Photo courtesy of Kerri Simmons
By Brandon Fuhs
Kerri Simmons has driven herself to be the best since she started shot put in high school, where she had to teach herself how to throw because her coach had no experience with shot put. She now holds the indoor and outdoor records for shot put at Nevada, after she beat the indoor record at conference this year. Although she feels this is the first school to give her in-depth coaching, she’s had natural success throughout her shot-putting career.
Simmons went to high school in Laurel, Miss., where she did shot put among other track and field events. In the postseason tournament, she finished just short of the state champion her junior year in the shot put event, and went on to beat that girls’ distance her senior year.
“My high school coach had never even thrown shot put before, so I had to teach myself everything,” Simmons said. “I also had to help some of my teammates when coaches couldn’t make events or were with another teammate.”
Simmons attended Jones County Junior College her first year out of high school, where she played power forward for the basketball team. She didn’t dislike basketball, but she wanted to focus on school and transferred to Nicholls State University. She was the trainer of the soccer team at Nicholls State to earn extra money, but they actually wanted her to play for the team despite never having previous experience. Simmons was offered a spot on the team after she dominated in scrimmages, where she competed in the final game of the as one of the two best goalies.
“Kerri declined the spot on the soccer team because she just didn’t get the same enjoyment out of it as other sports,” said Kerri’s mother Mattie Simmons. “After that season she was supposed to become the trainer for the track and field team, but she realized the team didn’t have a shot putter. She knew she wanted to go back to doing what she loved in high school.”
She felt like she had done the right thing once she started shot putting again, basketball and training didn’t give her the same thrill that shot put did.
“I like the level of competition, but I really enjoy the individual sport a lot more,” Simmons said. “It gives me more of an adrenaline rush knowing it’s all on me to use all the strength I have in every throw.”
After one season at Nicholls State, Simmons transferred to Nevada for her junior year. Nevada hired assistant coach Scott Williamson the summer before, who was the previous head coach of Nicholls State. Williamson got Simmons a scholarship to join the Wolf Pack, and she accepted knowing the increased level of competition that lied ahead.
“Kerri has always had the attitude of ‘Tell me I can’t do something so I can prove you wrong,’” Mattie Simmons said. “She works to get better every day, and I’ve tried to support her in everything she’s done.”
Simmons mentioned her mother has been her biggest support system throughout her life, and it’s helped her work harder to maximize her performance.
“She’s always told me ‘You can do anything if you just stick your mind to it,’” Simmons said. I’ve just been living like that because I know I can do whatever I want to do as long as I stick my mind to it.”
Simmons always wants a challenge, so transferring to a Division I school would only give her more of a reason to stick her mind to becoming the best she can be. Despite the adrenaline and the self-motivation Simmons has on the field, she knows it’s not all about that.
“It’s important to be there for your teammates,” Simmons said. “I’ve had shot putters below me on the team that look up to me, and when I was younger I had to coach teammates when coaches couldn’t attend meets.”
Simmons works at shot put to prove she’s the best because she wants to be the best, and she thrives on the larger stages because she enjoys the strong competition, but she does it for more than just winning.
“I just get excited before the events, because I try to enjoy everything I do,” Simmons said. “I just try to be happy.”
Brandon Fuhs can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.