Ty Walker is a member of the U.S. Olympic Snowboarding Team. After competing in the Sochi games earlier this year, Ty is gearing up for South Korea in 2018. In the summer of 2014, Ty spent 3 days at our NFL Wharton Prep Leadership Program at the University of Pennsylvania. Ty took the time to tell us about her experience as an Olympian and her decision to participate in our program this summer.
- Where are you from?
This is always the most complicated question! I lived on Long Island until I was 10 and now my family lives in Stowe, VT. I'd definitely call Stowe "home", but I go to school in Park City, UT and live in Breckenridge, CO for the winter so I can train. I travel all the time too, so I'm kind of from all over.
- How did you get into snowboarding?
My family used to drive up to Vermont (from New York) a few weekends a year during the winter, and my older sister was always better than me. I decided I wanted to do something different and picked up snowboarding right around the same time as the 2006 Olympics in Torino. Watching the U.S. dominate that year definitely made me want to start competing.
- What was it like to be a part of the US Olympic team in 2014?
Being a part of Team USA was incredible. I'd been dreaming about competing in the Olympics since I was eight years old, so to finally reach this goal that I'd been working towards for so long was really surreal. It was awesome to really be on a "team" too, where you root for your country and your teammates in their events and get to know more about their backgrounds as athletes.
- What was the highlight of the Olympics?
Opening Ceremonies was a huge highlight. Before I got to Sochi, I'd wanted to compete in the Olympics because I knew it was the highest level event that I could compete in for my sport. I didn't really think as much about the international camaraderie and having the opportunity to represent my country on such a massive stage. At the ceremony, there was an awesome speech about what it really meant to be an olympian that really made the whole experience sink in for me and opened my eyes to how fortunate I was to be able to participate in something so great.
- What is the hardest part of making the team?
The qualification process was pretty brutal. You compete in five events in 5 weeks and that's your only real "shot" to make it. Everybody competing had so much pressure to perform and was so stressed out, and we were all kind of locked up together as we traveled to all of the events. There wasn't any team drama or anything, but it's just a pretty draining process. You can feel the tension at the top of the course.
One of our events got cancelled due to bad weather and the organizers rescheduled it into a week that already had two events. It was the last week of qualification, everything was on the line, and we had three events to compete in, AND I just so happened to have all of my midterms due. That was a rough week haha.
- What’s next?
I'm definitely going to go for South Korea. I was only 16 when I competed in Sochi, so I figure I've definitely got a few more in me. I'm also finishing up high school this year which is kind of crazy, and applying to college which is even crazier. Pretty excited to see what the next few years have in store for me!
- Why did you decide to participate in the NFL Wharton Prep Leadership Program?
The program brought in top-level student-athletes from around the country and had us participate in a three-day program that helped us develop our leadership skills. I decided to participate mostly because I knew doing something that linked my athletic career and my academics would be helpful and knew I would also be able to meet a lot of other kids who had the same interests as me.
- What were some of the most useful things you took away from the program?
I was able to meet a lot of awesome kids and hear about their experiences with their sports. I was also pretty nervous about the college application process at the time, and I shared my questions and concerns with a lot of the other students there who were in the same position as me. I also got to listen to some great seminars ranging that taught us things ranging from how to fuel our bodies before and after workouts, to what types of leadership personalities we had, and what admission officers look for on college applications. It was an amazing learning experience.
- If you could give advice to people participating in the 2015 NFLWPLP, what would it be?
Meet as many people as possible and make tons of friends! All of the kids there are determined, passionate about sports, and smart, and if you're there, you are too. You get to meet people your age from all over the country who you have lots in common with, and who you can learn from. Plus, you'll probably end up at the same school as one or two of them.
10. Would you recommend the program to others? Why?
I would absolutely recommend this program to others. I think that it's an incredible experience that allows you to learn more about yourself as well as meet other people who share your same interests. I had a great time on my trip, and I think that other people would also benefit from participating.