Find Your Passion: Crimson and Gold
By Adam Rogers
When Mary Allison Milford made the decision to attend The University of Alabama, she wasn’t just thinking about Tuscaloosa – she was also thinking about Beijing.
Since she began playing wheelchair basketball in her childhood, Milford remembers watching the Olympics on television and fantasizing about what it would be like to represent her country as a Paralympian. After establishing herself as a promising talent while in high school in her native Arkansas, she began to look into programs across the country that could help her realize her athletic ambitions. Now, three years later, as a senior in the UACollege of Communication of Information Sciences, she has not only made it to the Paralympics, but has brought back a gold medal as a member of the women’s wheelchair basketball team.
The road to the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing was by no means easy. Milford says she trained nearly every day for the games since she realized as a freshman that she had a chance of making the U.S. team. Being a member of the Crimson Tide Women’s Wheelchair Basketball team was crucial in preparing her for the challenge of qualifying for the Paralympics. “Being in college is the ideal time to pursue being a Paralympian,” she says, “and being a college athlete at such an elite college program helps you a lot.”
As a member of the UA team, Milford has proven herself to be an intense player and a natural leader. She prides herself on her defense and describes her primary role on the team as making sure that other players are open for shots. Although this means she doesn’t always get good stats or a lot of individual recognition, Milford is far more concerned with how the team performs as a whole.
And the team has outperformed all others this year, ending their sixth season as national champions. UA is one of 12 universities in the country that sponsors wheelchair athletics and the only university program in the Southeast.
In addition to being an essential player for the team, she is also its biggest cheerleader. “I’m very vocal,” she says, “and I try to lead the team whether I’m on the floor playing 40 minutes or I’m on the bench.”
Milford’s leadership and strength as a player have earned her opportunities to play all over the world and helped put her on a list of just 22 young women to compete for a spot on the Paralympic team. After a weeklong set of trials, Milford says she was shocked to discover she made the team. But the course of events that followed left her no time for introspection. After qualifying, Milford practiced with her teammates non-stop until they departed for Beijing. Milford and the rest of the U.S. team were astonished by the spectacle of the city’s welcoming celebration and were almost unable to process their new surroundings.
In just two whirlwind weeks, the team found itself taking the gold medal after decisive victories in nearly all of its games.
In the midst of her senior year, Milford says she still hasn’t accepted that she’s a gold medalist. But she says the most important things for her are still ahead.
The public relations major is anxious to complete her final year of studies. Milford is quick to emphasize that she is a student before she is an athlete and that she has a wide range of interests that extend beyond her sport. She enjoys writing and playing the cello in her spare time. She has cultivated a passion for traveling, having visited Rio de Janeiro, Japan and Amsterdam, and says that her ideal job after graduation would be writing for a magazine.
Adam Rogers is in UA’s College of Communication and Information Sciences pursuing a master’s degree within the advertising and public relations program.
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This story is part of the Find Your Passion series. To learn more about how you can find your passion at The University of Alabama, please visit UA Undergraduate Admissions.