Prof stays busy, sets example
Hard work, and persistence takes Woodson-Smith to Paralympics
Published: Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, October 10, 2012 17:10
Less than a month after competing in the 2012 Paralympics in London as a wheelchair basketball athlete, Andrea Woodson-Smith has her eyes set on her next athletic venture.
“If I go to the (2016) Paralympics it will probably be for rowing,” said Woodson-Smith, an N.C. Central University physical education and recreation assistant professor. “I’ll probably retire from wheelchair basketball."
Woodson-Smith began playing wheelchair basketball in 2000.
This year was her first participating in the Paralympics. She was on the team in 2004 but a medical clearance issue removed her from the team two weeks prior to the team's departure for Athens.
Her team would go on to win the gold medal without her. In 2008, her team would win another gold medal, but because of her retirement in 2006 she missed out on that gold medal also.
She came out of retirement in 2009 for the 2012 Paralympics. This year the team wasn’t able to bring back any medals. They lost to Australia 40-39 in the gold medal match after a controversial no call.
Woodson-Smith does her best work when she’s busy.
“It’s routine for me,” she said. “If I have a lot of free time I tend to get lazy.” Woodson-Smith has lived by that mentality her whole life. She balanced school and basketball before being diagnosed with arthritis in the hips. It cut her basketball career short during her senior year at James Madison University.
“I’ve done this my entire life,” Woodson-Smith said. “I’ve always been involved in sports, and had to deal with homework and keep my grades up."
After obtaining her bachelor’s degree from James Madison University, Woodson-Smith completed her master’s program at NCCU. She would later earn her doctorate at Texas Woman’s University in 2006. It was in Texas that Woodson-Smith discovered wheelchair basketball.
A disability sports class was one of the classes she had to take in route to her degree. It was in that class she went to Dallas to watch the women’s wheelchair basketball team. She learned that she was actually eligible to play, and through heavy recruiting by one team member Woodson-Smith joined the Dallas Lady Mavericks.
Her professor at the time allowed her one day out of the month to miss class and practice with the team in Dallas.
“You got those responsibilities, and if you don’t do those you don’t play the sport,” Woodson-Smith said.
Being a professor and athlete Woodson-Smith knows she has to set an example for student-athletes in her classes.
NCCU graduate and former softball player Andrea Searls took Woodson-Smith’s Adaptive PE class.
“She was definitely a role model to me,” Searls said. “She showed how to work out and give 100 percent to her sport, and students.”
Woodson-Smith said that in whatever she does she makes sure she practices what she preaches.
When not competing in the Paralympics, playing for the Rolling Charlotte Bobcats or Lady Mavericks in Dallas, Woodson-Smith spends her time training.
Her limited hours of leisure time force Woodson-Smith to train during the semester. She gets up every day at 4:30 a.m. so she can beat the crowd to the gym.
“If volleyball has the gym at 5:30 a.m., then I need to be here at 5:15 to get my court,” Woodson-Smith said.
She trains until 8 a.m., focusing on chair skills or lifting weights in the chair, and then she heads to work. After work she participates in any group exercises in the L.T. Walker Complex or lifts weights in the evening. She repeats this schedule five days a week.
“It’s pretty much a job,” Woodson-Smith said. “Whatever I can do that’s going to give me the extra edge that’s what I do.”
This past summer Woodson-Smith turned up her training regimen. She stayed in Texas for a month and trained with one of her teammates before heading to Wisconsin with the entire team. After that she came back to North Carolina to participate in training camp before leaving for London.
Two Eagles joined Woodson-Smith in London for the Paralympics. NCCU Law Professor Kathleen Wallace served as the Ombudsman for the U.S. at the Paralympics, and Woodson-Smith’s biggest supporter, her husband Jeremy Smith who also is a wheelchair basketball athlete.
“I do not like flying, but if it involves being there for my better half, I will put aside my fear and be there for her no matter what,” he said.