His coaching career at Southwest DeKalb began in 1998, but he also coached for a brief period with the Rockdale Youth Soccer Association. He encouraged all three of his children to play, his wife said. He coached his son for a season, and his twin daughters currently attend Alabama State University on soccer scholarships.
As a teacher, students with special needs were Smith’s main focus in the classroom, but as a coach he was also interested in his players’ academic success, said Jasmine McCalla, who began playing for Smith her freshman year. When Jasmine needed help in math, she said Smith made sure she had a tutor and checked on her progress regularly.
“I was surprised at how much he cared and pushed me to do better, on and off the field,” she wrote in an email. “In my two years of knowing him, he’s given me life lessons I’ll never forget.”
Smith’s classroom was a daily stop for many of his soccer players, said Bronwyn Stallcup, the mother of one of the young women.
“Coach Smith was not only her coach but a safe haven for her when she was frustrated with classes or school life in general,” Stallcup wrote in an email. “At the spring soccer banquet, Coach had a smile on his face as he watched his young lady soccer players laugh and enjoy each other’s accomplishments. It was as if he realized what a great team he had put together. He did just that.”
In addition to his wife and children, Mariel, Alayna and Mason, Smith is survived by his father and stepmother, George A. and Jennifer Smith; his stepfather, Dudley Nelson; a brother, Garfield Smith; a half brother, Greg Nelson; stepsisters Heather Nelson, Jacqueline Nelson and Suzette Nelson; and stepbrothers Barrington Nelson and Anthony Nelson, all of New Jersey.