How Basketball Smiles Changed Shashonna Smith’s Life

Coach Sam Nichols and Coach Shashonna Smith

Coach Sam Nichols was observing a group of campers in drills in 2018 when two arms bear-hugged him from behind. He looked around, and there was Shashonna Smith, who began attending Basketball Smiles camps when she was in the 6th grade.

She had come by to tell him personally that she now was the head girls’ basketball coach and cosmetology teacher at Telos Christian High School in Nassau. She was using a talent she discovered at Basketball Smiles.

When Shashonna first came to camp, she attended the morning girls’ session, but she had to stay all day because her younger brother was in the boys’ afternoon session. The coaches kept her busy in the afternoons by letting her help the coaches assigned to the smaller children.

After a couple of days, the coaches told Coach Sam how impressed they were with Shashonna’s aptitude for coaching and wanted him to observe her work with the younger children.

After watching her, he saw that she, indeed, had a gift for coaching, which he intended to help her develop.

For the next six years, Shashonna participated in the girls’ morning session and actively coached in the boys’ session in the afternoon. Each year coaches gave her more responsibilities until she finally was coaching without supervision.

Coach Sam told her she had a gift for coaching and encouraged her to consider teaching and coaching as a profession. Shashonna said she was hoping to become a teacher and coach and said she had gained confidence through her experience coaching with Basketball Smiles.

Shashonna has achieved her dream. As the head coach, she has the opportunity to influence the lives of the approximately 30 girls in her program. She thanked Coach Sam for giving her the chance to coach when she was still in junior high school, for believing in her and encouraging her to go to college to become a teacher and coach.

In 2019, Shashonna coached with Basketball Smiles and brought her 30 girls to camp, as well.