Welcome to the Good Tidings Podcast with host Larry Harper, Founder of the Good Tidings Foundation. This podcast is all about highlighting the good in people and what individuals are doing to make an impact in this world for the benefit of others, and it aims to inspire a community of givers! Today, Larry interviews friend and four-time Olympian, Brenda Villa! Brenda joins the show to talk about her career in water polo, as well as the ways in which her sport has opened doors to extensive community work.
Brenda has cemented her place as a water polo legend, having medaled at four Olympics, earned the status of water polo player of the decade, and more. As her conversation with Larry gets underway, Brenda traces the roots of this success back to her childhood. The child of Mexican immigrants who settled in Commerce, CA, Brenda grew up in a low-income family without the resources to invest in expensive sports like water polo. However, the city of Commerce offered free entry into aquatics, providing access not only to water sports, but to the training in things like safety and discipline that these sports involve. By the time she got to high school, Brenda was able to make the boys’ water polo team, and she was all-CIF all four years. As sports programs developed around her, Brenda found the ceiling for her water polo aspirations rising higher; she was motivated by the sport, and able to dream about concrete goals.
Now, having achieved tremendous support as an athlete, Brenda is committed to using her skill, passion, and fame to better her community and communities around the country. About ten years ago, she had a hand in launching Project 2020. This organization provided swim lessons and aquatics access to kids in East Menlo Park and East Palo Alto. It developed partnerships with other organizations, and eventually, created a water polo team with subsidized costs. Now, Brenda works with the Brenda Villa Foundation, which fosters diversity and access through aquatics programming across the US. Brenda loves to see children inspired as they see themselves in her, and she hopes to see more and more children develop confidence, experience the benefits of getting in the water, and build community. She shares about the foundation’s work with 6-8 Sports’ camp program, and as the conversation wraps up, she also talks about her work as both an ambassador for women in sports and a member of the LA28 Athletes’ Commission.