Rhonda Blanford-Green is a new LHSAA assistant executive director. She talks about her work with high school athletic associations, her days as a college track athlete and other topics.
When do you start work?
That hasn’t been set yet. But I’m coming in with my daughter this week to look for a place to live.
Do you have a previous connection to Baton Rouge?
Yes, I do. I ran at the Paper Tiger Relays in 1985, and we set a world record in the shuttle hurdles relay.
Was it at all like you remembered when you came back recently to interview?
The No. 1 thing that’s the same is the hospitality. Just how welcoming Baton Rouge is comes through. It was that way 30 years ago and the same last week. There’s a comforting feel about Baton Rouge. You feel welcome at Waffle House, the mall or wherever you are.
Your were a 10-time all-America performer as a hurdler at the University of Nebraska and ran professionally for a few years. Talk about that.
I was an NCAA champion in 1985 in the 100 hurdles. I beat Jackie Joyner and Carol Lewis (Carl Lewis’ sister) in the final at the University of Texas. I missed the (1988) Olympic team by eight-hundreths of a second. My best times were 12.70 seconds wind-aided and 12.80 wind legal. I spent about three years running professionally. I competed in Europe, Hungary, Switzerland and Japan. It was a great experience.
What attracted you to the LHSAA job?
From what we’ve talked about and what I’ve seen, this is a time of change for the LHSAA. A lot of emphasis is being put on building relationships with legislators, superintendents, principals and other groups. That’s something I enjoy doing. I’ll also get to work with individual sports and cheerleading again, which is something I did in my years with the Colorado Association (the Colorado High School Athletic Association).
What are the key issues you see for high school sports?
The issues of public schools vs. private schools are out there. It’s not just in Louisiana; everybody is at the very least having discussions about it. But for me the top issue is safety for our student/athletes. There is so much new information out there about concussions, cardiac- and heat-related problems. We need to do the best job we can educating not only coaches and schools but also the parents.
You were an elite athlete, but your focus is participation for as many students as a possible. Explain that.
It’s important for all states to remind and educate our membership on what we do. This is education-based athletic activities. We’re an extension of the classroom. A lot of emphasis is put on the elite athletes. You always hear about them, especially the ones who are top recruits. We’re about participation, not about elitism. We should include all kids who want to participate, making a place for them.
Your husband, John Green, is a track coach and both your children played college sports in other sports. Do you still run?
It’s more jogging. People who look at me might think I could still hurdle. But I’d blow out a hamstring.
What are you looking forward to in Louisiana?
I love the food, especially the oysters. I saw one restaurant offers a jazz night, and I’d love to go to that. I’m looking forward to embracing the culture.