Before the volleyball team won its conference home opener with a 3-0 win over the Memphis Tigers, all eyes were on track & field assistant coach Shameka Marshall as she sang the national anthem.
Marshall, who has been singing since she was a child, got the opportunity to sing the anthem after the idea came up at lunch with the volleyball coaches. When the volleyball coaches found out she could sing, they couldn’t wait for her to make her debut.
“A few seconds before I went up I was nervous and then I was like come on this is fun…Lets just have fun,” Marshall said. “This was the first time in public. But I’ve been singing since I was three or four years old and I sing regularly at my church for praise and worship. My whole family sings. So it is really natural.”
Marshall, who prepared by writing all the words out, had no doubts going into her performance.
“When I’m singing I like to have meaning behind it,” Marshall said. “So I looked up a few of the words that I wasn’t really clear on. So I just looked at those things and it gave me more meaning so I could bring something to the table when I was singing.”
“I made sure I had the words right,” Marshall added. “I went over it a few times even though I’ve sung the national anthem several times before. The main thing I was thinking of was starting on the right note, making sure it wasn’t too high. That was key for me tonight.”
Marshall, who coaches jumps/hurdles on the track & field team, had support from all over. The volleyball coaches, the track & field coaches and student-athletes were in the stands.
“They were behind me 110 percent,” Marshall said. “Just to have people in your corner rooting you on at the game is just awesome.”
“I didn’t know she had that great of a voice,” freshman jumper Thomas Johnson said. “For me to hear her sing like that, that was really something special. I came here today to watch her sing.”
Other players shared the same sentiment.
“She was superb,” senior jumper/sprinter Gabe Pickett said. “I’ve heard her sing before and each time is better than the last. She is breathtaking. She really went out there and put her heart into the performance. She sang it like it was her last song.”
“I think she did phenomenal,” junior sprinter/jumper Blair Alston said. “It was great to see. Coming out here and representing Temple track & field and kind of showcasing some of her abilities. I think it was a great opportunity for her and she really seized the moment.”
Marshall is known as a charismatic and entertaining coach. She has been known to turn drills into dances to keep the mood light.
But coaching was not something Marshall thought she would be doing. She graduated from Rutgers University in 2006 and focused on her professional career. She represented Team USA on multiple occasions. Her proudest moment came in 2011 when she received a silver medal at the Pan American games for her 22’1’ jump in the long jump.
“That experience is incredible,” Marshall said. “It’s an experience of a lifetime. It teaches you a lot of lessons, to be grateful of every opportunity you get.”
Track & field coach Eric Mobley wanted Marshall to join his staff ever since she graduated school. He finally got her to join the staff in 2008 after she was turned down as a substitute teacher, something she wanted to do so she could become a music teacher. Marshall thought being a music teacher was the best way for her to practice and be around music. After becoming a coach, she hasn’t looked back since.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Marshall said. “There’s a lot of variety, I would say. I’m never just sitting at my desk. There is always something going on. So I love the variety it brings.”
Michael Guise can be reached at Michaelguise@temple.edu and on Twitter @MikeG2511.