This article was written by PrepSoccer staff writer, Matt Smith. Matt Smith is a special news and communications correspondent with SF Elite Academy and will providing viewers with an inside look into SF Elite and what makes our club so special.
Nairobi Smith has a great legacy. Her grandfather is Tommie Smith, the man who stood in unison with John Carlos in Mexico City during the 1968 Olympics. When Smith received his gold medal in the 200M race, he raised his fist in the air during the playing of the Star Spangled Banner in a salute for human rights. "His legacy is a proud part of our family history in a social justice context," Tommie's son and Nairobi's dad, Kevin Smith said. "(It is) an inspiration towards what is possible with hard work and dedication in an athletic context." Social activism has continued to be a part of the Smith family, as Tommie continues to be an activist. "In some respects more so than his athletic career," Kevin said. "Especially in the last decade-plus, with events ranging from slain black Americans, Colin Kaepernick’s kneel, to elections and even Black Lives Matter. It’s ever so prominent." That activism that has been ever-present in the Smith family is now something that Nairobi is finding herself being more involved with, in her own way, as she navigates this current socio-political landscape and finds out who she is as a young woman. "She has (and is) growing into her own voice," Kevin said. "Once very quiet and shy, she has become more comfortable with public speaking. She has become passionate about standing up and having a voice for her and her peers’ rights as well as taking action for causes she finds important or unjust." Nairobi is the President of the Black Student Union at International High as well as an active member of the Student Diversity Leadership Conference. "Leadership is a skill that is very important to me. And with that, it is something I continue to build on everyday, on and off the field," Nairobi said. "Outside of athletics I am very involved in my school community." Her 2006 coach, Jeff Wilson, sees that she is already developing these skills as well. "In my opinion, there is no better person to model what a leader is than Nairobi," Wilson said. "She is one of the most talented and hardest working players I have ever coached. Her demeanor and rapport with teammates is always appropriate and knows exactly when and how to step in when needed. "Nairobi is a generational student-athlete who all SF Elite players should desire to replicate because she is one of the best in all that she does on and off the pitch." Kevin and the rest of the family couldn't be more proud of Nairobi as she not only navigates her social responsibilities, but her school and athletic ones as well. And values that she will learn from the latter will prove to be oh-so-important. "We think it’s amazing," Kevin said. "For young athletes, especially young female athletes, principals learned from team sports are invaluable. The fact that she actually has natural athletic gifts and she chooses to use them is special. On top of that she’s very focused and driven and we support her efforts in that regard." Nairobi is obviously a very talented soccer player. If she were not, she would not be playing Girls GA for a club like San Francisco Elite. With the speed she possesses, she can glide past defenders and she has developed excellent footskills. The speed mentioned has translated into her being one of the top sprinters in all of California. As a sophomore, she finished third in the 200M race at the North Coast Section finals with a time of 25.68. She beat that time in the California State meet, running a 25.64. She is also a standout on the International High girls basketball team. Her family sees the value in sports as she continues to develop as an athlete and a person. "I believe that sports are instrumental in developing one’s confidence and character," Kevin said. "Some of those doors are intangibles, like teamwork, camaraderie, confidence built in network of friends and with the gifts that she has shown so far they have been underlined by attention from college coaches, PDP and ID camp attention in soccer and junior Olympic selection in track, which in turn open the doors for potential college options. Those intangible and merit based doors have proven to encourage her to continue in high-level athletics when she sees that her hard work can be meaningful in more ways than just winning." In today's youth sports environment, athletes are told they need to choose one sport and focus on it to be great. Nairobi does not adhere to this rule of thumb, as she has found that soccer is just as important to her as track. "Track is equally important to me, (but) soccer has been a part of my life since my first team in kindergarten," Nairobi said. "When I made the transition from recreational to competitive club soccer years ago, I came to love the high level and valuable connections with coaches and players. Being able to travel with SF Elite has brought me incredible experiences with teammates who I can call family. I get to show up every day and be the best I can be whilst understanding, you win as a team, and lose as a team." The traveling she mentioned leads to exposure, and playing with a good team allows opportunities for her to get noticed in the soccer world, and because of that she is glad that she found SF Elite as she continues to explore the options playing club soccer affords. "I most definitely think the opportunities SF Elite provides for pursuing soccer after high school are great," Nairobi said. "I’m truly grateful that SF Elite allows opportunities such as traveling for tournaments out of state, Talent ID Camps, and PDP, all which I’ve taken part in. Additionally I think being able to reach out and have support from coaches who coach college soccer is really helpful and allows me to feel more confident going into the college process."