Zach Hilferding started in Plant City on Monday, July 18.
Although it’s only been a week and one half, the Plant City Family YMCA is already feeling Zach Hilferding’s energy.
The new executive director, who officially started Monday, July 18, has been fired up since his return to the YMCA organization. Hilferding’s tenure began with a four-day trip to a national assembly in Kansas City, Missouri, and he’s returned with plenty of hopes and dreams for the Winter Strawberry Capital of the World.
PASSION FOR ATHLETICS
Hilferding, a Bradenton native, came up through Bradenton Christian School, where he starred in basketball and track and field. He was named Manatee County Athlete of the Year in 1997, his senior year of high school, and accepted a scholarship offer to play basketball at Manatee Community College for two years.
After MCC, Hilferding transferred to the University of Florida and joined the Gators’ practice squad for one season. He graduated with a degree in physical education and a minor in psychology. He met his wife, Jillien, while working at a restaurant for four months after graduation.
It was then that Hilferding began his YMCA career, joining the Manatee Family YMCA’s fitness floor staff and providing personal training and group instruction services. During his year and one half there, he also moved up to roles as gym supervisor and sports and fitness director.
He took his first break from the Y to work at a nearby Gold’s Gym, first as a director of personal training and then as a general manager. Two years later, he found himself bartending and providing personal training at the Ritz-Carlton.
While at the Ritz-Carlton, Hilferding took a job as a sports coordinator at the Sarasota YMCA. He moved up to sports director, juggling those duties with his bartending job.
“Busiest year of my life,” Hilferding said. “And that was prior to being married and prior to having kids.”
At the Sarasota Y, Hilferding said he oversaw a facility with over 7,000 sports participants, hosting 12 leagues per season. He oversaw four branches in Sarasota and Hardee counties and got involved with numerous club sports. He partnered with Manatee County schools and the Parks and Recreation Department to provide additional facilities for this reason.
“Most of it was driven towards the youth,” Hilferding said. “We wanted to fight youth obesity, provide them a safe place to come and have fun in a non-competitive environment — that’s what the YMCA stands for — and, three, to bring families together that, maybe, traditionally, didn’t hang out with each other.”
He also volunteered his time as national basketball director for the YMCA of USA and with the European Alliance of YMCAs, specifically the branch in Kiev, Ukraine.
In 2011, he took his second break from the YMCA to manage international shipping and parking companies.
He returned to the recreation scene in 2014, joining the Nathan Benderson Park staff as a program director, where he oversaw the park’s world-renowned rowing program.
BACK IN THE SADDLE
Hilferding said his decision to come back to the YMCA was influenced by five years of not working at a YMCA.
Although Nathan Benderson Park offered Hilferding and his family a reprieve from traveling 2,200 miles a month with 717 Parking, he jumped at the chance to rejoin the Y once the Plant City position opened up.
After attending the Kansas City assembly with board member Jason Jones, Hilferding started in Plant City Monday, July 18. He and Jones said the assembly gave them plenty of ideas for programs to bring to the table, such as an “Agents in Training” program that gets kids involved with local police and fire departments. They also hope to add additional sports programs, such as a swimming team and a midnight basketball league.
At or near the top of Hilferding’s list is to grow the Plant City Y’s presence within the community. Hilferding wants to provide whatever services he and the Y can.
“We’re trying to be very much community-driven,” he said. “We’re trying to get into the heart of the community and find out what their hopes, wants and needs are.”
Contact Justin Kline at email@example.com.