When you picture a coach, you might picture a one like Sue Sylvester from the TV show “Glee,” Jimmy Dugan from “A League of Their Own,” or even a coach you’ve once had. I think of one of Conn’s newest members to the Camel Athletics family, women’s basketball coach Jackie Smith. Her kindness toward everyone she meets, dedication to the success and growth of the team, and gumption to showcase the team’s talent has helped the team improve both on and off the court. I interviewed Jackie to learn more about her background, love for basketball and dreams for her team.
AT: How did you end up at Conn?
JS: In June of last year, while working as an assistant coach at George Washington University, my friend Courtney Gomez informed me that Brian Wilson, then-head coach of the women’s basketball team at Conn, was leaving. I already knew a lot about the NESCAC and knew it could be a great opportunity for me. So I called Brian (who I’ve known since he recruited me out of high school while at Holy Cross). Brian told me how much he loved the team and the College so I applied for the job and the rest is history.
AT: What excites you about the sport of basketball? Do you have any idols?
JS: I love everything about the sport of basketball, but what excites me the most is the competition. As a player, I loved being able to make a great pass and celebrate my teammates. And defensively, just trying to execute the scout to the best of my ability. Now as a coach, I love thinking of ways to put my players in positions to be successful and different defensive schemes to help us get stops. My parents are my idols. They’re amazing, fun-loving people who work harder than anyone I know. They instilled a work ethic in me that has helped me accomplish some things I probably shouldn’t have based on my talent and/or experience. And they also showed me how to enjoy life and not take yourself too seriously.
AT: What do you hope to bring to Conn and the team?
JS: I hope to continue to build on the tradition and culture that has already been established at this school and within this program. I was very fortunate to take over a group of young women who know what it means to be a part of a team, who know how to carry themselves on and off the court, and who continue to work hard to get better each day. I want to immerse myself into Conn’s culture and I hope to help this institution in any way that I can.
AT: I know you’re very involved with the team’s social media. Tell me about your vision for the team’s Instagram page.
JS: I would love for our team’s Instagram page to be a reflection of our program. We have a team full of talented and diverse young women who are the epitome of what a student-athlete should be, and I want to use Instagram as a way to showcase that.
AT: What’s more important for a team, talent or dedication?
JS: In my opinion, dedication is more important. Mike Ditka, a former NFL player, coach, and game commentator, has a great quote about this question. “Dedication without talent is a daydream. Talent without dedication is a nightmare.” For the most part, players who are dedicated enough to work hard and do what their coach asks will do enough things to help their team be successful. If those players are also talented, they become elite and their teams typically have a lot of success. If a talented athlete is not dedicated, it can cause rifts between teammates, they become complicit, and ultimately they hurt the team more than help.
The team ended their season at the NESCAC Quarterfinals against Bowdoin. You can stay updated on everything the team is doing this spring and see all of Jackie’s amazing content on their Instagram @conncollegewbb.