“The fast-paced action of the game and comradery with the team filled a void that I didn’t even know was there.” Throughout her professional career, Natalie Schneider has proven she is one of the “greatest threats” competing on Team USA’s Women’s Wheelchair Basketball Team. As a four-time Paralympian with her eyes set on Paris 2024, Schneider continues to prove the sky’s the limit and no goal is too great for her to achieve. From a women’s world championship victory to an MVP win, her incredible athletic performance this past year paired with her ability to push herself and her team to new heights is why she is this year’s Women’s Sports Foundation’s Team Sportswoman of the Year.
From buzzer beaters to epic free throws and assists, Schneider has been captivating audiences on the court for 15 years. Winning three Paralympic medals, seven National Championships and landing on the podium at two Parapan American Games, she has shown the world what is possible when you continue to fine-tune your athletic-skills and remain determined to stay at the top of your sport.
Scheinder’s story is more than triumph, it is one of persistent perseverance. The summer following her sophomore year of high school where she helped lead her basketball team to the state tournament, her life was quickly turned upside down when she was diagnosed with bone cancer (osteosarcoma) in her distal femur. She spent the next 10 months undergoing chemotherapy and limb-salvage surgery that replaced the bottom half of her femur and knee-joint with a titanium prosthesis. She was told she would never run, jump or play the sport she loved again, which according to her was “a million times worse than finding out she had cancer.”
It took six years, but Schneider rebounded back into sport after reading an article in her local newspaper, which informed her that her implant qualified her for a local sitting volleyball league. Through that sport experience, she discovered wheelchair basketball, playing with her local team while obtaining her Masters in Statistics at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Shortly after graduating in 2007, she was invited to try out for her first USA team and had an extraordinary start to her career by assisting the team to a gold medal win at the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games.
Schneider went on to compete in the 2012, 2016, and 2020 Paralympic Games and came in and out of retirement throughout the years as she built a family with her husband. She is now the mother of three daughters, two of which got to witness her secure her second gold medal in the Rio Games. Remaining a top player on Team USA, Schneider is vying to compete in her fifth Paralympics before officially retiring.
Between matchups and training sessions, she is working towards a personal training certification so she can coach her daughters’ sports teams and other young athletes in her community. She hopes to pass along everything she has learned throughout her basketball career to help others discover their limitless potential on and off the field of play.