by Natasha Hastings

I’m from New York City. I’m an Olympian.

There are plenty of Olympians who have come from New York City.

The thing is, I don’t remember any experience of an Olympian coming back when I was younger and sharing their story – sharing what it took.

What I do remember is that I was the kid who was worrying about money. I remember we were fundraising for a trip. We had a certain amount that we had to get to and it was up to our parents to fund the rest of the bill.

I remember asking my coach if I could fundraise extra, because my Mom was newly-divorced and I didn’t want my Mom to have to come up with the final balance. I learnt early on that there is expense involved that goes into supporting your kids playing sports. 

My Mom has always been one of my biggest role models growing up. I can’t give my Mom enough credit for everything. From seeing her go after her dreams, to seeing how much she sacrificed for my brother and me. She is my real-life hero and I have definitely modelled my life after her in terms of the upstanding human being that I want to be beyond the track.

Team USA 4x400m women celebrate their win at the Rio Olympics (Getty Images)

The more my career progressed, the more I wanted to be a tangible resource for the next generation coming.

In 2016-17, I created a series – Tea Time with Tasha. It was a chance for me to answer all of the questions people on the other side of track and field don’t understand or just have a genuine concern or intrigue about the sport.

I used it as a platform to talk about things like body image with girls, things like going through puberty while you’re competing, playing sports and also what does sports do for girls? You don’t have to become a professional athlete to reap the benefits of sports. I have friends that are now doctors, lawyers, CFOs – and they played sports all their lives. I have relationships through sport and I have learnt so much about myself through sport.

I want to show the power of sport to girls.

The drop-out rate in sports among teenage girls is scary. Especially because there are studies that show that girls who are involved in sports are less likely to become pregnant, they are less likely to become obese ­– there are all these things that show how beneficial sport is for girls. Yet, we lose girls from sport at an alarming rate.

So for me the question is: how do we bridge that gap? How do we keep girls in sport? How do we let them know that this is something empowering, something that they can grow from in so many ways?

Natasha Hastings at the 2016 Rio Olympics (Getty Images)

I thought a lot about my journey, where I’ve come from and how I got here. I thought about the pieces I wish I had and so I set up the Natasha Hastings Foundation. The work we do is all about supporting girls at a time when they are most likely to drop out of sports. We provide scholarschips and support girls to go to nationals. 

In September we put on the Inaugural Tea Time Gala. The goal of that night was to raise funds for five girls to go to nationals – we got enough for ten. So we’re sending ten girls to nationals next year. The application process for that starts in January.

There’s a variety of criteria – number one, you have to qualify of course. Then there’s a personal essay and letters of recommendation from a coach and a teacher. But above all, we are going to take a very close look at it being needs-based. We want to make sure that we’re giving these scholarschips to girls who need these scholarschips. 

The key thing for me is, I don’t want this to be a one-time experience and then you’re just left to figure it out after that. I would like for it to be an ongoing relationship, to be that tangible resource.

I know my role in track and field is slowly changing. The work that I am doing now is not something that I personally am gonna benefit from as an athlete.

But I love my sport so much that I want to see it grow – and I want to see it grow in a positive way. We have a way to go. And if I can have my hand in being a positive change to the sport and of course for women in the sport, I definitely want my hand in it.