My First 100 Days

BOBBY SMITHERAN

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When I was leaving to go to college to play baseball for the University of New Mexico, I was probably like most incoming freshmen who felt invincible and oblivious to the fact that life can change in the blink of an eye.

Then, reality and tragedy struck.

Just before I arrived at New Mexico, my brother got into a terrible car accident that resulted in him being paralyzed.

My brother’s life changed forever that day, and it’s no coincidence that mine did, too.

From that day forward, he has been my biggest inspiration and motivation.

I owed it to myself, and more importantly, I owed it to him, to make the most of every opportunity life threw at me.

While that was an incredibly difficult time in my life, as an incoming freshman, I was overwhelmed by the love and support of my coaches, athletic department, and university.

When I set out on my career journey into intercollegiate athletics, my goal has always been to be there for these student-athletes like so many were there for me during one of the most painful experiences I’ve ever had to go through.

Unfamiliar territory

I knew when I got into this profession, I had to be comfortable not only with moving around the country but also with improving myself and seeking out opportunities, which has been a staple throughout my career.

After getting my foot in the door at North Texas and UC Irvine, I took an opportunity with SDSU in 2008 as the Student-Athlete Services Coordinator. But a few years after that, I found myself in a position I never thought I’d be in.

In 2011, I became the Director of Football Operations at SDSU, and let me tell you, that was a left turn I didn’t see coming.

For the first time in my life, my job security was pretty much dependent upon 18 to 22-year-old kids winning football games.

I remember in my second year, we started the season 1-3, and I was sitting there thinking, are we all going to get fired?

The pressure that is involved in coaching sports, especially football, was something that became eye-opening for me.

Not to mention, as a football coaching staff, you’re working seven days a week for six months straight. Then, in the offseason, you still have to recruit, and that’s a full-time job in itself, so it often feels like you never get a break.

While my time as Director of Football Operations at SDSU was brief, I was proud of the success we had as a program, and I couldn’t be more grateful for the learning experience it came with.

It was a stressful position, but it was monumental to my career and would unquestionably make me a better leader in administration.

Special place to call home

After working my way up to the Executive Associate Athletics Director at SDSU, I noticed an opening at Long Beach State for the Athletic Director role.

While I very much enjoyed my time at SDSU, the AD opening at LBSU caught my attention for a few different reasons, but one in particular: I had a personal connection to Long Beach.

Ironically enough, my great-grandfather came to Long Beach in 1917, and I’ve had a surplus of family history and connections in the area ever since.

So, when I interviewed and was offered the job, it became a full-circle moment for me.

Although I’m not from here, it genuinely felt like I was coming home.

As if it was meant to be.

Every single day since I was hired this past August, I drive past my grandparents’ house and smile, thinking about all the memories and fun times I spent with my family in a city that’s always been close to my heart.

In more ways than one, Long Beach is a special place to call home, and I couldn’t be more blessed to serve this university and community that’s so integrated into my family history.

While that was an incredibly difficult time in my life, as an incoming freshman, I was overwhelmed by the love and support of my coaches, athletic department, and university. When I set out on my career journey into intercollegiate athletics, my goal has always been to be there for these student-athletes like so many were there for me during one of the most painful experiences I’ve ever had to go through.

A unique community

It sounds so simple, but when I first arrived at LBSU, all I really wanted to do was listen.

I made it my goal to speak to every staff member so I could understand their experiences and what I could do as AD to improve those experiences at this great university.

There are staff members and coaches who have been here for decades, so it was vital for me in the first 100 days of the job to just absorb this information and create a connection and dialogue with the staff members, coaches, and student-athletes at LBSU.

In my short time here, something that has stood out immediately is the unique community we have here at Long Beach. I grew up coming to this city to visit family, but I was never immersed in it on a daily basis.

To see the support and the love the community has for this institution is something that truly blew me away.

Whether folks went to this university, or they’ve lived here for so long that they’ve become supporters and fans, this is a community that wraps its arms around these student-athletes throughout their collegiate careers.

It also makes my job easier knowing we have such a strong backing within the community, and I’m going to do everything in my power to only bolster that support in the coming years with strong programs that this Long Beach community rightfully deserves and can be proud of.

An impactful community

Now that I’m getting settled into the job, I look forward to establishing a culture for the department – I think that’s the first place we start.

I say “we” because it takes an entire team to do this, and I’m grateful to be surrounded by a fantastic team and department here.

I have the utmost confidence in the success we’re going to bring to this community and campus.

At the same time, we can’t be afraid to adjust our plans if need be, which is something I’ll always take into consideration.

Let’s be honest, college athletics are not what they were five years ago, and I have no doubt they’ll look much different five years from today.

That’s something our staff is cognizant of based on the ever-changing environment that is college athletics.

But, ultimately, you don’t take this position unless you plan to impact young people’s lives, which is exactly why I got into this profession in the first place.

To help these young men and women during such critical points in their lives and shape them as leaders and stewards of their community is not a responsibility I take lightly.

As I alluded to earlier, my brother’s accident is undoubtedly the reason why I’m here at LBSU now.

It’s our personal experiences that often drive us to become the people we were destined to become.

Through the triumphs and successes, and especially the trials and tribulations, I want to be there for every student-athlete who steps foot on the LBSU campus.

It’s more than my job – it’s my purpose.