Smith Bids Farewell to Bethel Springs

By Amanda Lowrance

Smith Bids Farewell to Bethel Springs

Sherry Smith, former coach of the Lady Rebels peps the players up during a timeout. Smith, a former olympic hopeful, said goodbye to her Bethel Springs Elementary players this spring after leading them for four years. Photo by Amanda Lowrance

The friendly, smiling face of Sherry Smith will not be seen in the upcoming season of softball and basketball as coach of the Bethel Springs Elementary Lady Rebels.

When she came on as a coach, she had intentions to become a teacher as well. Her current career salary for the Tennessee Department of Transportation was greater than the one being offered to begin a new teaching career.

The deal was she could coach the girls’ until a teacher stepped up that wanted and could fulfill the position. She helped the position for four years because no one fit the qualifications.

She was born and raised in McNairy County as the youngest baby girl of 13 children, nine boys and four girls.

Smith just turned 50-years-old on her birthday and has accomplished more sports than what most do in a lifetime.

“I started playing basketball ever since I was five,” said Sherry Smith. “I was the first one out of the family to go to Bethel Springs.”

“I played basketball over there for two years. That’s the only girls’ championship over at Bethel, the one I won.”

In 1975, she moved to McNairy Central High School and played under Coach Jerry Lott, who was the freshmen coach at that time. Her sophomore year she played under Head Coach Mike Kane.

She graduated from McNairy Central, and that June she went and tried out for the Olympics.

“I ranked at number 13,” said Smith. “They only picked 12 and I was number 13, but it was the greatest experience.”

Coach Lott then helped her get into Middle Tennessee State University with a basketball scholarship. She graduated in 1985 with a bachelor’s degree in secondary physical education and a minor in coaching and office management.

While playing for MTSU, Smith played the Lady Volunteers of the University of Tennessee where she met Pat Summit. 

In a previous article ran from Sherry’s freshmen year at MTSU, she set a record of 315 career assists and had 40 assists in ten games. They went undefeated and won three Orange Bowl Championship (OBC) titles in the women’s NCAA.

Sherry was noted by the MTSU coach as having profound confidence and was quoted, “Coach, don’t worry about nothing.”

Her basketball career came to an end after college because there was no Women’s National Basketball Association or the opportunities to go pro.

This was a time when basketball was played three on three instead of five on five. Many of the rules, regulations, and opportunities have changed over the years.

She came back to McNairy County after the death of her sister to help her mother take care of her two nephews, who were now without a mother.

“I moved back home and helped mama raise them.”

It wasn’t long until she began work for the TDOT and has
shown her dedication there as well with over 17 years under her belt.

Her first coaching experience was at the Selmer Community Center when they started the Junior Pro Basketball games. She coached the boys there for three years and then made the move to Bethel Springs.

There she helped Coach Brian Franks coach boys’ basketball and got involved in Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) basketball.

Sherry participates in the annual Alumni games were the Adamsville and McNairy Central boys’ and girls’ gather for an adult rival game.

She goes every year in Jackson and plays in March Madness.

McNairy Central’s volleyball coach Crystal Slaughter will be taking the head coach position in girls’ basketball, but the role of the softball position is still unknown.

“I have always loved basketball. Winning isn’t everything. There are other things that you can teach kids besides winning.”

Sherry has enjoyed her previous coaching job and will miss the experience. Sherry and her assistant from 2010, who ironically had the same name, Sherry Smith was a good friend that will be missed as well.

 “If it isn’t meant to be it isn’t meant to be. The good Lord knows what’s best.”