A Tale Of Sport And Spirituality Inspired By The Olympic Movement, Muhammad Ali

rsWe all have our own battles to fight and struggles through life to overcome. I’ve been blessed to have been exposed to so much when I was young. And, I’ve been able to deal with and manage personal tragedies and trauma with God by my side. Through Eyekonz Field Hockey and Lacrosse I truly believe we being the change we want to see and contributing to society. As with training to be an Olympic athlete, we want to ensure our kids are trained culturally and spiritually, says Jazmine Smith of Philadelphia, who uses field hockey and lacrosse as the means to educate, expose, empower and transform lives as Muhammad Ali did.


“The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.” – Pierre de Coubertin

While watching the live broadcast of the celebration of Muhammad Ali’s life, I was reminded of a few things he embodied, namely the Olympic Spirit. In a year in which nations will compete in the Summer Olympics in Brazil, it was the Olympics that provided Ali an international platform to showcase his athletic prowess which subsequently led to his ascension as a sportsman and an unapologetic, principled fighter of justice and equality.

Ali was a movement unto himself.

He was also an ambassador of the Olympic Movement which aims to contribute to building a peaceful and better world by educating youth through sport practiced without discrimination of any kind – the Olympic Spirit.

The Olympic Spirit requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.

Muhammad Ali was loved and revered all over the world for practising the tenants of the Olympic Spirit. He was as equally, if not more, an unapologetic, principled believer and practitioner of Islam.

Acknowledging a higher power while participating in sport, on any level, is often grounded in an unapologetic, principled belief in and practice of one’s faith. Many people were enamored with Ali. On some level, people saw themselves in him. People aspired to posses and express characteristics Ali represented.

Throughout the City of Philadelphia and surrounding areas, Jazmine A. Smith has been representing the Olympic Spirit, exhibiting Ali’s characteristics of using sport to empower and educate while being an unapologetic, principled believer and practitioner of faith and spirituality. Smith, however, uses field hockey and lacrosse as the means to educate, expose, empower and transform lives as Muhammad Ali did.

“We live to learn, and learn to shine was one the many sayings that my grandparents taught me growing up. I was blessed to have family, friends and mentors in my life. I saw how they studied, how they helped their fellow man and lived by what I understand now to be, The Laws of Life,” said Smith.

Highly inspired by her grandparents rearing and upbringing in the church, Smith grew up being exposed to traditional and non-traditional African-American, Caribbean and African cultures and ways of life. An athlete in her youth, Smith evolved into a competitive field hockey and lacrosse player, honing her skills at Radnor High School in one of the country’s top public school districts. She went on to compete as an NCAA student-athlete, relying on lessons learned through sport for years afterwards as a professional.

“I was always involved in sport in some capacity over the years. Three years ago I really committed to marrying my passion for sports and working with children that are dealing with so much trauma in their lives. When we act, that sense of life opens up for us in ways we couldn’t imagine. Everything we speak and think becomes a reality. The universe conspires to see it into existence.”

Eyekonz Field Hockey and Lacrosse League

In 2013, Smith launched Eyekonz Field Hockey and Lacrosse League.

“It’s a spiritual journey for her, she’s living a life of service to others,” said Smith’s friend, Wanza Poole.

Living a life of purpose, Smith wanted to give her organisation a name that meant something. Eyekonz was decided upon because she “wanted to have a name that when kids got older, they would learn to understand how the organisation’s name connects them to African spirituality,” Poole explained.

“She was reinvigorated and had an epiphany, if you will, when by playing with my daughter, Sophia, one day. From there she took off and had been impacting lives since. And she’s done so in spite of personal challenges and struggles,” Poole stated.

For more than two decades Smith’s mother, Vera, has managed to battle a debilitating physical condition. As her mother’s primary caregiver, Smith has had to deal with advocating for her mother while suffering the lost of her beloved grandparents and being displaced by a house fire.

“She has really pushed through not knowing how she was going to do it,” Poole said of Smith’s journey. “She believes in her cause and has really dedicated her life to people. As a Christian, she feels a strong connection to her African roots and cleverly exposes the kids she works with to the history of the African Diaspora.”

A member of Philadelphia’s Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church, Smith finds strength in her relationship with God which guides her with her athletic endeavours.

“Jazmine is just an awesome person,” exclaimed Reverend Dr. Alyn E. Waller. She loves children and has been a blessing to young people.

“I’ve watched her as she very attentively cared for her mother over the years. She balances life very well, I can’t say enough about her.”

With a robust sports ministry at Enon, and as a former collegiate student-athlete at Ohio University, Waller believes in sports’ ability to be one of the greatest tools to educate and unite. “I’m convinced that addressing any issues with our kids today is providing them exposure and (trauma) management. I trust in Jazmine’s spirituality and her ability to provide world-class experiences, through sport, for the children she serves through Eyekonz Field Hockey and Lacrosse,” Waller stated.

More than 300 youth have been impacted by Eyekonz programming and Smith’s tireless efforts.

Parable of the Stonecutter

“Jazmine is working her tail off in an inner city, without support. She just goes about her work, anonymously, creating opportunities for girls of colour through Eyekonz Field Hockey and Lacrosse programs,” said Villanova University Head Football Coach, Andy Talley. As a coach at an Augustinian higher education institution, Talley recognises how sport and spirituality intersect in various ways. He likened Smith to his team’s mantra and creed, Tap The Rock.

“In the time I’ve known her, she’s been diligently and steadily tapping the rock,” Talley stated. “It’s starting to crack open a little with her work being acknowledged by her being selected to attend The White House United State of Women Summit.”

Villanova’s well-respected Associate Athletic Director and Chaplin of the football and basketball teams, Father Rob Hagen, shared the Parable of the Stonecutter. Interpretations of the folk tale conclude the moral of the story encourages one to “be happy with what you are in life. You are more powerful than you know, and you influence many others by the way you live your life.”

“It’s starting to crack open a little with her work being recognised,” Talley said referring to Smith’s selection to attend The White House United State of Women Summit.

“She is molding these kids, who haven’t been given very much, and giving them a chance to be a part of a team, be a part of something. The power of sport and the will of one strong woman who had the smarts, heart and courage to give back has transformed lives.”

Sport provides mankind opportunities to celebrate our shared humanity, the Olympics being the standard-bearer on a global scale. Athletes that compete in the Olympics, like Muhammad Ali, are world-class athletes and embody the Olympic Spirit in some form or another. But it is through people like Smith, who takes pride in representing herself, her ancestors and history with dignity, that the Olympic Spirit truly lives through.

Sport connects to a Higher Level of Consciousness

“I’m a vessel of change,” Smith acknowledged. “I’m happy God is using me to help someone along. In the process [of operating Eyekonz Field Hockey League], we’re creating a new narrative of how to engage and work together to educate and expose our kids to more. We utilise methods and incorporate practices that highlight African-American -and people of the African Diaspora- culture and experiences. We want our kids to know that they are made in the image of God and as they grow to understand that they are a reflection, they become unstoppable.”

Smith possesses a strong resolve and belief in herself, her mission and her greatness – in many respects similar to the Greatest Of All Time, Muhammad Ali. Spiritually fit and culturally grounded, Smith understands her role and how sport and spirituality can be powerfully transformative tools to improve lives, communities and nations.

“It’s so key for us to connect with a higher level of consciousness, to connect with God.

“We are all destined with a birthright,” Smith’s granddad would tell her. “But if you don’t understand the laws of which this world is governed, then you will never be able to shine free and bright.”

Jazmine A. Smith and Eyekonz Field Hockey and Lacrosse are poised to illuminate, spreading the Olympic Spirit along way while striving for greatness like Muhammad Ali.

In the spirit of Pierre de Coubertin and the Villanova University football team’s mantra, Tap The Rock, Smith exemplifies the life of a stonecutter.

“We all have our own battles to fight and struggles through life to overcome. I’ve been blessed to have been exposed to so much when I was young. And, I’ve been able to deal with and manage personal tragedies and trauma with God by my side. Through Eyekonz Field Hockey and Lacrosse I truly believe we being the change we want to see and contributing to society. As with training to be an Olympic athlete, we want to ensure our kids are trained culturally and spiritually.”

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