Opinion

Empty Nest

High school basketball coach has both girls and boys teams

Submitted photo

After coahing the girls’ varsity basketball team, the boys will get their turn with Coach Tim Smith who juggles both teams.
Submitted photo After coahing the girls’ varsity basketball team, the boys will get their turn with Coach Tim Smith who juggles both teams.

Tim Smith, basketball coach of Sweet Springs High School in Missouri is a busy man. In addition to coaching both the girls and boys varsity basketball teams, he is also Athletic Director and Physical Education teacher for the junior high through high school grades. In small schools with tight budgets, most teachers wear many hats. Coach Smith enjoys the challenge, the kids and, yes, even at times, the chaos. Transitioning from a closely fought girls basketball game, which might include overtime, and shifting gears to coach the boys’ team 15 minutes later, well, you can imagine the sweaty armpits. The kids love Coach Smith, and he loves the kids.

You see, Coach Smith grew up in Sweet Springs, and was a star on the high school basketball team. At 6’5” he was, of course, the center, but was also well known as an outside shooter. In a game against Wellington, Missouri, Tim buried ten, three pointers to set the state record at the time. During his high school career, Tim broke the school’s scoring record with 1,523 points. His senior year, he averaged an unbelievable 31.7 points and 12 rebounds per game.

From Sweet Springs High, Tim went on to Missouri Valley College in Marshall, Missouri, very close to home. There he was captain of his freshman and sophomore JV teams and the leading scorer both years. His junior and senior years, Tim came off the bench to support the team, making him sympathetic to kids he would coach in the future who were in a similar role.

After earning a degree in Physical Education, Tim applied for a teaching position at Sweet Springs High and was hired. He has spent his entire teaching career of 21 years as a varsity coach at his old school — actually his whole life. He has coached just about everything — boys and girls basketball at the high school level, baseball, track-and-field at the high school and junior high level for boys and girls, and head football coach for four years. The only thing he hasn’t coached is volleyball. By the way, he has 333 wins as a varsity coach.

All of that coaching of different sports has helped Tim understand the AD side of things. When coaches come to Tim with problems, he can relate to what they’re going through and foresee issues before they arise. He’s been there, done that. But the AD position can be as or more stressful than coaching both the girls and boys basketball teams. When everything is running smoothly, he won’t hear a word. But let a little something go wrong and a lot of people feel compelled to voice their opinion. It’s still rewarding though, because he gets to work with the kids and sports.

How on earth does he juggle coaching both the girls and boys varsity basketball teams? He relies heavily on his assistant coaches, Zach Thomas and Brent Neimeyer. Like Tim, Zach was a former player at Sweet Springs. Practice is from 3:30 in the afternoon until 5:30. Tim transitions from an hour with the girls to an hour with the boys.

Fifty miles east of Kansas City on I-70, Sweet Springs was named for its warm sulfur baths which were believed to bring healing relief for a number of ailments. Maybe that’s what keeps people coming back, like the cotton tail rabbit that can live out its entire life on an acre of ground. Coach Smith doesn’t put much thought into it. He and his lovely wife, Debbie, have grandkids spending the night, his mother is getting out of the hospital, and he has a tournament coming up on the weekend. He’s looking for win 334.

Have a good story? Call or text Curt Swarm in Mt. Pleasant at 319-217-0526, email him at HYPERLINK “mailto:curtswarm@yahoo.com”curtswarm@yahoo.com or friend him on Facebook.