Love First, Coach Second

Remembering a beloved member of the Viking family


Photo courtesy S. Rice

Smiley gives a wave to the crowd that desperately adored him and his personality.

Matthew Beyer, Co-Editor in Chief/ Centerspread/ Columns Editor

“Doing your best is success,” was long-time Spartanburg High guidance counselor and track coach Glover Smiley’s favorite quote, and a true representation of what he believed in.  For decades, Smiley was a coach, leader, friend, community member and role model. During his time at SHS, Smiley greatly impacted other coaches, athletes and the students he worked with as a guidance counselor. His smile, like his name and personality, was contagious.  Sadly, the larger-than-life Smiley passed away unexpectedly on Sept. 18.

Smiley was Spartanburg High School’s first Black head coach. He coached for roughly 30 years. Throughout Smiley’s time as a coach, he deeply impacted many athletes, including Tip Phetbourom (12), a middle-distance runner for the track team. 

“Although he retired a few years ago, he always came back to meets and practices to help. His presence and support for the team was enough to get through the hard workouts,”  Phetbourom said. “Personally, he helped me enjoy running again especially when I was starting to feel burnt out. I remember him telling me before my event ‘Just go out there and have fun,’ and that’s something I will always remember.” 

Smiley was a model coach. He did not care how fast a given runner was or whether that runner was varsity or junior varsity.  Smiley always wanted his athletes to try their hardest and have fun. Smiley’s love for running fostered a loving, happy and hardworking environment at practices and meets.  

Not only did Smiley coach at Spartanburg High School, but he also volunteered his time coaching Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) track athletes. One former AAU athlete, Julia Graham (12), met Smiley for the first time when she started running AAU track in 2012. 

“Coach Smiley believed in everyone who wanted to be a runner. It always motivated me when I heard him cheering me on in races. My favorite memory is when I met him for the first time when I was eight running AAU track, and he immediately began to give me advice even though he had just met me,” Graham said. 

From 1993 to 2018, the years Glover Smiley was head coach, running track and field was a rite of passage many students, siblings and parents took part in.  

Current head boys track coach Kevin Coleman was one of Smiley’s former student-athletes and was heavily impacted by Smiley. 

“I couldn’t have asked for a better mentor. He instilled so much positive confidence in everyone he encountered.  He took me as an inexperienced, low-confidence senior who had never run track and turned me into a champion.  People like Coach Smiley do not come around very often.  He loved everyone,” Coleman said.  “I admired everything about him… he was truly a legend.”