On any given Monday night in Brusly, after the high school’s halls have been swept and the front doors locked to signify the end of the workday, the sound of a low rumble fills the high school’s gymnasium as people from all over the community and surrounding areas begin to fill the large space.
The gym’s floor begins to crowd – not for a PTA or town meeting of some sort, though parents, teachers, councilmen and even the town’s mayor are in attendance. No, they all arrive with one common goal in mind – to get fit.
In July 2013, Brusly girls basketball coach Shaeeta Williams began a “boot camp,” working out with about eight other women in the Brusly High gym.
“They just wanted to get fit,” Williams said. “They started shedding pounds and just feeling better about themselves.”
As word-of-mouth began to spread about Williams’ workout regime, more people joined in the effort of fitness, but in October, according to Williams, an influx of people began to come after seeing the results of some of the original members.
“After October some of the ladies in the boot camp started doing a before and after picture, my sister being one – she lost 50 pounds, and another lady lost 40 pounds,” said Williams. “So people were seeing these transformations and were like ‘OK, maybe there is something behind this boot camp.’”
Williams’ twin sister, Rasheeta Brown, said that she believes Williams’ fitness boot camp is about more than simply the results.
“Are there results? Yes,” said Brown, who has given herself the title of public relations person for her sister’s boot camp. “It’s her spirit. You have a lot of people that have exercise classes, boot camps – you hear about them everywhere, but I really think it’s her spirit. It’s a ministry for her. She just has a way of impacting people.”
Williams, affectionately regarded as “Coach Sha,” (short for Shaeeta) said that the support she has received from the community has been a blessing to her as well as others in the goup.
“Not only has (working out) helped the ladies that started, but it’s helped the community, it’s helped some of the high school students here. It’s just brought a group of people together – people that don’t necessarily hang in the same social areas – but we come together as a group,” Williams said. “To see a girl come in with self-esteem issues and have an older lady go over and encourage her –we call it a workout, but it’s really a time of fellowship and people working hard to live better lives mentally, physically and spiritually.”
Williams said that she has seen a steady increase in attendance at the fitness classes, which are held four times a week in the Brusly High School gym, from the small class of eight in the beginning to 180 people, which is slightly above the average Monday night class.
“Every week we’re seeing 250 people come through weekly. It’s just been fun to see people buy into it and believe in their health,” she said.
Brown said that the motivation Williams gives to each person makes them want to be the best person they can be.
“Coach Sha” attributes her motivational skills, as well as her organizational skills for large groups, to her background as a college basketball player and coach.
Williams, 38, after graduating from BHS, played women’s basketball for Duke University. After her playing career, she joined the college coaching ranks, coaching for Duke, DePaul and University of Texas before coming back to her high school alma mater for the head coaching position.
“I’ve run basketball camps with 500 kids,” she said, adding that 500 students are possibly more difficult to control than 200 adults. “The experience on the college level… all of that prepared me to be organized when dealing with a lot of people.”
Williams said that people from all facets of life are coming to her boot camp, from single mothers who come to work out while high schoolers watch the children, to Brusly’s own mayor.
“Mayor Joey Normand comes –he joined when we had about 20 people,” Williams remembered. “He came by himself and the next day his wife came with him and they’ve been with us ever since. Just to have the support of the mayor and the support of the administration here at the school has been awesome.”
Williams said that of the collective more-than-700 people that have made their way to one of Coach Sha’s 1-hour workouts in the high school’s gym, the majority of people have been from West Baton Rouge – a statistic she is proud of.
“My ultimate goal was to have a community that’s more health conscious aware – just to have an awareness there, that your health is an asset,” she said.
And though Coach Sha is in the process of making an impact on hundreds of lives, she said that she is also being impacted by what has become a community all its own.
“They’ve impacted my life more than they realize… we really have become a family,” Williams said. “If someone is sick, or if someone has lost a loved one, we’re sending flowers, we’re attending the funeral to let them know it’s not just about a workout. It’s about getting to know someone and seeing if we can help them out with whatever they’re going through.”
Louisiana Public Broadcasting will air a special on Coach Sha’s Boot Camp and its affect on the Brusly community, as well as the community’s affect on Williams, which will air Friday, March 28 at 7 p.m.