With seven years of coaching experience, former U.S. Olympian, Julie Smith, takes on the position of softball coach at the University of La Verne. With a history of athletic awards, Smith also devoted time to be a founder and president of Teamsmith Inc., a non-profit organization committed to helping children of all ages better their lives through athletic events and activities.
Amid the sound of bats clanking and balls hitting gloves, first year University of La Verne softball coach Julie Smith tosses around jokes and encouragement, providing a fun and relaxed atmosphere to the sometimes grueling three-hour practices.
Smith, a 39-year-old Corona resident and former Olympian, works hard to give her players the confidence and help they need to improve, while always maintaining their love of the game.
“I believe in keeping the fun and keeping the passion in the game and appreciating it every step of the way,” Smith said. “It’s a game, it’s not life and death, but it’s a place you can come to and call your own and be able to express yourself.”
It is lessons such as these that make Smith a role model to not only her players, but also to the countless children in her organization Teamsmith Inc.
The group provides coaching for young athletes to give them confidence and self-esteem on and off the field.
Her passion for the game and assistance in helping children find their inner confidence stemmed from Smith’s experiences growing up in a single-parent household of a divorced family and an admiration for her older brother who shaped the athlete she is today.
“My older brother was really athletic and included me in everything that he did,” Smith said.
“He really gave me that inner confidence at a young age by picking me first for his teams and teaching me the skills I needed.”
Today Smith hopes to instill the same for her players by teaching them to be independent, strong and passionate about life.
She says that growing up with numerous hardships made her stronger and inspired her not to give up.
Some trials included the divorce of her parents and her mom’s sudden brain aneurysm that occurred while Smith was playing on the 1999 USA softball team.
“I always saw my mom as a pillar of strength,” Smith said. “She worked hard to raise her four kids and she never gave up or needed anyone else, and that taught me never to give up also.”
Never giving up and working hard is displayed on the back of the girls’ softball team shirts, “decide.commit.execute,” highlighting the importance of working hard at a task and following through on it with everything a player has, an idea that Smith believes in whole-heartedly.
“She knows how to bring out the drive and determination to not only win, but to tear the other team apart,” freshman outfielder and movement and sports sciences major Corbin Henault said. “She always wants to find out what gets us fired up and excited about the game.”
Along with being confident, hard-working and independent, the players on Smith’s team are equipped with the understanding of the purpose of the game and what makes it worthwhile.
“I’m trying to get them to think of the game in a different way and a different light than they ever have before,” Smith said.
Using different approaches to coaching, such as having the team read books by sports psychologists in order to understand the mental side of the game, give the players a reason to improve themselves since they know that they are on the field for a purpose.
“There’s never any doubt as to why we’re doing what we’re doing,” Henault said. “We know that everything we do is for a reason.”
By combining the mental understanding of the game as well as the physical aspects, Smith is able to show the athletes why it is important to give everything they have to the game.
“Coach Smith comes out everyday giving us everything she has, and we are inspired to try and give her everything we have back,” senior third baseman and liberal studies major Lynsey Padilla said.
One way that Smith achieves these goals in her players is by working with them all on a personal basis and focusing on what will make them better players and individuals.
When her players become confident individuals who are strong both mentally and athletically and possess a care-free passionate attitude towards the game, then Smith will have succeeded in her efforts.
“When all is said and done, I want my players to come out, play free and never take any of it for granted,” Smith said.
Natalie Croyt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.