proCanes.com is continuing our “Tracking proCanes” feature with former University of Miami and current volleyball player with Club Voleibol in Benidorm, Spain Ashley Woods.
Woods was a four-year letterwinner under head coach Nicole Lantagne Welch from 2005-08, and finished her career at UM seeing action in 367 sets through 117 matches. In 2008, she helped UM to its second-best season in Division I history - leading the Hurricanes to a 26-6 overall record and a 14-6 mark in the ACC. She also served as a captain for the Hurricanes on the year.
The 6-2 Round Rock, Texas-native left her mark on the UM record books throughout her career, finishing ranking among the top 10 all-time in seven categories for the Hurricanes. Woods ties for third in career matches played (117), while ranking eighth in block assists (209), eighth in total blocks (38), ninth in attack percentage (.256), ninth in points (825.5) and 10th in sets played (367).
In addition, she was selected as co-winner of the 100% Award in 2006 - a distinction given annually by the UM coaching staff recognizing a student-athlete who exemplifies a dedication of 100 percent day-in and day-out. Ashley Woods received her undergraduate degree from the University of Miami, while immediately going on to earn her Master's Degree from UM in spring 2009. proCanes.com: So you have signed a professional Volleyball contract with a team in Spain, talk about how you ended up in Spain.
Ashley Woods: I went to visit my friend who plays on a professional team in the Canary Islands. It was supposed to be a vacation but I asked her coach if I could work out with her team while I was there. I knew in the back of my head that I wanted to play but I was thinking more in terms of next season. Her coach called around because he knew some teams that needed a player with my skill set and voila! I ended up in Benidorm. I had been training and was in shape because of my job at Athletic Republic. My lease had just ended in Miami and it was all kind of perfect timing. I didn’t really go the typical route of an exposure tour, agent etc., but I’m here now!pC: Did you know they were going to draft you? How does the international volleyball draft work?
AW: There isn’t really a draft. Usually you sign up with an agency who either places you on an exposure tour or if you’re really good (All-American, National team player etc.) [the agency] contacts and negotiates with a team directly.pC: Are there any other Americans on your team?
AW: There is one other American on my team, she is from Wisconsin. There are two other ACC players in my league. One of which I grew up with in Round Rock. Crazy huh?pC: When does the season start? How long does the season last?
AW: The season starts in August and runs until April for my league, playoffs begin in the last week of February. It varies depending on the country and level that you play at. The top two teams from my league (Superliga B) move into Superliga A and the bottom two from Superliga A move to B. We play preseason matches in other countries but the ones that matter are all Spanish Teams within the league, much like a college format.pC: Is there a tough language barrier?
AW: The language barrier isn’t as tough as I thought. The Spanish here is different than the Spanish spoken in Miami and Texas, but it is fun to learn and practice. I have a roommate from Argentina and another from Brazil and we all do our best to communicate. Spanish is the common thread for us so there is a lot of “Spanglish” spoken in my house. pC: What's been the toughest transition personally, going abroad?
AW: If I had to pick, I’d say the toughest transition is the reduction in luxuries that I have in the states. However it is completely enjoyable to live a simpler life. I don’t have a dryer so everything is line dried and there is only a stove and no oven in my apartment. My teammates down the hall have an oven so it’s not too bad. But this is very common here. I can walk everywhere and the weather is very pleasant so not having a car isn’t an issue and if it were the team would provide me with one. But on the other hand the food is much fresher/healthier here and I love to cook so it is a complete dream to go to the market for me. It’s a give and take I guess.pC: What's one thing that has surprised you about Spain?
AW: I haven’t been surprised too much yet. OH! They don’t refrigerate their eggs here!!! And somehow their milk until you open it! That surprised me and took some getting used to.pC: Is your team mascot a frog?
AW: Our mascot is a frog, he’s cute and I need to find out if he has a name…my friend’s team is some sort of scabby looking thing with one eye. Very creepy.pC: Will you be on the Olympic team?
AW: I won’t be on the Olympic team. There’s a pipeline you have to follow for that and it starts at a very young age. I went to a couple of high performance camps but nothing really took off. I started too late.pC: At what age did you start playing volleyball, and did you play any other sports?
AW: I have been active since I was 7 and I started playing volleyball and basketball at the age of 12 year ‘round until I graduated and moved to Miami. pC: Did you follow sports growing up?
AW: I actually didn’t follow any sports teams. I always wanted to play and it was torture for me to sit and watch. I watched a lot of college basketball but I didn’t really have a specific team. I’d say overall I like college sports better than pro sports in general and it’s where I want to work eventually.pC: You're from Texas, why the University of Miami?
AW: UM was my last official visit I wanted to make sure that I made the right decision. I had a really good visit when I went there and I felt like I would fit with the team. I’m kind of obsessed with The Rock, well back then I was, so I’d say he had a 20% factor in my decision too [Laughter], the other 80% was the fact that I loved the team and they had a great program for what I wanted to study. I got my Bachelor’s and Master’s in Sport Administration from the School of Education at UM. I also knew that I wanted to travel and get out of my town and learn some life lessons/ My family always thought I’d stay close to home because I’m such a home-body and very family oriented but we all were wrong! Now I’m halfway across the world. I think being at Miami made this chapter in my life a little easier to handle. I’m pretty independent but this is a major move for anyone.pC: Who recruited you out of High School?
AW: I was recruited by Erik Olson who is no longer there, and I gained a lot of what I know now from Matt Botsford. He is a wonderful coach who is now working at Notre Dame, his dream job. I owe a lot of my skills as a hitter to him.pC: You were a pretty highly regarded HS player, why did you choose such a young program like Miami?
AW: Miami was and is still a young program, but my coach is very technically sound and knows a tremendous amount about volleyball. I felt that I would gain a wealth of knowledge from her and the staff there. I was right.pC: You're a Cane but you almost went to....
AW: I almost ended up going to University of Georgia. What made me not go there was the fact that they liked me, but didn’t really have a spot for me to be in and it was hard for their coach to let me slip away but it just wasn’t the right timing for me to come there. I love Athens and hope to live in Atlanta some day. It’s my absolute favorite city in the world. I used to get so geeked up for our match at Georgia Tech because I love being in that city so much.pC: Why the number 77?
AW: I chose 77 because my best friend, Jill Robinson was 57. I wanted 7 but it was already taken. It was promised to me the next year but I just stuck with my number because it was unique and two 7’s is definitely better than 1. I am 14 here because of the rules within the league regarding numbers, but guess what 7 plus 7 is? [Laughter]pC: What was the toughest thing about playing at the U?
AW: The toughest thing about playing here was that I had to challenge for my spot everyday, but that’s how it should be and it made me mentally tough. I wouldn’t change what I went through for anything .It has helped me both on and off the court.pC: What's your favorite memory of your time at Miami?
AW: My favorite memory is a block that I had vs. Duke. The ball hit the ground before the hitter, who shall remain nameless, landed from her attack. Best feeling ever.pC: Do you keep in contact with any of your former UM teammates? Which ones? Any coaches you still talk to?
AW: I keep in contact with all of my former teammates thanks to skype and facebook. A couple of them lived with me for a bit while they figured out their lives like the rest of us. I love them all so much. I talk to Lisa and Matt, and the current coaches of course.pC: What did your teammates call you? Did you have a nickname?
AW: Everyone calls me Woods, EVERYONE. [Laughter] I have Ashley on the back of my jersey now though. My team likes my name and wanted me to put that instead of Woods on the back. You can put anything you want back there. I’m thinking Woodsie F. Baby next year but we’ll see.pC: What was the toughest place to play on the road?
AW: The toughest place to play is Clemson for sure…we even got harassed by some of their fans…but it is intense and I am an intense player so I enjoy it.pC: The University of Miami gets a lot of publicity about their football team and how it's family-like, and how former players come back and tutor the younger ones, talk about the atmosphere on your volleyball team at the U.
AW: The volleyball team is like a family too. We all come back and get to know the freshman and keep in touch with them. I still practice with the team and try and help the newbies out during water breaks and in between plays…The atmosphere was perfect we never had any drama or cliques, which is rare in girls’ team sports. It’s one of the reasons I chose to play here and it remains that way today. We are known for our chemistry around Hecht.pC: Do you go back often? When was the last time you went? You go to any games?
AW: I live in Miami when I’m not here so I go back all the time to practice. I work at a really cool gym so I condition and weight train there…but I do come to campus…I host/emcee a Sport Ethics debate that the grad students of the Sport Admin program participate in every year so I have to be there to plan that as well. I went to as many games as I could this year. I won’t be in the states next season because I’ll be playing in my own!pC: You graduated in 2009, what were you doing from the time you graduated till you got drafted?
AW: When I graduated, I started working as a volleyball consultant at Athletic Republic. I trained a middle school and high school group of girls 3 times a week. I also helped with strength and conditioning work with football tennis and lacrosse players. I was the coordinator of the volleyball program and that included skill work and strength and conditioning work. Athletic republic is really cool and is science-based, sport-specific training. We have these crazy treadmills that you sprint on that go up to 28mph and can raise to a 40 degree incline. There’s this cool plyometric deck that we can tether you down to and also measure how much force you are taking off with and where you are landing when you jump. We have a program that measures you from all angles and we can look and see your biomechanical efficiency for a bat swing, a soccer kick, a volleyball attack. If you want to train to get better it’s the place to be right now. There’s so much stuff in that place it’s ridiculous. I had to become certified to work there and everything. I intend to train and work there when I get back. It’s a pretty sweet gig.
pC: What one person was the most influential in the development of your game?
AW: I’d say the most influential people in the development of my game (skills wise) were Roberto Frontera and Michael Swem. Both of them were club coaches during the really important years. Roberto helped me see that I had potential and Mike helped me push past what I thought was the peak of my game. They pushed me really hard and made me want to be great all the time…My strength coach at Miami, Mac Calloway turned me into an athlete. I was never this super strong or fast person but he helped me and I was running with the thoroughbreds (that’s what we called the fastest people on the team) before I knew what was going on. I never could squat much, but I can pretty much hang-clean a tow truck thanks to him! He helped me push past my limits and I can never thank him enough for what he did for me mentally.pC: Did you have any gameday superstitions or rituals that you did?
AW: On gamedays I’m usually in the locker-room an hour before we have to be there…I ALWAYS shower…I’m known for that and all my teammates call me crazy both here and at Miami. But on gameday I am usually so fired up by the time I eat breakfast that I have to just chill out and relax by the time the match is about to start, so I shower and the great thing about here is that there’s coffee everywhere so my teammates and I get together and have a cup of coffee and then begin to prepare for the match. I LOVE coffee so it’s the perfect routine for me.pC: What is the biggest adjustment you've had to make as a professional volleyball player?
AW: The biggest adjustment is probably how I warm up and cool down. I am a lot older now so I have to take things a little slower and pay attention to my body. It doesn’t recover as fast or as easy as it used to…my body is my moneymaker so I have to make sure I keep it in top condition. The coaches know that too so the intensity during practices is not as high as in college, we don’t do drills that make you dive everywhere or run till we pass out. We work more on skill and precision and getting reps in. I like that adjustment though and the way that I used to train helps me to work hard when things seem a little easier. My coach is always saying “tranquila” to me, which basically means to relax, because I still act like a college player sometimes, go hard or go home is all I know!pC: What do you think of the current state of the UM volleyball program?
AW: I think the girls are doing great right now. They didn’t have as much success as we did my senior year…BUT they made it to the tournament and that is HUGE! I just hope it inspires them to work hard in the off-season and over the summer so that they can come in and beat up on the ACC.pC: What is a misconception people have about the University of Miami?
AW: The misconception is that we party all the time and we don’t work hard because of the city that we live in and the costs associated with going to our school. I actually got into an argument with another girl about that…I had to set her straight! I told her that our success didn’t just magically appear on its own and that I worked every day for what I have now…people think the life of a college athlete is glamorous and very easy, what they don’t realize is that it’s very hard to be a college student and practice 3 hours a day plus weights and running and be great. That’s’ why we are proud to be Hurricanes, all of us, because we earned it.pC: Did you go to any football, basketball or baseball games when you were a student?
AW: I went to a lot of the basketball and football games. A few soccer games and some tennis matches my senior year. I worked as an operations intern for the women’s basketball team so I was there for all the home matches as well. I love college sports so anytime I could go and it didn’t interfere with anything I went. I’m a volleyball player so any excuse to yell and be crazy is completely valid in my eyes, except for Tennis. [Laughter]pC: Tell us the craziest story from your UM volleyball days that you can remember either with another player or coach on or off the field
AW: Well, I won’t give up all my secrets, BUT, we usually have an inner squad beach tournament every spring and that year we were odd so my coach was my partner…she happened to be like 7 months pregnant at the time. We ended up winning the tournament! We always laugh about that, some of my teammates should just stick to indoor. [Laughter]pC: Word Asssociations: give me the first thing that pops in your head when you read the following:
Sebastian the Ibis: that crazy move he does where he takes his beak and pulls the top and bottom parts in opposite sideways directions…It pretty much gets me fired up anytime…
Coral Gables: US1 and how to avoid it
Coach Welch: Lefties rule the world J
Knight Sports Complex: Counting the balls after practice
Spain: I can’t believe I’m here
Texas: Chuy’s Tex-Mex
Sarah Palin: Bill Maher. He ripped her so much on his show. [Laughter]pC: Favorite Food?
AW: My favorite foods are anything from Sonic and peanut butter straight from the jar…although it is quickly turning to Paella (it originated in my area) and Nutella. I LOVE chocolate. [Laughter]pC: What Band/Group I would find most of on your iPod?
AW: I listen to a lot of Red Hot Chili Peppers and anything from Benny Benassi. I listen to so much but those and Ingrid Michaelson are usually a few clicks away on my ipod. pC: One movie you could watch over and over?
AW: I could watch Atonement everyday. I love that movie and others from that genre/time periodpC: One TV show you cannot miss?
AW: If I missed an episode of True Blood or LOST I’d probably go crazy…the final season of LOST starts this week!pC: What do you do in your spare time?
AW: I am usually at the beach in my spare time, I played the cello for 12 years so I intend to buy one and pick it back up. I gave it up for volleyball but now I have the time to play again and play so we’ll see how that goes.pC: Two websites you have to check daily?
AW: I check Facebook and The Huffington post daily, I love them both.pC: I spend way too much on...
AW: I spend way too much on bath and body products for sure. At least I smell nice though!pC: I need to sell my _____ on eBay
AW: I need to sell my car and get a new one! Can you do that on Ebay? [Laughter]pC: This Halloween I'd like to dress as....
AW: This Halloween I am dressing as a Flamenco dancer!!!pC: Best show I saw on TV last week
AW: Best show I saw last week was a re-run of family guy where Stewie kills Lois. I was captivated all over again.
We at proCanes.com would like to thank Ashley Woods for being so gracious with her time to do this very insightful interview for our new feature "Tracking proCanes." Click here to check out our past interviews with Leon Searcy, Steve Walsh, Frank Costa, John Routh, Chad Wilson, Mike Rumph, Carlos Huerta and more!
All photos were taken by JC Ridley and were purchased at www.caneshooter.com
. JC's blog can be found at: dailycaneshooter.blogspot.com