AP NEWS

‘Legacy of Lifting’: Athletic background helps teach leadership

May 20, 2018 GMT

DARLINGTON, S.C. — Pee Dee resident Toyinda L. Smith makes it her goal to be a champion in every area of her life.

Smith, a native of Gary, Indiana, moved to Hartsville in August of 2015 after separating from her ex-husband. Smith said she needed to “reset” her life and came to South Carolina knowing just one person and offering two businesses: Hartsville Balloon Company LLC and Leadership, Strategy and Consulting LLC.

“I wanted to get involved in coaching,” Smith said. “I called Benny Morgan, who had coached me in high school summer track and he opened up the door for me to come.”

Smith began volunteering as a track and field coach at Coker College and had the opportunity to teach a couple of classes as an adjunct professor at the college.

Smith graduated from Lew Wallace High School in Indiana, where she began running track. After running didn’t work out, her coach asked her to work on becoming a discus and shotput specialist. Through that, Smith said, her life’s trajectory was changed.

“I went to state twice, my junior and senior years,” Smith said. “It taught me discipline.”

Smith went to Purdue University, where she was given an opportunity to walk on to the track and field team.

“I was completely amazed, but the fact that somebody believed in a piece of my potential enough that I could compete at the Big Ten level really pushed me to get better,” Smith said. “I went through the process of the NCAA clearing house and found out that my high school GPA was good enough to be an athlete, but my SAT scores were not. I had to sit out a year in which I couldn’t work out with the team and was able to join the team the following year.”

Smith walked onto the team as a discus thrower. Smith said she had the opportunity to compete at many of the regional meets, but never got to travel.

At each meet she had the chance to compete in, she performed her best and continued to get better. When the time came for the Big Ten Conference meet, she convinced her coach to allow her to travel and compete with the team.

“I told him that statistics don’t lie,” Smith said. “I explained to him how my throws had increased after each meet and I really believed I could help the team. He slept on it and decided to let me go.”

Smith went to the meet ranked the No. 12 overall discus thrower, but placed runner-up. Before her college career was over, Smith left Purdue a national champion and was inducted into the Purdue Athletic Hall of Fame in 2012.

Smith said she is now using her abilities to teach speech communication at Coker College and mentoring leaders through “Leadership, Strategy and Consulting LLC.”

She said her athletic background allows her to be able to connect with students.

“Champions win at every area of their life,” Smith said. “Champions consistently persist, practice honorable behavior, press until they reach new levels of excellence and they pull until they obtain victory. That’s what I do in my work with the consulting and in everything I do. I try to teach leaders to be champions.”

Smith said she consults with businesses, entrepreneurs, students and emerging professionals. She is partnering with the Greater Darlington Chamber of Commerce to bring a “Leadership Darlington Institute” to the area.

She said it will be a nine-month program to help those in leadership positions with more information to come soon.

Smith also became a published author in March with her book, “The Handbook to Unleash Your Potential Using Six Practical Steps.”

“Even after setbacks, we look at how to get into your purpose and see your passion through these steps,” Smith said. “The book helps us to address the fears we may have and move from stagnation to activation.”

Smith said her goal in life to pour into as many people as possible and to lift others up in everything she does.

“If I pass away, I want people to say that I was a teacher who lifted others up as I ascended,” Smith said. “When I rise, you rise as well. When you come in contact with me, I want you to leave as a better person. And then you go out and impart ‘better’ to others.”

“Make a positive impact doing something that positively impacts other people. That’s it. A legacy of lifting,” Smith said.