Washington Olympian helps young female athletes overcome stress

  • Written by Shannon Michael

With the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics in full competition this month, countless children across the globe who are watching the action on television are becoming inspired and dreaming that they, too, may become an Olympian some day.

For Libby Ludlow, a native of Washington state, that dream became a reality when she earned a spot on the U.S. Ski Team for the 2006 Olympics.

Ludlow, who retired in 2008, has set her sights on a new dream with the formation of Z Girls, a program, based in Seattle but available nationally, designed to give the next generation of female Olympians a mental edge. The mission of Z Girls is to empower girls to have zero limitations today so that they can reach their full potential tomorrow.

Having gone through the mental strain and stress of competing at the Olympics and knowing exactly how that feels, Ludlow designed Z Girls to help young female athletes, ages 11-14, to dial-in their mental and emotional competitive edge.

"Confidence is experiential.  It takes time to build.  I wasn’t blessed with confidence at birth; it was something I cultivated with every repetition at the gym, every form of adversity I overcame, and every piece of positive feedback that I internalized. Through my involvement in sports, I was able to understand why I should believe in myself," Ludlow wrote in an email interview. 

The program’s goal is to have young girls walk away from Z Girls empowered with practical mental and emotional skills that they can apply immediately in their sport and in their life. Z Girls accomplishes this by employing program leaders who have excelled in their sport to teach the Z Girls program to young female athletes in the same sport.

Currently, Z Girls has accomplished program leaders for the following sports: volleyball, ski racing, basketball, soccer, track & field, lacrosse, gymnastics, softball, figure skating, and running. All of the program leaders have excelled at a national or international level in their sport. 

"To provide the transformational experience that Z Girls promotes, it is essential that the leader (a) has credibility with the girls, and (b) intimately understands the challenges and emotional hurdles specific to the girls’ particular sport.  For these reasons, we’ve learned that it is essential to always assign leaders to programs according to the leader’s strongest (most-successful) sport," Ludlow wrote.

The Z Girls program is designed to focus on helping a team, especially during practice. Their Core Program includes four one-hour sessions plus a parent clinic. The program focuses on mental awareness, positive self talk, body image, confidence, and goal setting.

Additionally, they have a one-week summer camp slated July 21-24 in Bellevue that also highlights the same issues as the Core Program, and are expanding into offering programs to older teen girls. 

To learn more about Z Girls, their program and summer camp, visit their website  

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