Nathan Tewell, Class of 2017
Cofounder, Coach2Inspire, a Nonprofit to Coach Underserved Durham Youth
Most college seniors are just trying pass their exams and graduate, but for Nathan Tewell, that’s just one element of his senior year. Aside from having earned a certificate in marketing and double-majoring in neuroscience and psychology, he also cofounded Coach2Inspire, a national non-profit that provides student coaches for youth sports programs.
The idea for the Coach2Inspire began as a response to a problem Nathan perceived during his sophomore year at Duke University. While volunteering as a tutor, he noticed a lack of provision for Durham’s youth. In an effort to close this gap, Nathan and his friend Abhi Balu decided to investigate where the needs of young people were going unmet.
They began meeting with recreational centers and learned there was an overwhelming need for committed volunteer sports coaches. With this in mind, Nathan and Abhi set out to recruit Duke students to volunteer as coaches, and by the following year, they had recruited 30 Duke University students to coach over 150 young athletes.
“Most of that first year was about assessing community need, providing an initial coaching experience for the kids, and figuring out how we could continue to tailor that to meet the needs of the community moving forward,” Nathan says. After that first year, Nathan and Abhi officially registered Coach2Inspire as a 50(c)(3) nonprofit organization and have continued to shape it to meet the needs of the community, going beyond sports.
“We found that parents want their kids to be involved in athletics, but they also want them to be better leaders and better in the classroom,” Nathan says. “So now we incorporate a lot of discussion around what it looks like to be a hard worker on and off the court and what it looks like to build healthy habits.”
Operations were running smoothly when COVID-19 hit last spring, forcing the organization to pivot quickly under the new safety restrictions, but they didn’t miss a beat. They adapted by posting home workout videos and even hosting a socially distanced basketball academy in partnership with Durham Parks and Rec. Despite the new challenges, the organization continued to thrive. Nathan was even named one of 2020’s Big Initiative Award winners by the Michigan Sport Business Conference, which recognizes ten undergraduate students in the U.S. and Canada each year for their outstanding achievement in the field of sports.
Nathan’s time at Duke has clearly been defined by service and success, having achieved so much for the community in only a few years. As he prepares to graduate in the spring, he credits much of what he’s accomplished to the two years he spent at Trinity. “As I’m wrapping up college now and reflecting on it, it seems like the two big things I took away from Trinity are the value of hard work and pushing yourself, and the relationships I developed there.”
He says the relationships he formed at Trinity have not only lasted through college but have played an influential role in his life. “When I look back on my time at Trinity, it set an example for what I want other relationships to be like in life and how to be a supportive brother in Christ. Those are values that were emphasized at Trinity and that I definitely appreciate as I reflect back on it.”
Most importantly, Nathan believes that Trinity helped prepare him spiritually for college. While he had assumed that he would experience a culture shock moving from a Christian school to a secular college like Duke, he was surprised by how prepared and comfortable he felt in that environment.
“There have been a few times when I’ve been able to defend my faith, and in those moments, I’m very thankful for the preparation that Trinity’s given me through Apologetics and the senior thesis,” he says. “But more than that, I’ve had a lot of conversations with people about why I waited until I was 21 to drink, or why I don’t swear like other people, even when I’m playing basketball. I think there are a lot of little moments like that when I’m not necessarily defending my faith but have the opportunity to express what I believe. It’s those moments that I feel like Trinity really prepared me for.”
Nathan believes that part of this college preparation came in the form of asking important questions about his faith in high school, seeing doubt as something that ultimately strengthened his faith.
“Growing up in a Christian household, it can be very easy to just become complacent in what you believe and forget to ask ‘why’ and to doubt,” Nathan says. “This is one of the reasons I really appreciate the senior thesis, because it forced me to ask why I believe what I believe. I think that asking ‘why’ and doubting are important skills, and the sooner you can develop that, the better, because it forces you to confront your own values.”
For Nathan, the transition from Trinity to Duke was smooth and successful, and now with only one semester to go, he’s preparing for another big transition: graduation. Upon graduating, he’ll be working with the National Basketball Association over the summer and plans to stay with Coach2Inspire in an advisory capacity, offering direction as the nonprofit looks to branch out to other universities and evaluate needs in other areas. As for what will come after that, Nathan is eager to take on whatever challenge lies ahead.