems like we can’t even rally around Team USA together, I immediately thought of Simone Biles and how she had she had to step away from competition because of the twisties or whatever they call it, mental health.
[00:26:17] And only thing in my timeline was people arguing about whether she was weak or strong because of that, you know, I mean, we couldn’t even just. We had to argue about that.
Jesse: [00:26:28] Yeah.
Ann: [00:26:28] Right? And all I remember is arguing about it good and bad. All the people in my timeline arguing about it for or against her. We’re nowhere near the level that she is or has been.
Jesse: [00:26:41] Right.
Ann: [00:26:43] And so that’s it’s interesting. And it’s —
Jesse: [00:26:48] Little did I know what I was talking about as it was going on. I know I have. I feel like I was talking to somebody that has a connection to USA Gymnastics while that was going on on the podcast. I cannot remember. I remember it was a lady come to me after we done recording. I think I remember thinking at the time, like, basically everybody needs to shut up, like —
Ann: [00:27:11] Because you have no idea what it’s like, you know?
Jesse: [00:27:14] Right. Right. And it’s like, you know, and I find myself in this kind of position a lot of the time where it’s like even right now, like in this conversation, like, I want to relate to you because we both were in the steeplechase, but like at the same time. We — I don’t know what it’s like to race at your level in that race. I just don’t. And you and even race division one, I basically ran a Division two school.
[00:27:46] So like you went through pressures that I didn’t experience. Like, I probably even went through pressures that Average Joe that didn’t race collegiately didn’t experience. And it’s hard to translate those things, let alone you get to Simone Biles, Michael Phelps, like that kind of pinnacle. And the expectation, the pressure, the demands from sponsors, I’m sure like —
Ann: [00:28:16] And also the physical danger does in the air, like for for her sport specifically, you know, if I run up to the steeplechase and don’t get over the water, jump worse, it’s going to happen. As I, you know, I skinned my knee or something like that. Maybe I could sprain an ankle. She’s in the air, flipping around and round. If it’s not if she’s not clicking, she breaks her neck. Yeah. And you know, to me, the clearest argument is, do you think she would choose to opt out of the opportunity to win an Olympic medal?
[00:28:50] You think she just didn’t want to do it? Wasn’t interested? You know, like, obviously, she was in a pretty serious place. And it just boggles my mind that regular people would have the nerve to criticize someone like her. Like you’re just you’re not on her level. You’re not, and you never will be, you know? And it’s just incredible.
Jesse: [00:29:17] I think it goes along with the idea and I’m guilty of this, certainly, I mean, in giving my opinion here. But I think we all feel entitled to give our opinions on everything nowadays. And it’s like, as we mentioned, if you’ll pardon the French, like you don’t know shit, like just shut your mouth and let like let them take care of it. That’s, that’s I think what we societally have. Difficulty with issues just being like saying, I don’t know, I’m not going to give an opinion and I’m going to let the person that actually does know make the decision.
Ann: [00:29:58] And I hope she’s okay, right? I wish her well. She’s. She’s Team USA. I wish her well, you know. That’s what I would have like to see more of. And there was plenty of that, to be fair.
Jesse: [00:30:10] Yeah. Right.
Ann: [00:30:10] But it’s —
Jesse: [00:30:12] I think you’re right. I don’t think it was the predominant conversation.
Ann: [00:30:16] Yeah, yeah.
Jesse: [00:30:17] Yeah. Thinking about advocating for women in sports, though. I do. Before we run out of time, I want to ask you a little bit about WIN for KC. I’ve seen signage. Obviously, I would not be involved not being a woman. But can you talk a little bit about what it is, what it does, why —
Ann: [00:30:38] You can always certainly be involved. We have men on our board we love —
Jesse: [00:30:40] I mean, I wouldn’t have liked to say wouldn’t have been like brought up in the program is what I —
Ann: [00:30:46] Gotcha. Yeah, for sure. Yeah. So WIN for KC is it stands for Women’s Inter Sport Network for Kansas City. It’s an arm of the Sports Commission. And I got involved about almost 12 years ago when I moved to Kansas City and I was looking for an organization to be a part of. And I found one for KC. And Kathy Nelson was the director at the time after taking over from Patti Phillips, who had been the longtime director and had built wind up from this kind of fledgling organization to something really significant with a lot of community support.
[00:31:26] Kathy Nelson had taken over from Patti and it was her first year. And so when I was connected with her, she said, “Yeah, we’d love you to be involved. Why don’t you come to our banquet, our annual banquet? It’s in February”, and I was kind of bummed because it was November when we talked. So I was like, “Oh man, I got to wait three months, but that’s okay. I’ll go to their banquet. I’m sure it’s a nice little banquet.” Like, how big can it be? It’s a women and girls in sports organization. It’s probably a cute, like, 100 person banquet, you know? And so I put it on my calendar and I planned to go.
[00:32:01] And the day before the banquet, Kathy called me. And she got my number from Athletes for Hope, which was the organization that connected me with them, fantastic organization. They connect athletes with local community organizations. And so I don’t know who this person is. It’s calling me cause I don’t have her number. We’d only spoken over email and she tells me she’s frantic. She says, This is Kathy Nelson. And basically their keynote speaker, Jennie Finch, the softball player, was stuck in Louisiana because of ice storms and wasn’t going to be able to make it in for the banquet the next day.
[00:32:37] And so she’s like, I don’t know if you do anything like this, but could you speak for us tomorrow? Could you be the keynote speaker? And I just said sure immediately without thinking about it, because she was so frantic. And I thought, well, someone has to do this, you know, and and people always ask, “Oh, well, did you give speeches before?” The answer is no. But I just I felt like I can I can talk to women, I can —
Jesse: [00:32:58] Clutch decision you just —
Ann: [00:33:00] Yeah. Like I just felt like talking to people who are there to support women and girls in sports. I can totally think of something. I’ll do it, you know? And then I said yes. And then I started asking her questions about how many people are going to be there and who’s going to be there. And quickly realized that this was a significant event. 1502 thousand people are there.
[00:33:19] You know, major sponsors from the area, price chopper Bank of America. Have you and that it was a pretty big deal. Was too late to say no so long story short I gave the speech the next day. It went very well and I fell in love with WIN for KC. And so I’ve been a part of it ever since. I always coach track and field at Camp One, which is going on right now and as of a couple of years ago, and this is the other board I joined during the pandemic, I joined their board.
[00:33:52] And so Kathy Nelson has since moved into the president of the Kansas City Sports Commission position, and now she is joint CEO of the Sports Commission and visit KC, which is amazing. And she’s done an incredible job. And kudos to her and Kathryn Holland for winning the World Cup, among many other national events that they would.
Jesse: [00:34:15] Yeah, I was like I, I got my name to know who to.
Ann: [00:34:18] Yes.
Jesse: [00:34:18] Spearheading that initiative. Yeah.
Ann: [00:34:19] Yes. And so yeah. So now I’m on the board. My daughter is actually a junior captain at Camp WIN as we speak. And yeah, it’s just very this organization is very near and dear to my heart. I’m friends with a lot of the people on the board and just love supporting them in any way in their mission.
Jesse: [00:34:42] It’s one of the things we’re like. Like I said, because I clearly would not have been brought up in the programs like I’ve seen, seen the stuff around town and see the stuff grown up. But I’m just like it never really registered. You know, like what’s happening? Same thing with, like, a sports commission. I’m pretty sure they’ve got signage in various places, but it’s just like. Part of it is I live in my own bubble, so I’m like, “There are things going on around town and I’m just not aware.”
[00:35:12] So it’s nice to speak to somebody that actually is connected in what’s happening and what’s going on. So. So in a similar fashion, you’re on the board, meaning you’re trying to make sure, like Bobsled and Skeleton, you try to make sure things are funded and moving in the positive direction that the —
Ann: [00:35:35] Yeah. So the mission of WIN is to empower girls and women through sports and I would call it much more of a participatory board because we’re all local. So not only can we all meet in person, although we did do some Zoom during the pandemic, but all of their events are here and we are here. So in my mind as a board member, it’s my responsibility to volunteer whenever I can to be at their events, to go to Camp WIN and speak or be it coach to volunteer when they put on the triathlon later this summer.
[00:36:07] This afternoon, I’m guest bartending at boulevardier at the KC current booth in that raises money for women for KC. So to me it’s a little different from USA Bobsled and Skeleton where I feel like my role in my passion at USA Bobsled and Skeleton is really about athletes rights and their ability to thrive in the sport, not come out of it in debt and then move into their life as a USA Bobsled and Skeleton alum and have that kind of be a positive for them. Right. And then but one WIN for KC, I feel like my passion is this local community, girls and women being empowered through their exposure to sports. And so it’s just a little different and it’s kind of fun to use, you know, different passions and skill sets to apply to both.
Jesse: [00:36:59] I know, like. There’s such a positive benefit to anybody but women in particular participating in sports. When I talked with Kristi Ingram a number of weeks ago now, I think it came up so would have come out as this one comes out maybe a month and a half or something like that back. Anyway, so she works with a company that basically does kind of a similar thing on a larger scale.
Ann: [00:37:32] Ernst and Young. Right?
Jesse: [00:37:35] Gosh, I need to look at what the name of it — EY Global.
Ann: [00:37:39] Yeah. Ernst Young.
Jesse: [00:37:41] Yeah. And she was talking about the stat. It was like. My humor, what it is, is like 90 plus percent. Like the vast majority of C-suite women have a background in sport and how important that is. It seems like such a simple thing. For somebody who grew up in all kinds of sports. But obviously I live a very different experience than a young woman growing up in our society. And it’s something I think that’s easy to take for granted. Like if you’ve grown up in sports and don’t really pay attention to it.
Ann: [00:38:21] It is easy to take for granted. The first time that I felt like. My gender affected what I could do was when I won the Olympic trials in the 2004 Steeplechase and it was an exhibition-only event because the steeplechase was not added to the Olympics yet for women. And so I had won the Olympic trials, set an American record, a US all comers record. It was the number 2-time in the world and I couldn’t go to the Olympics because they didn’t have my event yet for women, and that was the first time. So I was 22 and that was the first time I ran into that issue.
[00:38:58] So it is really easy to take it for granted. Title nine is turning 50 in a week or two here. Nine days, I think. And. You would think, okay, 50 years. So we’re good. You know, we’re everything’s all good. No need to worry anymore. Well, NIL absolutely has the opportunity to inadvertently threaten the opportunities for women to play sports at the collegiate level. Because the fact of the matter is, the sports that will have the money to meaning the sports where there will be money to pay, a lot of the athletes is, are, are the sports that cover the non-revenue-producing sports, a lot of which are women’s sports.
[00:39:48] It’s just that’s where we still are. I mean, we’re here in Kansas City where the KC current is a relatively new team after the previous NWSL team in the city folded despite being a 2-time league champion.
Jesse: [00:40:03] Right.
Ann: [00:40:03] And we are the owners, Angie and Chris Long and Brittany Matthews are building a stadium just for this team. And it is the first stadium built specifically for a women’s team in the country. And someone asked me, “Are you sure it’s the first time?” And I was like, “Yes. And I don’t need to send you a link or find proof or validate. Let me make sure I’m right.” Because it’s such like we haven’t even come close yet.
Jesse: [00:40:39] Yeah.
Ann: [00:40:41] I know that it’s the first time because no one has even come close yet. You know, we’ve been playing in the men’s stadiums at best and the men’s practice stadiums at worst, or a high school stadium. You know, so we are still really far behind, especially at the pro level for women in most sports, to get paid equally as men to garner the same viewership, etc.. And so it is definitely not to be taken for granted. At any moment. So Title nine, turning 50. We have to continue to fight for its place because that that law had so many rippling effects for that gave opportunities to girls and women, not just at the collegiate level but beyond.
Jesse: [00:41:29] Yeah. And unfortunately, we’re running out of time because I’m sure we could get into all kinds of stuff.
Ann: [00:41:36] We can go all day.
Jesse: [00:41:36] Or go like we could really get into it. But I don’t, I don’t want to run you over. But so each season I ask every single guest a particular question for that season. So it spans all of my interviews that season. This season’s question, which I’ll ask you, is something I don’t think we do often enough. So I’m hoping all of my guests provide me a little bit of insight and the listener this season. So the question is, how do you celebrate your wins?
Ann: [00:42:09] That is a great question. OK. You know, I didn’t want to say this, but it’s honest. So you’re going to laugh. I ran a 50K ultra trail run with my sister two weeks ago. Yes. And it was the most surreal feeling ever when we got done because we really thought we might not finish. And we actually finished running and we felt awesome and we were just so proud of ourselves because it hadn’t been easy to train for it and everything else. And I celebrated by drinking beer. How did I celebrate?
Jesse: [00:42:50] Lots of people do that.
Ann: [00:42:51] They had beer at the finish line and I was like, “Absolutely. I’ve been pretty disciplined with my training and nutrition and everything. I’m going to have a couple of beers”, but I would say, like beyond that and a little more serious, I this isn’t much. It’s not like, “Oh, I went and took myself on a trip or bought myself anything or what have you. It’s much more intangible”, but I just kind of like when I’m going to sleep or when I’m driving and I just have time to think. I just really play it back in my head and let myself really bask in it. I mean, in high school when I set when I broke 5 minutes for the first time in the mile, which is a pretty big deal for a high school girl.
Jesse: [00:43:33] I mean, that’s a pretty big year for high school boy. So much bigger deal for women. But yeah, for anybody, I think.
Ann: [00:43:43] Yeah. And I distinctly remember laying on my back in the middle of my bedroom later after taking a shower and whatever and just thinking about that race and just basking in it. And when I set the American record at the 2004 Olympic trials, I remember like, you know, I like go to the grocery store and I’d stand in line at the grocery store. And I just think these people in these line don’t know that I set a record and it’s all I could think about.
[00:44:10] And I just let myself do that because I think you should you should give yourself credit. And obviously, at some point you’ve got to come down off your cloud and move on to the next thing. But I think it’s really important to be proud of yourself and let yourself enjoy something that you accomplish, especially if it was really hard to get there.
Jesse: [00:44:27] Response-wise, I think you and Mark Allen are pretty much in the same category. Small variations, but basic same idea. Ann, so you get on to your next thing. If people want to see what you’re up to, get in touch with you, any of that kind of stuff, where can they find you?
Ann: [00:44:44] Twitter is great, like you said, @andgaff A-N-N-G-A-F-F.
Jesse: [00:44:49] Awesome. Ann, thanks for hanging out with me today.
Ann: [00:44:51] Thanks for having me.