Nia Symone: A former college basketball player wants to help athletes find purpose

Get to know the next generation of must-have game-changing names in the series Presentationor Sports Illustrated and Strengthen Onyx celebrate black women and girls who are emerging leaders and rising stars in the world of sport.

Nia Symon

Instagram: @niaonair

Name: Nia Symon
Age: 24
Profession: Digital content creator and host
Hometown: Decatur, Ga.
Hobbies: Boxing, rollerblading, creating R&B and hip-hop playlists

Former Alabama State University Division I hooper turned digital content creator and host of Nike’s online series “Come Thru,” Nia Symone isn’t just for women in sports, but for everyone. athletes by providing a safe space for them to be heard and find their purpose.

Empower Onyx: You are a former athlete, but what is your new role in sport?

Nia Symon: I’m a digital creator and I host a show for Nike called “Come Thru” where I sit down with game-changing black women and talk about almost anything and everything under the sun.

EO: Why is this type of show necessary?

NOT. : When you think of Nike, you think of their shoes, their outfits, things like that. You don’t think Nike has a digital platform for black women to talk about black women’s stuff. The purpose behind this is to show that it’s possible for black women to be in these spaces and have these conversations. Little Nia couldn’t turn on the TV and see someone like her or see a roundtable of powerful women talking about important things in our communities and in our world. We still have a long way to go, but we are special and we deserve to have our voices heard as well.

EO: You are passionate about helping people find their purpose, especially athletes. When did you find your purpose in life?

NOT. : I worked full time at CNN Sports as an associate producer. I’ll be honest with you: I hated it. I hated every moment. [There were] 65 people in my team, only three of us were black. I was unhappy. I had benefits, a salary and a stable job, but that didn’t satisfy me. I said to myself: Why do I force myself to be in a space for money? I took a leap of faith and quit my full-time job. I went from $1,000 a week to $300 a week. I was doing digital content for smaller women’s basketball platforms, breaking down movies, doing highlights, all kinds of stuff. I was happy because I was able to create.

EO: How did you go from being barely employed to hosting your own show for a major player like Nike?

NOT. : I remember in January 2021, the show’s creator and director tweeted looking to cast former hoops in the Atlanta area, preferably black people, for a movie. I think, oh, maybe she needs an extra or something, sign me up. Well a friend of mine mentioned me in the tweet. She’s like, Oh, Nia would be great for this opportunity. I thought nothing of it. There was no way she would see my little tweet. I mean, this woman was verified, she had over 44,000 followers. Well, from January to March they had been watching me, I had no idea.

Months passed and I completely forgot. March 1, 2021 — I will never forget this date. I got a message from the woman who tweeted. I didn’t know she followed me on Instagram. (Again, you never know who’s watching.) She said, Hey Nia, I have this opportunity with Nike and I want you to host the show. I’m like, there’s no way. For a week I didn’t realize that I now had a life changing opportunity with Nike and from there the rest is history.

EO: What inspired you to create Purpose To Be Heard, your start-up digital storytelling platform?

NOT. : I created Purpose To Be Heard to help athletes understand that you are so much more and just finding your purpose in life. There aren’t enough people working for athletes to succeed outside of sport. It’s hard. Less than 2% of us do it professionally. When I say we, I mean athletes as a whole who have played at the collegiate level, regardless of the sport, the level. All our life, someone told us: the ball is life. The ball is do not the life.

Imagine, from age 6 to 21, someone telling you what to do, when to do it, how to do it, where to do it. And then one day, it all stops. You sit there like, Well, what am I supposed to do now? Were not prepared for the real world. I have a lot of friends, a lot of ex-teammates and it’s sink or swim for us. Unfortunately, it’s just a difficult situation because many of us are not mentally able to understand that we are much more than the sport we play.

EO: What do you think is the biggest public misconception about athletes?

NOT. : I think society views athletes as human machines, which we have everything together. They don’t see us as Human, This is the problem. I want to provide resources by partnering with different sports psychologists, therapists and mental health professionals. Therapy is the best thing that ever happened to me. If I had had that throughout my career as an athlete and a student, I mean, it probably would have been a different story for real.

EO: What do you see for the future, for Purpose To Be Heard and for yourself?

NOT. : As well as being a storytelling platform, the long-term goal is to help as many athletes as possible by creating a safe space for all athletes, whether you are retired or currently playing. As for Nia herself, I would say, keep walking in my purpose. I feel like God put this vision in my heart for a reason. I just like to be me and give back.

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