The arduous and sometimes emotionally taxing process of rehabilitating an injury is one of the least-visible aspects of organized athletics.
It’s behind this sequence of closed doors Natasha Weddle gained a sense of who she was and what she would become.
The Indian Creek High School graduate, a member of the 1991 Indiana All-Star girls basketball team, is currently president and CEO of New Beginnings, a nonprofit she founded in Nashville, Tenn.
Weddle’s business assists low-income women in the Nashville area transform their lives by maximizing the benefits of exercise and proper diet.
“My mission or my primary goal here is to empower women. Magic can happen in the weight room, and fitness and nutrition can be great platforms for developing personal growth,” she said. “Being 6-foot-2, I understand body issues. A lot of these women are so busy taking care of everyone else, but they’re terrible at taking care of themselves.
“I get so much from the relationships I get to build and just watching women transform themselves. We push people to grow, and growing is hard.”
Weddle has been seated on enough training tables to know.
An ACL injury to her left knee during a pickup game in the spring of her senior year of high school preceded the two she experienced as a student-athlete at North Carolina State University, where she was a scholarship basketball player from 1991-1993.
In all, she’s endured seven surgeries on the same knee, the last being three years ago when she had it replaced.
The 1,124 points Weddle tallied at Indian Creek places her fourth in career scoring behind Ally Lehman (1,928), Adrienne Squire (1,562) and Kylee Hamilton (1,360). Her skills gained her a certain measure of celebrity and a college education.
But it was the surgeries and hours of rehabilitation that gave her perspective.
“Honestly, I think I played in like two games (at NC State). I was always on crutches,” said Weddle, who eventually transferred to and graduated from the University of Evansville. “It was heartbreaking, but I’m glad I went through that.
“It forced me to get another identity.”
A CAREER IS BORN
Weddle, like the clients she now coaches, had little choice but to forge ahead against her own physical battles.
The first injury prevented Weddle from anything more than late-game appearances in the annual home-and-home series against the Kentucky All-Stars.
As a member of the Wolfpack women’s basketball program she gained a close-up look at the role proper strength training and conditioning play in one’s recovery.
Transferring to Evansville and completing her basketball and academic pursuits in her home state only intensified Weddle’s passion to give back doing something she loved.
“I was always rehabbing, and I just loved the weight room,” Weddle said. “I had a strength coach at the University of Evansville, Jeff Sellers, who was very motivating and always gave the women’s sports teams there a lot of attention.”
After graduating in 1996, she immediately began aiming high. Some would say as high as a strength trainer could possibly aim during that time.
After corresponding with those in the strength training field at the University of Tennessee, Weddle drove to Knoxville to become a volunteer strength and conditioning assistant for the Vols’ women’s athletic programs.
Making ends meet meant working at a local pizzeria. Weddle also unloaded trucks for UPS at one point of her two-year stay at UT.
The experience proved critical in Weddle’s professional development. Among the athletes she found herself working with were members of coach Pat Summitt’s back-to-back national championship women’s basketball teams of 1997 and 1998.
From there it was off to Kent State as a paid assistant strength coach from 1998-2000, followed by a five-year stint at Purdue University in essentially the same capacity.
Most recently, Weddle spent eight years at Vanderbilt University serving as director of strength and conditioning for women’s basketball.
In time, the travel demands of Weddle’s job began to wear her down.
A new challenge awaited. A New Beginning, to be precise.
MAKING A DIFFERENCE
The 6,000-square-foot facility Weddle now calls her work home also includes TNB Fitness, a business she started and presides over.
TNB’s mission is to give women over 40 in and around Nashville a fitness option designed to differ from ordinary gyms.
Every client’s individualized training regimen is designed to address specific problems, such as upper-body strength, endurance, flexibility, nutrition assistance and core strength.
A room filled with elaborate weight machines is not what Weddle offers. Instead, kettlebells often are used as are resistance bands and exercises utilizing a client’s own body weight.
Perhaps best of all, a portion of each TNB client’s membership fee is channeled toward The New Beginnings Center.
The two operations are working both separately and in unison in an effort to improve Tennessee’s low ranking (39th) among the 50 states when in comes to overall wellness.
“I have five women who are over 300 pounds, and another four are over 250 pounds. It’s a hill they have to climb, but this is not ‘The Biggest Loser.’ It’s not about making these ladies look great in a bathing suit. It’s about health. They’re not coming to me because of vanity,” Weddle said.
“A lot of women realize that the final third of their life isn’t going to be what they envisioned unless they do something.”
Trafalgar resident Connie Weddle used to feel the sting right along with Natasha, the second of her four children, every time she would undergo yet another knee surgery.
Yet the positive and at times life-altering impact her daughter is having on others two states away is a story that has come full-circle.
“The rehabilitation ... Natasha saw that side and wanted to help other people,” Connie Weddle said. “That’s the part I’m proudest of, and she gets to do what she loves.
“Not a lot of people get to say that.”