At the end of last year there was a bit of chatter surrounding athletes’ and coaches’ wives. A great deal of conversation blossomed after Ayesha Curry, wife of NBA star Stephen Curry, expressed her views on fashion and her fashion preferences. There were those who argued in support of Curry’s statements, those who argued that her statements were based on outdated views of women and those who just wanted it all stop. There was also some controversy when Will Muschamp, the new head coach for the University of South Carolina’s football team, told those who doubted his recruiting abilities to “look at [my wife] and look at me. I can sell ice to and Eskimo.” Some brushed his comments off as pure fun and others saw his statements as sexist.
All of the controversy got me to thinking about the roles wives of athletes and coaches play in their famous husbands’ lives and in society as a whole. Very often we only hear from or about these women when they do or say something controversial. In actuality, however, many of these women are key to the success of their husbands’ careers and have large, positive impacts on society. Many of these women also have rich histories of participating in sports themselves. So I decided to learn more about these women by going straight to the source and begin a new feature called, GladiatHer® Wives. GladiatHer® Wives will profile women who are married to current or former professional athletes and coaches who are impacting sports and society as a whole. Our first profile is of Aja Crowder. She’s a former student-athlete, wife, mother and entrepreneur. She is the epitome of a GladiatHer® Wife. Check her out:
Thanks for agreeing to chat with us. Can you tell our readers a little about yourself:
My name is Aja Crowder and I am married to Channing Crowder II, former linebacker for the Miami Dolphins and current co-host of “Hochman, Crowder and Krantz,” a sports radio talk show on WQAM 560 in Miami, FL. We have two wonderful children, Channing III and Ava. I am a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker in Weston, FL, and the owner of La Bella Lash Bar, a company that provides convenient, specialized at-home spa services.
Outside of your husband’s career, do you have a connection to sports?
Absolutely, I have a huge connection to sports outside of Channing. I spent the majority of my childhood on the tennis court. I honestly do not remember when I learned how to play, I just always remember knowing how. By the time I was nine years old I was competing in tournaments across the state of Florida. I competed in tournaments almost every weekend until my last year of high school and I played Division-I tennis at Howard University where I played number one for the majority of my collegiate career.
Wow that’s a lot of tennis. So how do you think tennis has impacted your life?
Tennis has had a huge impact on my life. I owe most of the opportunities that I have been awarded throughout my life to playing tennis. Tennis taught me the importance of hard work and dedication at a very early age. When most of my peers were going out on weekends or hanging out after school, I was waking up at 7am to travel for tournaments or jetting off to practice. Tennis is a very technical sport. Mastering it taught me a lot of important lessons that have made me successful in my every day life. It’s taught me importance of paying attention to details, problem solving and teamwork. Sometimes it can take months of practicing and thousands of balls before one particular stroke is mastered. So tennis taught me the importance of being patient, consistent and tenacious.
As a child in a single-parent home, money was tight and tennis was expensive. My mom found this City of Miami program that taught tennis to inner city kids in Liberty City. It was so helpful and was the place that development the foundation of the game. I received free racquets, tournament grants and scholarships to tennis camps like Nick Bollieteri’s Tennis Academy (now known as IMG Academy). This program really opened a lot of doors for me, it helped to grow my passion and develop as a player. This program helped instill in me the importance of community and of giving back to the spaces and places that helped me to develop into the woman I am today.
That’s really wonderful. Are there any ways that you continue the legacy of giving and community that you learned through the Liberty City tennis program?
Definitely. I’m heavily involved in the Boys and Girls Club of Broward County. We play a big role in three charitable events per year. My husband turned his love for fishing into a charitable bass fishing tournament that generates over $60,000 for the Boys and Girls Club. The event teaches Boys and Girls Club members how to fish in a day of outdoor fun. Also during the Christmas season we host a Toy Drive for the club. We spend over $1,000 on toys that we personally pick out and give to the children at the club that we have grown to know and love over the years. We also host an annual football camp with the Boys and Girls Club of Broward County where we teach the fundamentals of football. I love it because the girls get out there as well and put on a show to beat the boys! It’s such a great feeling to give back and get kids active!
That’s interesting that you would mention the girls and football. Why do you think it’s important for women and girls to be involved in sports?
The positive effects that sports can have on young women’s lives are truly endless. As a kid you don’t realize the impact sports will have on your life, you’re just in it for the fun and love of it. And that love of sports is what is really important for young girls. Love embodies other ‘feel good’ characteristics like passion, self-motivation and drive. To be able to tap into that at a young age is huge for girls. I believe that it shows us our true power through a physical interpretation. Sports also teach girls the importance of teamwork, persistence, resilience, independence, focus and having fun while feeling all these emotions and competing. As a kid it was a feeling that I looked forward to and it gave me a sense of belonging and identity. I’m sure for my mother she was just happy I didn’t have the time to focus on boys!
I’m sure she was! So you’re now a mother yourself, a wife, an entrepreneur and a real estate agent, what legacy do you hope to leave and what stereotypes do you think you’re defeating while creating your legacy?
I hope to leave a legacy of love, faith, community, family, entrepreneurship and sisterhood. As my real estate and cosmetic businesses grow I hope to be a mentor to young girls, women and mothers. I’d like to be someone that they can relate to and talk to about anything. I want to leave a legacy that it’s important to share and go after your dreams and that achieving your dreams is possible with faith and trust in God. I think God has been calling me to start public speaking and I want to do what His will is for me in my life. I want to show girls that you can have it all marriage, a family, a career and long lasting friendships with balance and prayer. It’s so important to have that dialogue.
As far as stereotypes go, I think that there are two that my family and I work diligently to combat. The first, and one that really bothers me, is that 80% of football marriages end in divorce. My goal is to do my best in our marriage so that we don’t become a statistic. Beyond fighting the stereotype in my own home I try to help others by encouraging wives to keep their marriage and man in prayer. I think that humble prayer and allowing your husband to hear your heart’s desires, keeps him involved. Marriage isn’t easy. It takes a lot of patience, kindness and understanding day in and out, but in the end it’s worth it. The second stereotype that we work to shatter is that “most players go broke three years after retirement.” Channing is instilling in our family the importance of being fiscally conservative. It is something that I really admire about him. I hear him encourage guys to diversify their portfolios, hire trustworthy lawyers and accountants and live below their means. The goal of the money that athletes earn is to sustain them and their families for their whole lives. With the bigger picture in mind, it is so vital to plan and spend accordingly.
Wow, I believe you’re well on your way to establishing the legacy you desire and breaking those stereotypes. Before you go, who are your favorite GladiatHers®?
My favorite athlete growing up was Steffi Graff. I admired her game because it was so different with her one-handed backhand. As I grew older, Venus and Serena became my role models because I identified more with them. I think that all of these women embody the true definition of GladiatHers®. They are champions who had and continue to have an impact on this world beyond sports.
Ok, Aja, how can people keep in contact with you and your businesses?
I’m on Instagram @MrsAjaCrowder and Facebook @Aja Crowder. Be sure to keep up with La Bella Lash Bar in Instagram @LaBellaLashBar and on our website labellalashbar.com and you can visit my real estate page here.