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NWBA Athlete Spotlight: Hannah Smith

By Chris Rathje, 11/26/19, 10:00AM CST


This month we are excited to highlight Hannah Smith of the Sportable Spokes varsity team out of Richmond, Virginia. Hannah’s enthusiasm and helping nature are a great example of what it means to be a teammate. Her helping nature expands beyond the basketball court. I first learned about this when Hannah submitted her Academic-All American project last year.

Hannah’s project can be found at

Hannah first learned American Sign Language to be able to communicate with one of her now-graduated teammates who is Deaf. She fell in love with the language and people, and Smith is now a co-president of an American Sign Language club at her local community college where she is dual-enrolled. Hannah plans to pursue a career that involves ASL.

Hannah recently went to Turkmenistan in central Asia to promote adaptive sports and to exchange ideas with their adaptive sport clubs. 

Hannah told me, “It was so interesting to hear how people in another country think about adaptive sports. They don’t have a wheelchair basketball team yet, but they were very enthusiastic about the idea. I met a boy in one of the towns who has an amputation and had never been in a chair. I put him in mine to shoot around and he was such a natural!”

Hannah has been a very active person throughout her whole life.  Hannah first started working with Sportable around the age of 11 and started playing wheelchair basketball around the age of 13 and she is currently an ambassador for Sportable and leads question and answer sessions for them. 

Before playing competitive wheelchair basketball she played on a recreational team that would play against able-bodied students to increase disability awareness. Hannah has tried many other sports including swimming, road racing and rock climbing and still kayaks in the offseason.  Smith has achieved honors in other sports.  Hannah was state runner-up in horseback riding and state champion in baton twirling.

Hannah stays quite busy with many activities including singing and using ASL at the same time, participating in local theater and being very active in her church.  When she’s not busy with her many activities and dual enrollment classes, one of her favorite activities is video chatting with her siblings who are both enrolled in college.

I am excited for the future when leaders like Hannah are given the opportunity to lead.  Her pure positive energy and can do spirit make the world a better place.

Thank you Hannah for being such a wonderful example for the NWBA and the world at large.

About the Author, Chris Rathje

Rathje started his adaptive athletics career in the third grade as a member of the Windy City Warriors in suburban Chicago. In 1993 Rathje was one of the original members of the prep team the Junior Wheelchair Bulls.

When it was time to play varsity competition Rathje went on to play for the RIC Spalding Bulldogs which was the precursor to the Chicago Skyhawks. Rathje played four years in the College Division at the University of Illinois.

In 2012, Rathje returned to the wheelchair basketball community to coach the Windy City Warriors alongside his college roommate, and current Auburn head coach, Robb Taylor.  

From 2013-2019 Rathje volunteered for the Junior Division as educational liaison, vice president and president of the Junior Division.  He looks forward to sharing stories that will hopefully open doors for student athletes with physical disabilities.