A former Olympic hurdler and American record holder and current collegiate track and field coach, United States Sports Academy 2016 Alumna of the Year LaTanya Sheffield is entering her second Olympic Games as a coach in Tokyo later this month.
Sheffield, who earned her Bachelor of Sports Science degree in sports management magna cum laude from the Academy in 2011, is the head women’s track and field coach at Long Beach State University and is a women’s assistant coach for Team USA’s sprinters and hurdlers. Sheffield makes her return to the Olympics after serving the same role for Team USA in the Rio 2016 games.
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. 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.
“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.”
Sheffield has been highly involved with USA Track & Field. In addition to her service to Team USA’s Olympic coaching staff, 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, 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).