Renata Simril Leads LA84 in Celebrating Female Success in Sports
Culture Through her position leading the Los Angeles based non-profit, Simril wants to get all kids involved in sports and connect young women with female coaches.
Renata Simril has always loved sports. When she was a girl, neighborhood kids would knock on her door asking if she, not her brother, could play football.
Nowadays, Simril, who’s president and CEO of the LA84 Foundation, one of the nation’s leading youth development organizations, is still passionate about sports, especially for kids.
“We want to bring the fun back to sport,” she says.
LA84, a legacy of the 1984 Olympics, started with the $93 million surplus of money left over after those Olympic games ended. With planning and smart investing, the organization is going strong and has been supporting youth sports programs for over 30 years.
“Over the last four years, we have funded over 50 different sports,” says Simril, explaining that with “sport biodiversity,” kids can play a wide range of sports including water polo, swimming, handball, short track speed skating, fencing, dance and cheer.
With so many sport options, there’s something for kids of all shapes, sizes and interests.
The right resume
“We want to bring the fun back to sport.”
Simril played football, softball and tennis growing up. After high school, she served three years as a military police officer. After that, she worked in real estate and then with the Los Angeles mayor’s office. Next came jobs in management at the Los Angeles Dodgers, followed by the Los Angeles Times. Despite working in male-dominated fields, Simril wasn’t intimidated. “I never saw myself as a woman,” she says.
Her motto? “If you hire me to do a job, I’m going to make sure I’m qualified to do that job.”
Recruiting female coaches
“It’s not uncommon for girls to go through their entire youth, collegiate or professional career without having a woman coach,” says Simril, calling it a double standard, with many people thinking men, more than women, know how to win.
That’s why LA84 holds coaching camps for women, acknowledging that coaching at the youth level is about mentorship and positive engagement.
Honoring female success
Last year, Simril went to visit the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and saw the sport venue’s “court of honor” had honored only one woman. She and LA84 changed that.
Recently the coliseum added two new plaques celebrating women in sports: marathon runner Joan Benoit Samuelson, who won gold at the 1984 Olympics, and rower Anita L. DeFrantz, who won a bronze medal in the 1976 Olympics.
“It’s an opportunity for young girls to see female success, understand their stories and say, ‘wow, I can do that too,’” says Simril, noting that tennis star Billie Jean King will be commemorated with a plaque in October.
This summer, LA84 is leading a “Wiki Edit-A-Thon,” adding entries about women athletes into Wikipedia.