By Aaron Randolph
Former pro basketball player Tywanna Smith comes from a basketball family but knew early on in her life that the business world was her ultimate career path. Tywanna Smith is a best-selling author, speaker, and athlete business coach and brand builder.
Growing up in West Memphis Arkansas Smith began playing basketball at the age of nine of years old. Smith was a highly recruited basketball player in high school during her sophomore year, receiving numerous offers from various Division I college basketball teams. During her junior year, she suffered a torn ACL. Smith would recover before her high school career concluded to be named the MVP for the girls’ all-star game in Arkansas. She excelled both athletically and academically in high school, which ultimately led her to a become a student-athlete in college
Smith played her collegiate basketball at University of Mississippi (Ole Miss). While attending Ole Miss, Smith was a four-year starter and during her senior year, she led Old Miss to NCAA tournament. Smith graduated with cum laude honors and with a degree in both marketing and business management. Before leaving to play overseas professionally, she stayed another year to earn her MBA from Ole Miss. She played in Holland for the Dutch team Amazone and also in Spain for Pabellon-Ourense. She had some early struggles in Spain with the language barriers, but she credits her cousin, Marcus Brown, who helped her with a transition in Spain since he was over in Spain playing basketball professionally. Brown was also drafted into the NBA by the Portland Trailblazers.
After finishing her time in Holland and Spain Smith would return to Ole Miss and mentor athletes about business and discuss her experiences with them. She was also a position with investment management company Merrill Lynch as a financial advisor. As we continued through the interview Smith told me how her experience with Merrill Lynch helped with her path of business and entrepreneurship.
“The experience at Merrill Lynch enabled me to see the holes that when it comes to preparing financial planning and financial services when it comes to athletes. I was able to see the entire process for athletes when it comes to investing their money.”
After a few years with Merrill Lynch Smith decided to open her business and create the Athlete Nexus. Being a former athlete, Tywanna Smith wanted to create a business that could give current and former athletes so much needed assistance. The Athlete Nexus is a sports marketing and management group company. This central hub allows athletes to learn how to market themselves, use their platforms that would truly benefit them. Athletes learn how to evaluate agents, manage business, finances and leverage themselves on and of the basketball court The Athlete Nexus uses education as a way to learn how to navigate the entire professional landscape as an athlete.
Ms. Smith discussed her motivation and reasoning for creating her company “I wanted to be able to teach athletes about the entire spectrum of being a professional athlete. I wanted athletes to utilize their platforms in a way that best benefits them, and I also wanted to create this central place where they could come to learn how to manage their post-careers, as well.”
Once Smith created her company she decided to publish a book titled “Surviving the Lights: A Professional Athlete's Playbook to Avoiding the Curse.” Smith wrote the book to create a written blueprint for athletes to follow that would teach them personal and professional coaching system. Her book became a best-seller 2017.
Tywanna Smith continues to give back and make strides in the business world. The award-winning entrepreneur offers professional development workshops to high school athletes that aim to make their transition to college smoother. She also created a virtual coaching system that uses a series of tutorial videos to help athletes break down various topics and learn how to move properly in their athletic careers.
Smith offered advice for current athletes and also why she believes it’s so important to give back.
“Sports touches so many different areas of the world and society. It’s a powerful conduit that can transfer influence in a positive way. Athletes should focus on developing their success teams. If you don’t have a solid team, you won’t be successful. You have to people that love and support you unconditionally. Secondly, go through a self-reflection process so you can figure out who you are and what your strengths and weaknesses are. That way you understand what you are bringing to the table.”
It’s safe to say Tywanna Smith is proving game-changing resources for athletes. For her plans, she has a book that she is looking to publish in early 2020. She is also looking to expand her youth program and workshop as well.
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.