With stick in hand, Chazz Woodson of the Ohio Machine is one of the most exciting players in the MLL. Known for scoring highlight reel goals on jaw-dropping crease dives, Woodson has a way of keeping fans on the edge of their seats. The two-time All-Star has amassed 130 points in 66 games over his nine year career. In 2012, he had his best season, leading the Machine with 38 points. But for all of his on-field heroics, the acrobatic attackman is even more proud of the moves he makes off the field.
Woodson has used his platform as a professional lacrosse player to make an impact on the lives of kids in hopes of providing positive messages and role models. “I’ve always subscribed to the idea that to whom much is given, much is expected,” says Woodson, “and I’ve been given a great deal, especially through the sport of lacrosse.”
Woodson currently runs Chazz Woodson Initiatives, a Miami based program for children and teens that combines mentoring, character development, community service and athletics. Through Chazz Woodson Initiatives, he runs youth camps and clinics, provides motivational speaking to schools and non-profit organizations, and also works personally with kids to help them develop into selfless and successful adults.
But as it turns out, the program at Chazz Woodson Initiatives is not all that original an idea. In fact, it is a spinoff of another program. It just so happens that Woodson also started the other program.
The idea first came to him when he arrived at Brown University in the fall of 2001. One of the first things he noticed was that there was a visible disconnect between the university and the kids in the community around it. He had always wanted to work in a mentoring program with kids, however, the heavy course load and his lacrosse schedule made it nearly impossible to participate in any type of program like this.
Finally, during his Junior year, Woodson spent a semester studying in New York, while also teaching a fourth grade class. During his time teaching, he developed a mini-curriculum, which was based on setting goals and choosing positive role models for the kids to look up to. The program was a success, and he decided he wanted to start the mentoring program at Brown. When he returned to Brown and presented his project to others, the idea took off.
By the end of the first semester of his senior year, Woodson had satisfied all of his degree requirements, and spent his last semester of school recruiting other student-athletes to help develop a mentoring program for young students of color in the area. It became known as Makin’ Moves Mentoring, and to this day, it is still thriving at Brown University.
After graduating, Woodson spent two years working with Teach for America in Miami, while also playing professional lacrosse during the summers.
“That was difficult,” he recalls, “worthwhile, rewarding, but extremely difficult. Definitely a huge learning experience.”
Perhaps the most important thing he learned from the experience is that he no longer wanted to be a classroom teacher, and that his abilities were better served outside the classroom, particularly in a mentoring capacity.
After fulfilling his two year commitment to Teach For America, Woodson spent his time working towards another mentoring program in Miami, which became Makin’ Moves Athletics, LLC. “I really wanted to do something down here in Miami, and I based it off the work I did at Brown. And with my platform as a professional lacrosse player, I was able to incorporate clinics and camps into my work.”
The camps took everything that Makin’ Moves focused on, such as mentoring and character development, and combined it with lacrosse to create a unique, dynamic experience for all who attended. “After a few years of success with the camps, I changed the name to Chazz Woodson Initiatives, and that’s where we are today.”
Woodson has also created the Humble Swagger brand, which is a smaller piece of the whole project. Humble Swagger is defined on Woodson’s website as “the intersection of inner confidence and outward modesty. The means by which to measure the best of the best.” It is something his programs attempt to instill in all of the kids who go through them.
Woodson says he is also busy working on writing a couple of books, which he had been thinking about for a few years, but is just getting around to now. “It’s all centered around attitude and giving back, much like my work with Makin’ Moves and now Chazz Woodson Initiatives.”
While much of the work Woodson does stays under the radar of the national audience, his efforts have not gone unnoticed. He was recently nominated for the Black Man Can Sports Award, given to a professional athlete who his making strides both in his growth as an athlete and using his position to bring positive change to his community. Two of his fellow nominees include NFL player Russell Okung and NBA superstar Carmelo Anthony.
“It is really cool for me to be nominated, I’m really honored. Whether I win or not, it’s awesome that somebody is recognizing what I’m doing and what I’m passionate about,” says Woodson, “it’s been great to see all the people out there that are behind me and supporting me.”
Winning that award would be a huge accomplishment, especially given the competition he is going up against. Regardless, Chazz Woodson has become one of the best role models not only in the sport of lacrosse, but in sports in general. For somebody who seems to have an endless supply of moves on the lacrosse field, he also appears to be making all the right moves off of it.