She’s a Team Player: From the Iowa Hawkeyes to Store 426

Women of WMW

This former women’s basketball player brought her skills to Walmart.

Crystal standing in front of the sport aisle of a Walmart store holding a basketball

March Madness is here and we’re talking with a former University of Iowa women’s basketball player, Crystal Smith.

Crystal was a star player for the Hawkeyes and went on to be drafted by the WNBA. But when an injury sidelined her basketball career, Walmart was the ultimate winner! That’s because she ended up joining the team at Walmart Store 426 in The Colony, Texas, where she now works as a Stocking 1 Team Lead.

Crystal joined Walmart almost 10 years ago after an injury sidelined her basketball career. Before retiring, she played first for the University of Iowa, spent three years with the WNBA and then played internationally in Turkey, Greece and Iceland.

From WNBA to Walmart

At loose ends with her basketball career winding down, Crystal moved to Texas to be close to her brother, then started looking for work.

“I didn’t know what I wanted to do so I got a job, and I chose Walmart to keep me moving until I figured it out,” Crystal says, whose first position was overnight stocker. “I worked for four months before they promoted me to a department manager at the time, and from there, I got promoted to different positions around the store.”

Crystal explains that women’s basketball taught her leadership skills and patience, as well as the drive to be the best — traits that now help her be a better leader off the court.

Two female associates looking at a phone in the supplement aisle of a Walmart store

A firm and fair leader

“I enjoy what I do at Walmart,” she shares. “It’s like a purpose for me. When I come to work, I like being successful in what I do. I like that they rely on me. Sometimes it can be frustrating, but I know I’ll get it done, and I know that they know I’ll get it done.”

Crystal’s manager, Sharon Taylor, says all the coaches in the building rely on Crystal, who is always the first to step up when help is needed.

“Crystal is very firm and fair in her leadership style,” Sharon observes. “Her team respects her so much and that’s why we get so much done, because they don’t want to let her down. They know that she’s clear in her expectations. She’s consistent. They know what she expects from them and that’s why she’s so successful at what she does.” 

Asking why for the win

Sharon believes Crystal’s focus is on helping her team win.

“She’s a why person,” she explains. “She’ll ask why so she can understand how it’s going to help the store and help the team succeed. It’s not that she likes to win, but that she likes to win as a team. She wants to make sure we’re all successful.”

Crystal acknowledges she doesn’t love the limelight.

“People think I’m modest, but I just don’t like it,” she says. “I want to be successful so that my store is successful. That’s all I want.”

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