Hailee Bland Walsh is a powerhouse who is changing the fitness industry and challenging the way people think.
She is the owner of City Gym KC and creator of Momentum, one of the countries only fitness programs for the transgender community.
Her mission and message of love, acceptance, and belonging radiate out of everything she does.
Hailee is a force to be reckoned with and should be on your list of women to know and support.
What were you like as a little girl?
I was super, duper active! I started walking at 7 months and climbing cabinets by 11 months. My mom always shares that when I was little, she used to cry and ask me where my "off" button was.
I played every sport growing up (basketball, volleyball, track), but was drawn to soccer which I started at age 6. The first team I played on was an older girls' team (U8) and my neighbor was my coach. He lied about my age on the paperwork so I could play on the team.
By third grade, I was kicking all the boys butts on the playground and playing on a traveling boys soccer team. I had to beg my mom to let try out for the boys' team since the girls team in our town was not competitive enough. She let me only if I promised to wear a bow in my hair, which today explains so much about my personality and style.
My favorite subjects in school were recess and P.E. I was the kid who took P.E. WAAAAY too seriously. Little known fact is that I was the reigning tetherball champ and President of my grade school.
Who were your idols?
Mostly women from the US Women's National soccer team; Michelle Akers, April Heinrichs, and of course Mia Hamm. I had posters of Michelle and April plastered all over my walk in closet and I used to lay in the floor and look at the posters and imagine myself playing with them.
I was also, randomly, a HUGE Charles Barkley fan. I loved him when he played for the Phoenix Suns. I had the coolest flat bill Suns hat that was purple and orange that I wore when I played street ball with the neighborhood guys.
Why did you want to play sports?
I was just sort of a sports junkie. I loved moving my body, learning skills, and improving myself. I was the weirdo who loved practice. I also really loved having teammates and having a place to belong, where I could fit in, was life saving for me.
I was bullied in grade school for being a "tomboy." That was code for lesbian. I didn't know exactly what it meant, but I knew that I didn't want to be it. Sports allowed me to feel strong, accomplished, and supported.
Were you a natural or did you have to work for it?
I think I had some natural athleticism, but as I progressed in competitiveness, it was apparent that if I wanted to be good, I was going to have to work really hard at it. It became my M.O. to show up early and stay late after practice. To be really good, I had to work harder and longer than everyone else. Not only did I have to work harder, I had to be smarter, understand the game better. If I wasn't going to be the fastest, biggest, or most naturally skilled, I had to be wicked smart. I became a student of the game. I was in the right place at the right time because I could anticipate so well.
Were there any limiting factors that held you back?
I mean, I was a 5'1" white girl from Kansas so besides the obvious, no not really. (For the record, I'm 5'4" 3/4 now.)
What practices/beliefs had to be put into place to work toward your goals?
Oh man, accountability. I learned at an early age, no one was going to do it for me.
If I wanted to be better or get more playing time, then I was responsible for doing the work required to earn that.
I also learned how to be doggedly hard working. As I mentioned, I had a basic level of talent, but anything beyond that required an incredible amount of work on my part. I also learned that I not only had to out work the competition, I had to out think it too. I apply that every day in my professional life.
I'm constantly pushing my business to lead, rather than follow the industry.
What was it like transitioning from playing sports to working in fitness?
My first fitness gig was as a personal trainer in San Francisco. I was hired by a local chain, called Gorilla Sports. I was working in a pretty posh part of SF. As a part of the gig, I was required to service assessments with new members.
I had just come of really hard core training as a professional athlete so my idea of a "beginner" workout was not the same as the average fitness goer. After literally making the first four clients pass out, I had to reevaluate and rethink my approach.
And while I stumbled into fitness, I stayed for the magic that happens when a person begins to believe something different about themselves - Like when a woman begins to feel strong and confident because she can lift heavier and heavier weights.
Growing up an athlete allowed me to claim an identity outside of the stereotypical girl experience. I found that for my clients, most were longing for some sort of identity also. Connecting them to their physical body, setting and accomplishing goals that seemed impossible, allowed them to transform, not just their bodies, but their lives.
What values do you bring from playing sports into your fitness practice?
The values of hard work, preparation, knowing how to be a leader, and when to empower others to lead.
How has your hard work helped you serve others?
All of my years in the fitness industry have led to the creation of City Gym.
This place is the manifestation of my service to others. I wanted to create a place where people feel safe enough and loved enough to transform their lives.
City Gym is more than a place to workout, it's a place to belong. It's about more than burning calories, it's about building capacity.
Life ain't easy, but when you have a radical self care practice, one where you show up for yourself even when things get hard or scary, you can move through even the hardest times.
I firmly believe that if at City Gym we can take care of people and in turn they take care of themselves, then just maybe they will go out have more capacity to take care of someone else. In that way, we can make the world a bit better and a bit more loving.
If you could give your 16 year old self one piece of advice, what would it be?
Be brave. Be authentic; its going to pay off. One day you're going to have an amazing life and the most incredible wife.
LIKE WHAT YOU READ?
We'll provide weekly content geared toward:
Strength and Conditioning
Showcasing Badass Women