Shaakira Hassell has been fighting against stereotypes and other obstacles to become the best strength and conditioning coach she could be.
Being a female in a male-dominated industry is tough. Sometimes respect can be hard to command, and being taken seriously isn’t always what happens. For Hassell, she was able to beat all of this and find herself the head coach gig at the Coast Guard Academy from 2015 to 2021. A role that would garner the title of the first African-American woman to lead a strength and condition program in college sports.
“It’s not been a question about ‘can you fulfill the role? Can you meet the expectation without being questioned about being a female in the field,’” Hassell said.
Hassell got her start in the field at Troy University, before moving on to Valdosta State University. During her time at the Coast Guard, Hassell was in charge of every athlete and put together rigorous training programs for every athlete to follow.
It wasn’t Hassell’s first time working with a branch of military servicemen and women on the rise. Hassel’s job just before the Coast Guard weight room was at Fort Bragg, one of the biggest Army bases in the country. Hassell commanded the T.H.O.R3 — the Tactical Human Optimal Readiness Program.
“You felt more honor for what you’re doing because you are doing it for your country and you are doing it for the soldiers, and it wasn’t about wins or losses, it was about life or death, getting them to care for their mission,” Hassell said.
In 2018, Hassell was awarded the Bill Walsh Fellowship Award from the NFL, which allowed her to work with the Carolina Panthers during their training camp prior to the start of their season.
“Working with the injured athletes in practice, I was able to fulfill those requirements,” Hassell said. “It was something that just came naturally to me because of all the experience I had built up already.”
Now, since leaving the Coast Guard Academy, Hassell is the President of her own company, Go Far! Government Services. At Go Far!, Hassell helps people like she always has — through strength and conditioning, as well as helps them to find jobs in the field.
As for advice, Hassell has a message that she has learned to embody throughout her whole career, “Don’t be afraid, Don’t be intimidated. If it’s something that you really want to do, and you are passionate about it, go for it.”