By Jeff White (firstname.lastname@example.org)
CHARLOTTESVILLE — There are 24 hours in a day and 168 in a week. Zach Wood could use a few more.
Wood, a midfielder on the UVa men’s lacrosse team, is a third-year student in the College of Arts & Sciences who carries a double major in economics and chemistry — the latter discipline because it intrigues him, not because he plans to pursue it as a career.
He’s active in more than a half-dozen organizations on Grounds, among them the McIntire Investment Institute, the Honor Committee (as a support officer), the Hazing Prevention Advisory Committee, Student-Athletes Committed to Honor, the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, Athletes Committed to Community and Education, and the Jefferson Literary and Debating Society.
He’s also helping with a campaign designed to raise awareness about the University-wide elections in which students can vote on three Honor System-related referenda. The elections begin Friday and run through Feb. 26.
“I wonder when the kid even sleeps,” UVa attackman Owen Van Arsdale said.
“I’m a little concerned at times that Zach stretches himself too thin,” Virginia coach Dom Starsia said. “But you applaud his ambition and the things that he’s doing.”
Some of the other Cavaliers, Wood said, probably consider him “a little crazy, and rightfully so. I can’t stand still, and I don’t like ever having a half an hour doing absolutely nothing. Every day I have is planned out, written down, and I want to make sure every hour I’m doing something productive.
“Sometimes they’re just like, `Why don’t you just go out and relax for a second?’ ”
Wood smiled. “I need to actually do that at some point in my life. Even the coaches and my father are like, `Zach, take it easy.’ I want to do everything, and you can’t do everything.”
Van Arsdale said Wood “definitely gets some heat from guys when it looks like he hasn’t slept for about a week and he shows up to practice disheveled. But they respect him for working hard at everything that he does. You know that he’s spending every waking hour doing something meaningful. It’s really impressive. I saw his rÃ©sumÃ© [last] fall and didn’t realize half the stuff that he was doing.”
Wood was born and raised in Aurora, Ill., about 40 miles west of Chicago. He likes his hometown, but he wasn’t there much over the recent holiday break.
After taking his final exams in December, he flew to New York to interview for an internship. Then he flew to Houston and from there to Nicaragua, where he volunteered, along with about 40 other college students, on a humanitarian mission sponsored by the non-profit organization Global Brigades.
Wood returned to Aurora on Christmas Eve.
“My mom wasn’t too happy about me being gone for so long,” he recalled. “I was home for about six days, saw some friends, did the whole Christmas thing. And then I left on the 30th for India.”
This trip was for a Global Commerce Immersion course offered in the January term through UVa’s McIntire School of Commerce. It was called Consumers and Markets in India, and about 20 students took part, most from the Commerce School.
“I applied to it, and I wasn’t sure I was going to do it,” Wood said. “But sitting down and thinking about it, I was like, `When am I ever going to go to India?’ ”
He flew from Chicago to London’s Heathrow Airport and, finally, to Delhi, where he landed around 9 a.m. on New Year’s Day.
“If I had to plan my trip again, I wish I’d planned an eight-, 10-hour [break] where I could have gone into London,” he said. “I was in London, on the way there and [the way] back. But I never got to see London, and I was really bummed about that.”
In Nicaragua, the student group distributed medical supplies in the mountain town of Esteli, where doctors from the country’s major cities were brought in to examine and treat residents.
“We went to a church, and people came from two to three hours away on buses and by foot, and walked there six, seven hours just to see a doctor,” Wood said. “Because they only get to see a doctor once a year.
“And you saw some really tough situations, where someone has a terminal illness. It’s an eye-opening experience, to say the least. Luckily a lot of it wasn’t that severe.”
Later, in San Juan Del Sur, the Global Brigades group put down cement floors in a family’s house.
The mission was a first for Wood, who had never been outside North America before arriving in Nicaragua.
“It was definitely a humbling experience,” he said. “You see how much we have here and how little they have there. If I gave someone a dollar there, they would think it’s amazing. Here someone would just lose it on the street here and not think anything of it.”
In India, the UVa group spent six days in Delhi and four in Mumbai, meeting with domestic and global companies.
“Our job was to kind of compare business models, compare their marketing strategies,” Wood said. “How are they successful in India, compared to how they’re successful in the United States? What are the differences in the cross-cultural obstacles they face? Because in India, unlike the United States, their religious background is their identity. There’s Hindus, there’s Muslims, there’s Buddhists, there’s a small sect of Christianity. But religion drives society, and they have to find this happy medium of pleasing everyone, and it’s an incredibly difficult task when you have so many conflicting views.”
The students had ample time to explore the country between meetings. For Wood, the highlight was his visit to the Taj Mahal in Agra.
“It was probably the most impressive building I’ve seen in my whole entire life,” he said. “You can see it in pictures, but [in person] it’s truly humbling.”
He also visited such historical sites as the Red Fort and the Elephanta Caves in India. Wood loves to travel, and if he were not a varsity athlete at UVa, “I’d be [studying] abroad right now,” he said.
Because of lacrosse, though, “I’ve never had the time to,” he said. “It’s not an option. I love my team and I want to be here for my team, so I’m not going to go abroad. So this was my opportunity.”
Wood went with the coaching staff’s blessing.
“Coach Starsia is an unbelievable person and unbelievable coach and mentor, and he supported me from Day One,” Wood said. “I don’t think you’d see that kind of support from a lot of coaches. I think his only concern was: Can you come back in shape? I promised him I would.”
In India, Wood worked out in hotel fitness centers. In Nicaragua, the Global Brigades group stayed in a compound surrounded by a barbed-wire fence.
“I got there and said, `How am I going to get anything done here?’ ” Wood recalled. “So basically I ran circles in the compound, over and over again, until I got tired. People were looking at me like, `What’s this kid doing?’ I was running through alleyways. It was very hard to get anything done there. We worked all day, so I stayed in relatively good shape, but it was definitely a challenge.”
He flew home from Delhi, with a stop in London, and landed in Chicago on Jan. 10. The next morning, he flew from Chicago to Washington, D.C., where he boarded a train for Charlottesville. On Grounds, he proceeded directly to lacrosse practice, where the players were tested in a series of grueling sprints. Wood was jet-lagged, but he passed.
The Chicago area is not a hotbed for lacrosse, but Wood grew up around the sport, thanks to his father, Tom, who played at the U.S. Naval Academy. Zach has a brother, Nicklaus (named for the legendary golfer), and they’ll be teammates at Virginia next season. Tom Wood coached his sons when they were growing up.
“Really nice family,” Starsia said.
Like Zach, Nick starred at Metea Valley High School. Now a student at the IMG Academy in Brandenton, Fla., he signed a letter of intent with UVa in November.
At Metea Valley, Zach became the all-time leading scorer in Illinois high school history, totaling 460 points, on 316 goals and 144 assists.
At Virginia, the 6-3, 195-pound Wood has struggled to earn significant playing time.
“I had some fairly decent success in high school, and I guess you can attribute a lot to the level of [competition],” he said. “The teams weren’t even close to what they are here, and [at Virginia] I had that transition period of understanding that everyone around you is equally as good as you. It’s the small consistency factors that kind of separate someone who’s on the bench and someone who’s playing. These small differences really kind of make the player, and I had to learn that, and it’s been a humbling experience, and something I’ve worked through every day.”
As a freshman in 2013, Wood appeared in only two games. He played in 11 last season, totaling five goals and an assist for a team that earned the No. 8 seed in the NCAA tournament.
Wood has yet to score in 2015 for UVa (2-0), which plays Saturday afternoon at Rutgers (1-1), but his role could grow as the season progresses.
“He can really shoot it,” Starsia said. “He’s an aggressive offensive player. He’s a big, strong kid. He just needs a little experience, but I think he can create some matchup problems at the offensive end.”
Wood, who’ll be an investment-banking intern this summer with Jefferies LLC in New York City, believes he’s grown from his time in Starsia’s program.
“Lacrosse is something I’ve had to earn here, every step of the way,” Wood said. “It’s driven me to become the person I am today. While at times you wish you were the star and wish you were the man, I think there’s so much more value and so much more character-building that I’ve gained from this.”