Time flies when you’re having fun, and working hard — Ten years have passed since Valerie Smith-Hale ’10 graduated from Adrian College with a Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science and she has been very busy since then, furthering her education, pushing boundaries as an athlete, and getting married.
Val is the eldest child in her family and has six sisters, Virginia, Victoria, Veronica, Vanessa, Varina and Violet. Val led the group of V’s by being the first ever in the family to attend college. Despite her parents wanting her to stay close to home to further her education, Val chose to become a Bulldog after visiting the campus. Once her parents got a taste of what Adrian College is all about, they sent four more daughters to Adrian. The youngest, Violet Smith ‘20, graduated this spring.
“I went to Adrian and it was like home. It was the best feeling ever. I wanted to go there immediately after visiting,” Val said.
She went home, just south of Detroit in Wyandotte, and told her parents she wanted to attend Adrian College. Her dad was against it. He wanted Val to stay closer to home, but completely changed his mind after she joined the college.
“My dad and mom fell in love with it,” Val said. “And it just snowballed into my family being really big supporters of Adrian College and what they do to not only build a student and athlete, but a family. Everyone at Adrian has been so good to me. You can’t find that at other schools and my parents really loved that. When they dropped their kids off, they knew that not only were they going to get a good education, they were also going to be a part of the Bulldog family that extends so far. Unless you go there, you just can’t understand how amazing that network of people is, how close they are.”
…When I do something, I don’t want to give it half of what I have. I need to give it everything that I have.
Val was a varsity volleyball player for the Bulldogs for three years and after graduating played for Team USA for a bit before joining Central Michigan University to earn a Master’s in Exercise Physiology. During her first year at CMU she became interested in bobsledding and after earning her master’s degree she once again became a member of Team USA.
“I finished up my master’s degree and moved out to Utah with a group of girls and we practiced and just tried to get better at the sport for about a year,” Val said. “We competed in the North American Cup Circuit and then I did the same thing the next year, and that was the Olympic year of 2014. I didn’t make the Olympic team, but I slid on the North American Cup Circuit for about three years total. It was an amazing experience.”
She did Olympic weightlifting as part of her bobsled brakeman training, and was talked into joining a competitive team. However, she just didn’t have enough time in the day to become a top lifter.
“I’m getting back into it slowly now,” Val said. “But my Ph.D. has put a hold on the amount of time it takes to dedicate to training like that. It takes dedication, and when I do something, I don’t want to give it half of what I have. I need to give it everything that I have. It’s something I need to work on, because I get very focused on what I’m doing.”
Val accepted a full time job with Central Michigan University and worked as a fix-term faculty member for just over two years. She began pursuing a Ph.D. in Kinesiology and Exercise Science and was accepted at Wayne State University in 2017 where she became a graduate research teaching assistant. She recently won a Competitive Graduate Research Assistantship Award.
Val is starting her dissertation this summer and expects to graduate with her Ph.D. in the spring of 2021.
During that time and still to this day, Val has been a strength and conditioning coach at BARWIS in Plymouth, Mich. since 2015.
“I want to be a leader in this field when it comes to sports performance. Ideally, in a perfect world, I would love to be a sports performance director or sports scientist for a professional team or a college team, but I also want to be involved in research and with that is teaching,” Val said. “To be honest, if Adrian College had a job opening after I graduate I would apply for it. I’d love to give back to the people who helped me.”
Last year in May, Val married Fred Hale and the couple planned for a May 1, 2020 honeymoon. Because of the global pandemic they had to postpone the honeymoon, but are making the best of a sad situation.
“We’ve both got jobs right now so we’re doing ok. We’re just trying to stay positive about it,” Val said. “It’s not the end of the world.”