Danville senior athlete enjoys helping 10 younger siblings

May 09, 2004|JILL ERWIN

The anecdotes tumble from Amber Wood's mouth one after the other. The one about her reacting to her first sister's birth. The one about her 4-year-old sister fighting back against the boys surrounding her.

Through each one, a smile covers Wood's face and her eyes twinkle. They're stories about her life, her love, her world: her family.

With 10 younger siblings, Wood became a de facto second mother by the time she was in grade school. She had five younger sisters when she was 7, and five other siblings, including four boys, would come in a five-year spurt starting when she was 12.

That younger group calls her "Mama Amber," and it's easy to see why.

"I have a lot of responsibility, but it just comes with the territory," Wood said. "It's not a burden ever. I get overwhelmed at times, putting six people to bed every night. It gets tiring changing five diapers. But I wouldn't trade it for the world."


Wood has a lot going on in her life, from starting for both the Danville basketball and softball teams to preparing for graduation as Danville's salutatorian to getting ready for her collegiate life at Centre College. Wood also tutors high school students before school, participates in a peer mentoring program with Bate Middle School and babysits others in her limited spare time.

Wood relies on her family to stay grounded. Her father, Bryan, is a physician in the emergency room at Ephraim McDowell Regional Medical Center, and her mother, Rhonda, gave up a career as a nurse to stay home and raise her ever-growing family.

Perfect training for future in child psychology

Then there are the siblings. Wood said she is interested in a future in child psychology, and said the experience of her family, and all the personalities inside of it, has been perfect training.

Wood can capture her siblings in short descriptions, catching the spirit of each of them:

There's 14-year-old Chelsey, the bossy one; 13-year-old Natalie, the quiet one; 12-year-old Courtney, the prissy one whom Wood says wants to be on Broadway; and 11-year-old twin sisters Kaitlin and Mackenzie who are both getting into sports, but still differ greatly from each other.

There's 6-year-old Corbyn, the first boy and "a punk," and 4-year-old twins Lawson (a boy) and Alayna (a girl). Lawson is mildly autistic but "sweet as can be" and Alayna is the tough one, dealing with two younger brothers, a twin and an older brother. Then there's 3-year-old Braydyn who is "nothing but cute and just like a puppy dog" and 2-year-old Jaxxyn is "the biggest handful because he's just getting into all the walking."

The family has a seven-bedroom house, with only Amber and Natalie getting their own rooms. The other 11 share the remaining five bedrooms.

But it wasn't always a full house for the Woods. For 3 1/2 years, Amber Wood was the only child. She got all the attention, all the love. Then along came Chelsey and her world changed.

"I've never regretted it for a second, though," Wood said. "Every day is rewarding. There's always something new. There's nothing I haven't seen, so I think it will benefit my future career."

Her break is athletics

But even the most dedicated sisters need a break, and Wood finds it in athletics. People say all the time that sports don't matter, that they're just games. No one may know that better than Wood.

"I probably have more responsibility than any 18-year-old in the entire world," Wood said. "I had to grow up really fast and I matured really quickly. Softball and school give me a chance to be a teen-ager."

She started for Danville's basketball team, which won the 12th Region All "A" Classic and was second in the 45th District Tournament. She averaged 3.3 points and 2.7 rebounds a game, and also drew a team-high 18 charges.

She also is the starting center fielder for the Admirals' softball team, batting .363 with 20 hits and 16 RBIs. She has an on-base percentage of .483.

For all her accomplishments on the field, Wood's biggest contribution may just be an intangible one.

"She's got a great personality," Danville coach Jerry Perry said. "She brings friendship. She's friends with every kid out here and she wants them to do well.

Wood also leads by example. When Danville played in a tournament at Middlesboro earlier this season, Wood hit a double, stole third and went home on an errant throw. The throw actually hit her in the knee, but she made sure to cross the plate before giving in to the pain.

"I don't expect myself to do any less than 110 percent. It's what I've always given, and it's what I always will give," Wood said. "I think that people follow my lead. Getting creamed at third, scoring and then falling down rather than falling and crying like a baby when I got hit, I think that showed that. I'm just very determined, especially in sports."

She ranks second in her class

It's not just sports, however. Wood has taken several advanced placement classes at Danville and has a weighted grade-point average of 4.6522 to rank her second in her graduating class.

She plans going to Centre next year, and said she'd be interested in playing softball and/or basketball for the Colonels.

Wood said Centre's academic standing appeals to her. But most of all, it allows her to stay close to her family. Not close enough for Alayna, it seems.

Amber told the younger kids last weekend that she wouldn't be living at home next year. Alayna asked, "Is that what college means?" When Amber answered yes, Alayna said, "Then you can't go."

"I'm very family-oriented. If I wasn't, I'd be kind of strange," Wood said. "That was one of the biggest attractions to me about Centre, that it's right down the street. I don't think I'd be able to live with myself not watching them grow up. They're my world."

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