skip navigation

Athlete Advisory Council

NWBA AAC Contact Information

Gail Gaeng

AAC Chair

Harsh Thakkar

AAC Member

Andrea Woodson-Smith

AAC Vice-Chair

Steve Serio

USOPC AAC Member

Eve Hampton

AAC Member

Eric Barber

NWBA AAC Member


Athlete Advisory Council

The Athlete Advisory Council will:

- Bring the athlete voice to the Board and Committees

- Actively participate in strategic initiatives

- Regularly attend Committee and/or Board Meetings

The Chair, Vice Chair and USOPC AAC representative (three positions) will all hold a position on the Board of Directors of the NWBA. Other AAC representatives will support Committees and Task Forces commissioned by the NWBA President. Implementing the AAC continues to ensure that we have the Athlete / Member voice involved in the leadership of the organization.

This is an additional step by NWBA Leadership to ensure that we have increased athlete voice in the governance of the organization. Our Founder, Dr. Tim Nugent, was adamant that the organization be led by its membership. Additionally, the NWBA seeks to continually align with best practices from other sport organizations.


Committee Members

 Five members have been voted in by their peers to represent the National Wheelchair Basketball Association (NWBA) Athlete Advisory Council (AAC). The NWBA AAC is responsible for bringing the athlete voice to the Board and Committees, actively participating in strategic initiatives and regularly attending Board and / or Committee Meetings.

Gail Gaeng, AAC Chair

About Gail Gaeng (Frederick, Md.)

Gaeng (classification 3.5), youngest of six siblings, has been playing basketball for 14 years. Starting her successful career with the Bennett Blazers, Gail has played in almost all of the NWBA Divisions: Prep, Junior Varsity, Varsity, Collegiate, Women's and Division I. Gaeng is a gold medalist, co-captain and starter from the 2016 Paralympic Games and also defended the team to win gold at the 2015 Parapan American Games and at the U25 Women's World Championships. As captain of the University of Illinois Wheelchair Basketball Team (2011 – 2016), Gaeng led the team to 2nd place at the 2015 and 2016 National Championship Tournament. Gail was named MVP at the 2018 NWBA Women's National Tournament and 2018 NWBA Player of the Month. Gaeng is a graduate of the University of Illinois-Champaign, with a B.S. degree in Business Administration - Marketing and Management. Currently, Gail works as Project Coordinator on Client Operations at Strata Decision Technology which is a healthcare tech firm based in Chicago, IL. Gail is also currently serving as a member of the NWBA High Performance Committee.

Andrea Woodson-Smith, Vice Chair

About Andrea Woodson-Smith (Durham, N.C.)

Woodson-Smith (classification 4.0) has a long history in the sport of basketball having competed with the Women’s Division Dallas Lady Mavericks, Division II Dallas Mavericks, Division II Chicago Bulls, Division II RIC Hornets, Women’s RIC Sky, Division III Triangle Thunder, Division II Charlotte Rollin Hornets, Division II Charlottesville Cardinals and the Women’s Lincolnway Special Recreation Association team. In addition, Woodson-Smith was a member of the gold medal winning 2010 World Cup and 2011 Parapan American Games teams as well as the team that placed 4th at the 2012 Paralympic Games. Woodson-Smith serves as a  Sports  Envoy, a U.S. Department of State program that supports athletes and coaches to travel overseas to lead programs that are developed by U.S. embassies and consulates-discussing topics like disability rights, inclusion, gender equity and adapted sport with government leaders, organization/agency leaders, athletes, parents and students. With a B.S. degree in Kinesiology from James Madison University, an M.S. degree in Adapted Physical Education from North Carolina Central University and a PhD in Adapted Physical Education from Texas Woman's University, Woodson-Smith is very successful in her current career as a Professor at North Carolina Central University specializing in Adapted Physical Activity and Sports and Physical Education Pedagogy. Woodson-Smith is currently a member of the American Development Model for Paralympic Sport and the NWBA High Performance Committees. During her spare time, Woodson-Smith is an advocate for Colon Cancer, Children’s Cancer and equality for all girls and women in sports and a 7th grade girls Life Group Leader for New Hope Church.

 

Eric Barber, Member

About Eric Barber (Whitewater, Wisc.)

Starting his wheelchair basketball career at the age of 13, Barber (classification 1.0) is a 2002 NWBA National Champion, and two-time Captain Ure Sportsmanship Award recipient. Barber is a two-time bronze medalist playing with the team at the 2000 and 2012 Paralympic Games. Barber was also part of the gold medal winning teams at the 1999 and 2011 Parapan American Games as well as the 1998 and 2002 IWBF World Championships. His collection continues with a silver medal from the 2006 IWBF World Championships and a bronze medal from the 2010 IWBF World Championships. One of Barber’s fondest memories of victory is when he beat Michael Jordan in wheelchair basketball. Barber graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater with an MBA in Management and IT and is a 2021 candidate for Doctorate of Business Administration. Barber currently works for Madison College in Human Resources and plays for the NWBA Division II Wisconsin Thunder.

Eve Hampton, Member

About Eve Hampton (Seattle, Wash.)

Hampton (classification 1.0) has played wheelchair basketball for 20 years, and has played for teams in the NWBA's Juniors, Intercollegiate, Women's, Division I and Division III over the last two decades. Eve grew up in the Seattle-area and attended the University of Arizona in Tucson on academic and athletic scholarships for the university’s women’s wheelchair basketball team. After graduating summa cum laude, Hampton received her master’s degree in counseling from Arizona State University. Before her recent move back to Seattle, and the birth of her second son in February, Eve worked for Adaptive Sports Northwest in Portland, Oregon as the Sports & Recreation Program Manager. Hampton currently serves as the assistant coach for Seattle’s NWBA Division I wheelchair basketball team and plays for the Seattle women’s wheelchair basketball team and for the Edmonton Inferno, part of the Canadian Wheelchair Basketball League in Edmonton, Alberta. When not coaching, playing, or chasing after her children, Eve enjoys creating art-her work includes a mix of graphic design, photography, jewelry, and sculpture.

Harsh Thakkar, Member

About Harsh Thakkar (Alexandria, Va.)

Thakkar (classification 2.5) has been a part of the NWBA for 13 years, beginning in 2006, nine months post injury, with the Division III NRH Punishers (formally known as the NRH Ambassadors). Thakkar was also an athlete at Edinboro University from 2008-2010 where he was awarded the Student-Athlete Award during his first season. For the past five years, Harsh has been the tournament director, team manager, classifier and athlete for the now Division 1 NRH Punishers. In addition, Thakkar has received 3rd and 2nd team all-tournament team awards in 2019 and 2020. Currently, Thakkar works as a program coordinator for the National Rehabilitation Hospital (NRH) in Washington, D.C., where he facilitates an adaptive fitness program for people with neurological disabilities and a community navigation program for individuals with Spinal Cord Injuries. Harsh is the President of the United Spinal Metro DC chapter, where he continues to push the chapter’s mission, to enhance lives of individuals with Spinal Cord Injuries in the DC Metro area. Graduating from University of Maryland with a degree in Communication and Sociology, Harsh has found a way to serve other individuals with disabilities and bring awareness about inclusion, disability advocacy, and empowerment. His motto is: “help others until you’ve helped them to the point that they can help others.” Thakkar currently serves on the NWBA Ranking Committee.

Steve Serio, USOPC AAC Member

Two-time U.S. Paralympic medalist Steve Serio of Westbury, New York, has been voted in by his peers to represent the National Wheelchair Basketball Association on the USOC Athletes’ Advisory Council. 

Serio, 29 years old,  came onto the international wheelchair basketball scene at 2006 World Championships where team USA won a silver medal. His resume at IWBF events is impressive winning nine medals at senior caliber events (Paralympics; World Championships and Para Pan Am Games). In total, Serio has represented the United States at all major competitions, including three Paralympic Games, four Para Pan Am Games, three World Championships and two U23 World Championships.