The Times photo by Mark Morrow
Noblesville Athletic Director Leah Woolridge
The Times photo by Mark Morrow Noblesville Athletic Director Leah Woolridge

Hanging from a pole outside the main entrance at Noblesville High School, there’s a banner that reads “Inspire’’ — something Leah Wooldridge takes to heart.

“I hope to inspire people to go into a high school leadership positions like this. I’m certainly in the right place to do it. Being able to inspire student-athletes is something I think is important and what I really want to do,’’ said the Noblesville High School athletic director. “This is a great position to be in.’’

But due to an injury and potential life-threatening complications, the process may have taken a slight detour, since the start of her second year at the Hamilton County school.

Wooldridge, who admits to always walking at a fast pace, slipped on some water in a school hallway and took what proved to be an horrific fall.
“I kept saying I needed a little better story to tell,’’ she said with a slight laugh.

And, yes, you might say her comeback has been slow and what she still has ahead of her could have a lasting effect, though her spirit remains quite good.

Wooldridge missed the fall semester and didn’t return full time until this past January.

“I tore all three 3 tendons in my hamstring right off the bone, and I needed surgery to repair that. A week later, I developed extensive blood clots …they went through my calf, behind my knee and even into my groin and my lungs,’’ Wooldridge said. “I was sent to the emergency room right away.’’
She’s still dealing with some problems, including some blood clots in her leg. 

“They’ll do another Doppler in September and see how things look. And through it all, I found out my mom had a genetic defect and then they detected that my dad had another defect, so I had both bad genes.’’

Wooldridge still can’t stand for long periods of time because of pain in her back.

“I was able to come back and do some things after fall break, but I just did little things; I couldn’t do a lot,’’ she said. “Thank goodness Tony Oilar (Assistant AD) and Bobbi Davis (Administrative Assistant) were there and able to finish up.’’

Wooldridge is back to her regular workout routine, and she says she has a lot of energy. But her doctor told her it would take a year before she was back to normal.

She said she has some swelling, still, due to blood clots, and that she’ll  likely need to stay on blood thinners for the rest of her life.

“I really enjoy working with student-athletes and collaboration with coaches and people in the office,’’ said Wooldridge, who brings a lot to the Noblesville HS program.

Talk about qualifications . . . they speak volumes!

Start with experience, leadership, and knowledge. 

Wooldridge, who turns 50 in 2019, brings 13-plus years of education leadership experience. She has served as athletics director and Vice-Principal at Franklin High School (Johnson County), as well as athletic director at Taylor High School in Kokomo. 

She was a basketball coach at Noblesville HS (1999-2004) and Anderson High School for a couple of years.

As a sophomore in the 1989-90 season, the Anderson Highland HS graduate helped the University of Michigan Lady Wolverines basketball team become the first program to qualify for the NCAA Tournament in the history of the school. She served as team captain at UM as a junior and senior.

And most important is the fact you can tell that she genuinely cares about the student-athletes and the overall high school program.

She also has a plaque on her desk in the NHS athletic office that reads Coach Wooly. Some of her former players presented it to her. You could tell that means a lot to her, too.

So, just how did she find her way back to Noblesville HS? 

“The opportunity presented itself and I was happy to return to this area, close to Anderson where I grew up. I still enjoy collaborating with administrators, but athletics have always been a passion of mine, and I wanted to get back to work with coaches and athletes,’’ Wooldridge said.

She said that participating in sports and all of the camaraderie played a major role in her getting into high school administration.

“Camaraderie is so important,’’ she said.

And she also thinks that athletes in high school should play at least two sports if possible.

“I know it’s harder and harder for the kids and their parents. I felt I was better basketball player because of the sports I played,’’ said Wooldridge.
She actually played four sports (basketball, volleyball, tennis and softball) in high school.

“I think I took something from each of those other three sports that made me a better athlete, and they certainly helped me with basketball, my main sport.’’

Wooldridge also touched on some other things she sees as important.

“We’re meeting with athletes to hear their voices and see what they want on a large scope while they are within these walls (at school),’’ she said.

“We’ve also sent out a survey through our social networks to develop a student Alumni. We want to create a database of NHS Student-Athlete Alumni in an effort to tap into resources and unique experiences that each and every one of the Alumni has had to be able to share with our current student-athletes.’’

And “The Miller Way,’’ a popular saying we’ve all heard, I’m sure, came up in our conversation in Wooldridge’s office.

“This is something we are working to define, really define . . . define what ‘The Miller Way’ means.” 

So what does it mean? It certainly isn’t just one thing.

Here’s what I found on the Noblesville team baseball page:

The Miller Way: “Demands commitment, denies selfishness and accepts reality, yet seeks constant improvement while promoting the good of the team above self.’’

Maybe, perhaps, it runs even deeper. I’m guessing it probably does.

I just know I think it’s pretty cool when I hear someone say “The Miller Way.’’ I see it as somewhat of a rallying cry, perhaps, and definitely something all Noblesville student-athletes can learn from and take pride in doing.

-Mark Morrow, a Hall of Fame Indiana sportswriter, has resided in Hamilton County since 1989. You can follow him in The Times, and on Twitter at mmediamarko12. He can be reached at mediamarko5@gmail.com or by calling 317-460-8018.