Thanks to the movies, most of us believe a simple black belt in the Korean martial art of taekwondo puts you somewhere at the top of the fighter food chain. For Wausau resident Valerie Norgord, a third degree black belt is only the tip of her audacious identity.
Norgord started doing taekwondo with her daughters six years ago and has since risen to third dan — or degree — designation, a minimum of three years continued training. This summer, she’s serving as a coordinator for this year’s Badger State Summer Games martial arts event, with competition on Saturday. The Olympic-style sports festival is held annually every June in Wausau and surrounding area.
Wisconsin residents of all ages and skill levels are invited to participate, as are upper Michigan residents who can make it down and Illinois residents who do not have state-sponsored games.
Saturday’s taekwondo competition will take place at D.C. Everest Junior High School in Weston. Like the slew of other Badger State sporting contests happening Friday through Sunday, it’s officially recognized by the United States Olympic Committee State Games program. The entire festival serves as an opportunity for friendly contests or as a stepping stone to Olympic aspirations.
This is Norgord’s first year with the Badger State Games, a time-consuming but rewarding responsibility that began approximately four months ago. Involvement in the games has become a much larger extension of her work at Halama’s studio, where she trains but also helps teach upwards of 30 students.
“I have a need to be here,” Norgord said. “I come three days a week. I don’t get home sometimes until seven, eight, nine o’clock some nights because this is what I do. I need to get out, I need to be a part of a community. Taekwondo does that for me.”
Now in her mid-40s, Norgord is well-known for being a social manager in her personal life, from setting up sleepovers at her house to supervising the neighborhood block party. She has assisted Halama’s Marial Arts studio owner Nathan Halama with determining details big and small to ensure this weekend is a success.
The self-described organizer has played a hand in everything from the event schedule and judges to the design of the competition belts and name tags.
“Those guys are brainstorming people,” Norgod said. “I just listen, and I’m putting things down to paper so I can keep them organized. They’re thinking of everything that needs to get done and I’m making just making sure that we do it,” Norgord said.
“She’s been great at organizing everything and making sure that we are on track (with) getting everything done,” Halama said. “It would have been very difficult to get this all organized without her. She is taking the reins, so to speak.”
The full article was first published in the Wausau Daily Herald on June 20, 2016.