GladiatHer™ Wives: LeShonda Martin

We took a couple months off, but GladiatHer™ Wives is back and it was worth the wait! Recently, we got to sit down with a pretty extraordinary woman. With all that she does, you might easily mistake her for Wonder Woman. But she would prefer it if you called her LeShonda—LeShonda Martin to be exact. After discovering her true identity and purpose, LeShonda, a former Division I and Division III student-athlete, dedicates her time to helping other women define themselves, fight stereotypes and play active roles in their communities. I won’t give her entire story away, but I’ll let you know that by the end of this interview you’ll have know doubt that LeShonda Martin is a positive force to be reckoned with.

Thank you so very much for sitting down with us, LeShonda. Can you tell our readers a little bit about where you’re from and where you went to school?

I was born and raised in Bloomington, Indiana. I attended Bloomington High School South in Indiana. After high school, I received a full scholarship to play basketball at Mercer University. My sophomore year, I transferred and ultimately graduated from Emory University where I obtained my B.A. in Psychology and minored in Sociology. Following undergrad, I attended Georgia State University and obtained my Master’s in Sports Administration. I am proud to say that I am a first generation college grad – the first in my family to attend a top 20 university and the first to play a college sport.

That’s amazing and shout-out to you for making it through the student-athlete life! I know it’s tough! So, how are you a GladiatHer™ Wife?

My husband is Sherrod Martin, a 6-year veteran safety (currently free agent) in the NFL. He was drafted in 2009 to the Carolina Panthers and played there for four years, then played one year with the Jacksonville Jaguars and last year with the Chicago Bears. We are expecting our first child, a boy, in July! We are over-the-moon about this next chapter of our lives and feeling blessed beyond measure to have the opportunity to parent.

engagement

Congratulations! Your resumes tell me that Baby Martin will hard pressed to avoid falling in love with sports! Can you tell us a little more about your personal involvement in sports?

Sure. In addition to playing basketball at Mercer and Emory, I worked in athletic administration for two years. While in graduate school, I served as a graduate assistant in Student-Athlete Development at Georgia State University where I tutored and mentored student athletes. My first full-time job upon graduating was that of Administrative Coordinator for the Athletic Director’s office and Football office at GSU. Lastly, I have volunteered as a coach for various girls’ basketball teams in church and recreational leagues.

I love your commitment to sports! So what kind of impact has sports had on your life?

Sports had a huge impact on my childhood and a large portion of my adulthood. I participated in volleyball, cross-country, track, and basketball before focusing strictly on basketball in high school and beyond. My years as an athlete taught me leadership, discipline, perseverance, and how to dedicate the necessary hours to my passions. As a young girl, basketball boosted my self-confidence and gave me a sense of identity and belonging.

emory

Rightfully so, there has been increased conversation about college and professional athletes making the transition to life after sports. How was it for you making that transition?

I think one of the greatest struggles for me over the years has been with my identity. I’m not talking about what race I identify with, although for a biracial kid growing up in the Midwest, I received questions. I’m talking about my true identity. At the age of nine, I was introduced to organized basketball. I spent twelve years dedicated to a sport, from my first year of AAU ball until my last college season. Once it was over, boy was it over! I think any athlete who dedicates the necessary blood, sweat, tears, and time to receiving a college scholarship and entering into the business world of sports all share a common experience: LIFE AFTER SPORT. I hopped around from job to job, interest to interest, attempting to find another passion after basketball, but it did not come.

Ironically, one of the main themes you will hear in the lives of professional athletes’ wives are their struggles with identity. When much of your life is based around your husband’s career, it’s easy to get lost. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of pro athlete wives who are driven, educated women with impressive careers (just look at my website), but many have identity struggles. Between labeling myself as a former athlete and current athlete wife, it became clear to me that I needed to figure out this whole identity thing before I drove myself insane. It wasn’t until I really tapped into my faith and discovered the love of God that I started to explore the true identity of who I am meant to be. Spoiler alert: ATHLETE is not exactly relevant to my true identity.

The story you shared is so very similar to the stories shared by male and female athletes across the world. In fact, some of the work that you do through your website is helping women define themselves. Please tell our readers about it this amazing venture.

I am the founder of, WAGS Redefined, a forum dedicated to defying the stereotypes of NFL significant others, as well as the players. I chose to redefine the term WAGS, previously – wives and girlfriends of sports stars— and created my own acronym: Women of America’s Gridiron Stars. The website consists of articles written by and about these women. The lineup of writers includes a personal trainer, prenatal fitness instructor, lawyer, chef, make-up artist, and more. I also have a handful of writers committed to defying NFL stereotypes by speaking out against them. In short, we are a voice for NFL women and families. God-willing, the WAGS Redefined movement will grow to make a bigger impact in our culture and how we as the significant others of athletes are discussed. I want the conversation to expand beyond what we look like, to what we do and who we truly are. What started out as a mission to change the public’s perception of NFL women and players has quickly grown into a community for us.

I am also the co-founder of, The Professional Football Wives Association (PFWA), a non-profit organization geared towards improving the well-being of women and children. The membership consists of wives, fiancés, and girlfriends of men who are current or former players, coaches, and general managers in the National Football League (NFL). We’re relatively new, but growing in membership quickly! We are so passionate about getting out in the community and making a difference. Past charitable events included: a Breast Cancer Awareness walk, adopting a family for Christmas, and visiting a women’s shelter for Domestic Violence Awareness month. Our first youth football camp is in Atlanta this weekend and according to online registration, we are over our 100 camper capacity! I’m looking forward to the future with PFWA. We have a great group of women pushing our mission.

gametime

The work you’re doing with WAGS Redefined and PFWA is incredible—breaking stereotypes and helping the community, what’s not to love?! With marriage, motherhood on the way and two growing businesses, where do you see yourself in the next 5-10 years?

In the next five to ten years, I envision myself self-employed, running businesses that I enjoy, that align with my purpose, that I can do with ease, and that serve and empower others. That is how I define true success from a professional standpoint. My hobbies will include being a mom and all the fun, fulfilling experiences motherhood entails.

LeShonda your commitment to making a difference is incredible. Thanks for you all do to represent women in sports so well! Before you go, please let our readers know how they can keep in touch with WAGS Redefined and PFWA.

Sure. They can visit WAGSRedefined.com and follow WAGS Redefined on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. They can also visit ProFootballWives.org and follow PFWA on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

Thanks again Wonder Women, I mean LeShonda for talking to GladiatHers.com! You’re the true essence of a GladiatHer™, intelligent, fearless, dedicated and giving. This world needs more WAGS like you. Keep up the phenomenal work!

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