Today’s #SameHere🤙Hero is a 6’-0” former star women’s b-ball player at Ole Miss, who went on to play pro ball overseas & was a Dutch All-Star: Tywanna Smith
When we spoke I was amazed w her poise & knowledge. She’s super intelligent & as you’ll read below (& on the slides), she has such an interesting perspective. She compares playing sports (where she always had control), to life challenges (which felt extremely foreign bc unlike sports, she felt no control). Bc of what she went through, she has been paying it back & some to pro athletes – financial advising, mentorship, her own counseling business, a best selling book, speaking engagements, etc. She’s the real deal & we are thrilled to have her on the #SameHere team!
“As an athlete, I’ve experienced several situations that affected my mental health – from a season-ending ACL injury, to burnout injuries, to transitioning between the levels of sport. Throughout my journey, my family was always incredibly supportive. However, after the loss of my grandmother during my first wk of college, I experienced a different type of mental trauma that definitely affected me for quite some time.
The best way for me to describe my feelings during each of those moments is helpless. In each scenario, I was forced to deal w a situation I was unprepared for & that lack of preparation left me crippled w fear. I felt fear of the unknown, & it was very different from the confidence I’d always felt in sports. I was confident, bc I was always prepared to play, I always had a game plan, I studied, practiced, & knew what I would have to do to succeed. However, when dealing with real-life situations, like my body shutting down or the death of someone close to me, I felt utterly helpless.
More than anything, I would describe what I felt as anxiety, & I learned to function in an abnormal state. I found myself doing a lot of things to stay busy, but none of the things replaced the security & confidence I felt when I played sports. Getting back on the basketball court was important to me in my healing, bc it was what I knew I was good at it, and it was something my grandmother always enjoyed supporting. It didn’t always heal the emptiness, but I used it to get through some tough times.
When it came to my physical ailments, I didn’t speak out until after I finished playing professional basketball. I was amazed to learn how many other athletes struggled with similar feelings of paralyzing fear and anxiety. As an athlete and competitor, I was motivated to figure it out and I channeled my competitiveness into solving my personal battle for fulfillment. When it came to my grandmother, I found that talking to loved ones was therapeutic. Ultimately, I wanted to resume a state of normalcy and balance in my life, because although I didn’t know exactly how to feel better, I knew I had to do something. However, it was some time after each experience before I found the courage to admit I needed help dealing with my frustrations from injury, transitioning through sports, and the loss of my loved one.
I found relief in sharing my experience with others, and surprisingly, helping others through their struggles. As a former athlete, I could relate to many who dealt with life issues and situations surrounding the business side of sports. I knew how important that peace was to one’s well-being so I created some resources to help athletes in their preparation, the area I struggled with and found to be a weak area with so many others. I became a registered financial advisor to assist athletes with their financial guidance, a weak area for many athletes. I wrote a best-selling book, Surviving the Lights’ to help aspiring college and professional athletes prepare for the business of sports. I also created a coaching program for competitive athletes, entitled Surviving the Lights Athlete Coaching Program, to prepare athletes for the various transitions along their sports journey, in business, personal development, and leadership. Lastly, I became a professional speaker to share my testimony and readiness training with others. My work to help others gives me much peace by applying what I learn to my own readiness and mental health.
I am very vocal about the lack of systematic support in preparing athletes for the opportunities provided through sports and to handle all that comes with being in the ‘lights.’ Those that know my story are very supportive and amazed at what I’ve done to prepare others to avoid, what I call the ‘curse’ of professional sports. People reach out to me every day for my courage in speaking out about the deceit in this business, especially as a woman of color in the sports industry. If I can help or inspire at least one person w my #SameHere Story, I am happy to help someone attain peace.