“You gave a seven-year-old girl her Lady Vol dream
And I’ll always love you for it.
But I can’t love you obsessively for much longer.
This season was all I had left to give.
My heart can take the pounding
My mind can handle the grind
But my body knows it’s time to say goodbye.”
With these words, Andraya Carter (’15) announced she would forego her final year of eligibility to play basketball with the Lady Vols, citing numerous injuries that have taken a toll on her body over the years.
Though she missed out on the opportunity to play for Pat Summitt—she was in the late coach’s last recruiting class—Carter became the type of student-athlete that would have made Summitt proud. She became a Volunteer in every sense of the word.
During her time on the court, Carter had 230 career assists, but it’s her off-the-court assists that she hopes are really making a difference.
With a communication degree already in hand, Carter is in the midst of earning a master’s degree in sport psychology and motor behavior, a field with a wide choice of careers that involve helping others.
“I think mental health and strength are so important,” she says. “I always struggled with the psychological side of basketball, and I want to somehow help other athletes learn to have their minds work for them instead of against them.”
It’s the mentality of helping others—and Summitt’s philosophy of winning in life with people—that has led Carter to work with children at the nearby Tennessee School for the Deaf (located across the river from UT in the Island Home Park neighborhood), which she says has probably been the most fulfilling part of her time at UT.
Carter, who took American Sign Language to meet her undergraduate language requirement, started going to TSD four hours a week to teach basketball skills, but her relationship with the students and staff quickly deepened.
She began going to TSD whenever she had the extra time and even arranged for herself and two of the students to sign the national anthem in Thompson-Boling Arena at a Lady Vols home game.
“I just wanted to inspire them and let them know that they can do anything that they put their minds to,” Carter says. “I actually think I may have learned more from them than they did from me.”
Carter capped off last spring by winning the Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholar Award, which honors student-athletes for their academics and athletics.
“This is an important award because it looks deeper into athletes—past things that most people care about like points scored—it speaks to the character of athletes, their work in the classroom, care for the community, and commitment to leadership.”
While finishing her master’s degree, Carter will be working at the Thornton Athletics Student Life Center and with VFL Films as a color analyst and commentator for broadcasts of some Lady Vols games this season.
See more about Carter’s work with the Tennessee School for the Deaf at tiny.utk.edu/carter.
Photo by Jennie Andrews