Wendy Gumbert - Coach, Referee, Instructor, Administrator - 2006
Position: Coach, Referee, Instructor, Administrator
Hall of Fame Induction: 2006
Home: Wimberley, Texas
Teams: San Antonio Scorchers 1991-1996, Atlanta Thunder 1996-2001, Team USA Rugby 1997-2004.
Wendy Gumbert began her career in Wheelchair Rugby after graduating college in 1991, with degrees in both Adapted Physical Education and Therapeutic Recreation. Her first job was as the Wheelchair Sports Coordinator at Warm Springs Rehabilitation Hospital in San Antonio, Texas. Creating the new program from the ground up, she built one of the most diverse and active hospital based disabled sports programs in the nation. From these efforts came the birth of the San Antonio Scorchers, one of Texas's first Quad Rugby teams.
Rugby quickly became Gumberts favorite sport and passion. In 1993, she was appointed to the United States Olympic Festival as local Sports Coordinator for Disabled Sports, which helped prepare America's athletes for selection to the 1996 US Olympic and Paralympic Team. After five years of development she left Warm Springs, Texas with 19 different sports programs in place, 5 large annual events, and had over 500 athletes participating in disabled sport.
In 1996, Wendy moved east to Atlanta, Georgia where she worked as Promotion Manager and Wheelchair Sports Coordinator for the Shepherd Center. Gumbert also assumed the coaching responsibilities of the Atlanta Rolling Thunder Quad Rugby team, where they made consecutive appearances at USQRA Nationals in 1997, 1998 and 1999.
In 1998 Wendy was again on the move, this time south to Warm Springs, Georgia. Here she developed the Roosevelt Sports Training Facility and hosted over 10 disabled sport competitions, and 40 disabled sports camps and clinics per year. This same year she was elected to the USQRA Board of Directors as Vice President, where she served until 2002. Wendy was also selected as Team Leader and Assistant Coach for Team USA Rugby in 98 (having served in the same two positions in 1997 for a developmental USA Team). That summer Team USA competed at the IWRF World Championships in Toronto, Canada and won the Gold medal. This was the start of a long association for Wendy and Team USA Rugby.
2000 was the first year that Wheelchair Rugby was officially recognized as a Paralympic sport. Wendy was selected as Assistant Coach for the 2000 US Paralympic Rugby team and traveled to Sydney, Australia to help bring home the Gold. The US faced Australia, and 10,000 local Aussie fans in the "Dome" for the Championship game. After 36 minutes of incredible play on both teams part, the US emerged with a narrow 32-31 victory, and the Gold medal. Wendy has often described the experience as the proudest and most rewarding moments of her life. After the 2000 Paralympics it became clear that the quality of rugby around the globe was rapidly on the rise.
Early in 2001, Wendy and several other people began developing a High Performance Training Program for USA Rugby athletes. The concept was designed to help the up and coming athletes advance to the next level, while at the same time implement advanced training strategies that would benefit the US for years to come. Most of these policies and procedures are still in place today, and provide Team USA with a solid structure that helps to develop world class athletes throughout the United States. Wendy served as the High Performance Manager for Team USA Rugby though the 2004 Paralympics in Athens, and continues to be one of the programs biggest fans.
The 2000 USA Paralympic Rugby Team Celebrates Winning Gold
Wendy Gumbert (left) offers up high fives.
Although Wendy has stepped away from many of her rugby responsibilities to pursue other passions, she still continues to referee rugby in the US, and follows the sport closely. She now works full time for BlazeSports of America as their BlazeSports Club Development Manager, and has built a strong relationship between the USQRA and BlazeSports as a result. The USQRA hosts numerous Quad Rugby clinics every summer, which Wendy has been responsible for since 1998, and continues to carryout this task today. Additionally, she was a driving force in the original and recent revision of the USQRA Coaches Manual, which BlazeSports now publishes.
Today Wendy lives back in her hometown of Wimberley, Texas with her husband Saul Mendoza. She is now a Coach for the US Paralympics Track and Field Team, and hopes to be named as a Coach of the 2008 US Paralympic team headed to Beijing. Her years of passion for people and disabled sports have evolved into quite a nice career.