Jamaican-born Alexander-Pompey making mark in collegiate coaching in US

Jamaican-born Alexander-Pompey making mark in collegiate coaching in US

Observer writer

Friday, July 31, 2020

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Coaching was the farthest thing from the mind of former Commonwealth Games shot put finalist Nadia Alexander-Pompey, and even as she was hoping to develop a career in sports, she saw herself in administration rather than coaching.

Life, it appears, had other plans for the former Mannings School, St Hugh's and Louisiana Tech standout as she caught the coaching bug after a brief flirtation with coaching when she assisted her former high school coach, Michael Vassell, right after college.

After various stops over the past nine years, Alexander-Pompey just completed her first season as head coach of the Florida A&M University women's team that finished eighth in the Mid-Eastern Athletics Conference (MEAC) indoors championships in a season that was cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The season was not a complete bust, however, as the FAMU women's team was named on the USTFCCCA Academic All-American list, which she says is a big deal.

“Academics have all been very important to me and I have always tried to pass on the desire for academic excellence to my athletes,” she told the Jamaica Observer this week.

“We want to ensure that our athletes are not only getting a good athletic experience, but also taking care of business off the track. It is always my aim to have my team have a team grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 or higher,”Alexander-Pompey noted.

Getting to FAMU has been a journey and after stints at Virginia State University, Lincoln University PA and Shaw University in the NCAA Division 2, she moved to Mississippi Valley State University in the Division 1 for one year before she got offered her first Division 1 head coaching job.

Her moves have all been strategic, she says.

“For every switch I have made in my career has been an opportunity for me to elevate my career. When I first started in the coaching career, I was a graduate assistant at an NCAA Division 2 programme and now I am the head coach at an NCAA Division 1 programme. I knew that through my career that to make it to this point I would have to more than likely have to move,” she shared.

It's not just winning that motivates her, but the overall success of the person.

“Graduation Rate and Academic Progress Rate (APR),” she says are also crucial.

Coaching was not her first option, as after graduating from Louisiana Tech in 2009 with a degree in general studies with a concentration in social sciences and then a master's degree in sports management from Virginia State in 2012, she had her eyes set on a desk job.

“When I decided to do my master's I had to search for ways to pay for it, then my mother suggested researching graduate assistantship. I started to do some research and applied for various openings. I remembered applying to Virginia State University and the same day the then Head Coach Jason-Lamont Jackson reached out. He and I had a long conversation that day,” she said, but the process was not all that smooth as she kept facing challenge after challenge.

“Every time we thought we did everything we needed, something else was thrown at us. At one point I thought I would never get there,” Alexander-Pompey said.

“After spending two seasons as a graduate assistant and one year as an assistant coach at Virginia State, I decided to walk away from coaching and the sport,” she noted.

Alexander-pPompey moved to the bright lights of New York and started working at Snapple in Brooklyn, but her heart was not in it.

“I hated every minute of that job. One day while driving home from work I received a call from the then head coach at Lincoln University PA, who wanted me to apply for the assistant coach job there and the rest is history,” she said.

The seed was planted a few years earlier when she took time off right after college.

“I came home to Jamaica and started coaching at St Hugh's High School alongside my high school coach and mentor, Mr Michael Vassell,” she recounted.

Alexander-Pompey, who had briefly switched national allegiance to St Vincent where her father is from, said while she is firmly committed to coaching right now, it's not the job that she thinks she wants to do until retirement.

“I see myself doing this for a while, but I am not sure If I would do it forever. At some point I would hope to go into athletic administration,” she said.

“Though I love track and field, I believe there is more I can do in athletics. For me, coaching was not something I sought out, but it something that fell into place. I actually walked away from coaching after Virginia State University, then only a few months later I was back to coaching. It is something I have developed a great passion for. Its more than just coaching the athletes on the track but also helping student athletes navigate the college experience,” she shared.

Presently, she coaches the throws at FAMU, but that was not all she has done.

“Throughout my career I have coached almost all events except hurdles and pole vault. While at Mississippi Valley State, I coached the throws and the sprints. I am currently holding certification from the USTFCCCA in throwing events and sprints, hurdles and relays,” Alexander-Pompey said.

She is not content to just coach at the college level, and says if the opportunity to coach at the senior or professional levels comes, she is ready.

“Yes, as a person who has represented my country, I always wanted to continue serving my country and assist in any way I can to continue to help the sport grow. I know the climate I came up in with the throws and to see where is it now give me great joy,” she stated.

Throwing has been in her blood as she is the only female athlete to have won a medal at Champs in the same event her mother won a medal and for the same school, St Hugh's High. Alexander-Pompey won silver, while her mother won gold.

Alexander-Pompey, the Penn Relays high school winner in 2004, also represented Jamaica at both the junior and senior levels, and was 10th at the NCAA Championship in 2009 and was three times all Western Athletics Conference Champion—Indoor 2008 and Outdoor 2008 and 2009.

One of the most difficult jobs in college sports is recruiting, where coaches have to convince, not just the athlete, but their families to go to a certain school. But it is something that Alexander-Pompey enjoys.

“Yes, during the recruiting process you get to interact with a variety of people, coaches and athletes. During the recruiting process you get to learn more than just the athletic capabilities, you learn their back stories and where they are from,” she noted.

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