By Aaron Randolph
Former Basketball player Donovan Smalls had a love for basketball since he was four years old. From his love a basketball grew his love for helping people like himself. Donovan Smalls is an educator, doctoral student and author. Smalls was a nationally ranked basketball player at Union City high school and Kawameeh middle school. At a young age becoming a Division 1 basketball player was his main goal. Entering high school, Smalls was invited to participate in the Nike Invitational Basketball Camp. During his time at the camp, Smalls found himself playing against players like Derrick Rose, Stephen Curry, Greg Monroe and various other NBA players.
Interest letters came in from various colleges during his high school career but as time went on Donovan did not believe that playing division one basketball was not in his future. He discussed his feeling about not playing division 1 basketball. “I believe that I was talented enough and skilled enough to play Division one basketball however, playing at that level just wasn’t a part of God’s plan for me.” Nevertheless, through determination Smalls did play collegiate basketball at Erskine College , or The College of New Jersey. While attending The College of New Jersey, Smalls graduated with a degree in health and exercise in science. He also obtained a master’s degree from Virginia State University in Sports Management.
After his collegiate days were over, Smalls wanted to esnure that other college athletes have the necessary tools to succeed in life after sports. Being a former student-athlete Smalls understands the difficulty student-athletes have transitioning after their playing days are done through his student athlete development program, The Second Assist. The Second Assist was created two years ago as a blog. From writing about the various issues in sports he would attend to help student-athletes through various workshops. He visits different colleges and universities and sits down with current student-athletes and help them develop a solid and concrete plan, so they make an easy transition in life. The workshops are about an hour long. Donovan talked about the details of the Second Assist. “We start with identity to help students who they are with and without sports and from there we get an understanding of the role of education, the skills that they have learned and following up with an end goal.” Smalls wants athletes to have a great plan that they can refer to after their done. As we went through the interview Smalls discussed his reasoning for created The Second Assist. “I realize that some student athletes were going through some of the same things and I wanted to make sure they didn’t have go through some of the same issues I went through.”
As he continues to make strides with his program he is also making his way into higher education. Donovan will be graduating in June with a doctoral degree in educational leadership and management with a concentration in athletic administration. Smalls has plans to be a professor and work in an athletic department. He explained his reasoning for going back to school. “Anybody in doctoral programs want to make a difference and that’s something I want to do. I want to change and make a difference in the sports world.” Donovan has also written an article that was published on Ezine Articles and LinkedIn. The article was called the Division I Syndrome. The article discussed how student athletes when they are young are so focused on-going division one because division 1 is glorified. The article discusses how athletes may become discouraged because they are not playing for a division 1 school. Smalls wants athletes to understand that making division 1 is great, but every athlete should figure out what level works for them. The article received thousands of views on LinkedIn.
As for going forward Donovan plans on continuing to help student athletes who struggle with life after sports. He also is working on a book called “Life After Sports.” He also plans on getting married in July of next year. Smalls currently teaches physed at South Orange middle school in South Orange New Jersey.
Lastly, Smalls had some advice for athletes. “Don’t allow sports to identify and dictate who you are.” Make sure you use the sport you’re playing and don’t be used by it. Use the sport to be a voice for other people and set yourself and family up.”
About Aaron Randolph, Contributing Sports Writer
Aaron Randolph was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvannia. He is a recent Class of 2018 Media Studies and Production graduate from Temple University. Aaron has always had a passion for media and sports production, as well as film production. He is currently an intern for Fox 29 News and producer for a media company called MyNewPhilly. As he progresses throughout his career, he hopes to build a community center for at risk youth and women who have been victims of sexual assault and domestic violence.
About VCG Sports
VCG Sports focuses on providing high-quality career and business development services for athletes on the collegiate and professional level, as well as highligting their achievements and involvement outside of their playing careers. We value the importance of personal interaction and take pride in building long-term relationships with the athletes we serve. Our services are cultivated around creating value and preparing athletes for life after sports.