When the 2016 Olympic Games begin next month in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, an accomplished United States Sports Academy alumna will be serving as assistant coach for the women’s team for USA Track & Field (USATF).
LaTanya Sheffield, who earned her Bachelor of Sports Science degree in sports management magna cum laude from the Academy in 2011, brings stellar credentials to Rio. She is a former Olympian, a former American record holder, and a successful college assistant track coach. She recently was named the Academy’s 2016 Alumna of the Year.
Sheffield will work with the women’s sprinters and hurdlers in Rio. She is currently an assistant track coach at Long Beach State University (LBSU) in California, where she trains male and female athletes in sprints, hurdles and relays. In her four successful seasons at LBSU, her teams have broken several long-standing school records and won four Big West Conference championship titles, as well as numerous All-Conference and All-American honors.
“Having been an Olympic athlete and now serving as an Olympic coach, I feel that I have come full circle and it has been an amazing circle in all aspects,” Sheffield said. “Being able to work with USA Track & Field as an athlete and now as a coach has been an incredible journey.
“To be selected as a coach by your peers is humbling and I am very excited to be an athletic ambassador for this great country. The Olympic spirit is who I am and it permeates every part of me.”
Sheffield said her Academy education has been important to her success as a coach.
“It made sense for me to pursue my degree at the United States Sports Academy, so I could coach at a whole other level,” she said.
“I know to be an NCAA coach there is a lot of administration. A lot of sports is about accounting, budgeting, marketing and sponsorships and that’s what the Academy has taught me.
“My degree program at the Academy was rigorous and it made me strive to excel. The program helped me to press for excellence and was important in my getting my job at Long Beach State.
“The Academy also helped me achieve a more complete understanding of what modern student-athletes go through and prepared me academically to be a better coach.”
As an athlete, Sheffield was a finalist in the 400-meter hurdles at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea. She finished eighth with a time of 54.36 seconds.
“What I remember most in 1988 were the opening and closing ceremonies,” she said. “You find out you are part of something very great. They are definitely moments that define how you see yourself and how others see you.”
Sheffield also represented the United States at the 1987 World Championships. She was a two-time gold medalist at the Olympic Sports Festival in 1987 and 1993 and won a bronze medal at the 1987 Pan American Games.
Sheffield established an American record in the women’s 400-meter hurdles in 1985 with a run of 54.66 seconds. She excelled in track at San Diego State University (SDSU), where she was a two-time All-American and 1985 NCAA Champion in the 400-meter hurdles. She was inducted into the SDSU Athletic Hall of Fame in 1993.
Sheffield has been highly involved with USA Track & Field. In addition to her service to Team USA’s coaching staff for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, she previously served as an assistant coach for the U.S. women’s team at the 2013 World Championships in Moscow, Russia. Sheffield was in charge of the sprints, hurdles and relays at the World Indoor Championships in 2008 in Valencia, Spain, and in 2006 in Moscow, Russia, as well as at the Pan American Games in 2011 in Guadalajara, Mexico, and in 2007 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Sheffield has served on the USATF Development Committee as the event chair for women’s hurdles since 2007.
Prior to her arrival at Long Beach State, Sheffield was an assistant coach at Canyon del Oro High School and head coach of the POPS Track Club in Tucson, Ariz. She helped lead Canyon del Oro team to two state championships and many of her POPS team members qualified for the Junior Olympic National Championships.
Sheffield is also a professional motivational speaker and is the founder and president of Sports Extravaganza, Inc., a non-profit organization that focuses on fighting childhood obesity. She was named one of the 25 Most Influential People in Tucson in 2012. Sheffield has also been honored with the USATF Youth Division President’s Award (2010), Sam Lacy Sports Pioneer Award (2010) and NAACP Community Service Recognition Award (2008).
Based in Daphne, Ala., the United States Sports Academy is an independent, non-profit, accredited, special mission sports university created to serve the nation and world with programs in instruction, research, and service. The role of the Academy is to prepare men and women for careers in the profession of sports. For more information about the Academy, call (251) 626-3303 or visit www.ussa.edu.