For a man who has become accustomed to working towards a goal most of his life, the past year could have been difficult for former Steelers’ defensive end Aaron Smith.
Smith, who retired after the 2011 season, had been playing team sports for as long as he can remember, and that kept him right on track with reaching for his goals, whether it was striving to improve on a daily basis or working towards winning a championship.
When he retired last year that was one thing he knew he would miss. And he knew he had to find something to fill the void. It didn’t take long. Smith is now an assistant basketball coach at Eden Christian Academy where he is helping kids reach their goals, while having team goals he is striving for as well.
“I am a goal-oriented person,” said Smith. “I need to feel like I am working towards a goal. I do better when I feel that way.
“The toughest thing for me not playing this year was not having what I am working towards. That is the hardest thing I have struggled with. I have woke up some days and thought what am I going to do today. I could pick up a basketball and just play, but that isn’t doing anything. As a pro athlete you have had that as a small child, even in the offseason you were working toward getting better. This gives me that.”
Smith, who is coaching the boy’s varsity team, began working with them in October partly because it’s a sport he enjoys and also without football he finally had the free time.
“I always loved basketball,” said Smith. “I would have played basketball before football. I offered to help them since I have time. Fortunately for me they let me be a part of the team and contribute where I can.
“I grew up playing basketball. I think the basic skills and drills you don’t lose. But not doing the X’s and O’s for over a decade that is where I had to work. I did a lot of research. I order a lot of clinic videos. The head coach is fantastic and I have learned a lot from him. He is a good mentor in this stage of my life.”
Coaching is giving Smith the opportunity to see sports from a different perspective, helping him gain a whole different appreciation for what his coaches did for him along the way.
“It’s a lot different than playing,” said Smith. “It’s a unique experience. When you are playing you get the chance to be in control more. You can work at it and do it yourself. When you are coaching you are explaining it to someone else and hoping the light bulb will go off in them. It’s a lot more challenging than I thought it would be. I am not saying that in a bad way.
“I enjoy interacting with the kids. To have the chance to touch someone’s life and maybe have an influence on them down the road in some aspect. Largely who I am today is because of the coaches I had in my life. If I can do that for them, then I have done what I am supposed to do.”
One of the coaches that Smith said he is trying to be like in his own small way is Steelers’ defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, incorporating the way LeBeau treats players into his style of coaching.
“I try to be loving but disciplined,” said Smith. “I try to emulate a little bit of Dick LeBeau. He has a high standard, but he loves each individual for who they are, not because of how they perform or what they do. I think he has a standard for performances, but he loves everybody equally the same no matter what they do on or off the field.”