O say can you see … a 6-year-old sing the national anthem?
By Chris Jenkins
Video courtesy of Marquette University Athletics
Cooper Smith’s first audience was his dad and two neatly organized rows of stuffed animals, lined up like teams getting ready to play a big game.
It was a first step on a path that led to center court at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.
Smith, the 6-year-old son of Marquette strength and conditioning coaches Todd and Maggie Smith, sang the national anthem before the Marquette–Wisconsin men’s basketball game – earning a rousing round of applause from a crowd of 18,588.
Talk about a home of the brave.
“To all of us, 19,000 people seems overwhelming,” Maggie Smith says. “But to him, that’s his comfort zone. He’s been going to basketball games all his life.”
It was Cooper’s biggest moment of Star-Spangled stardom to date, but it certainly wasn’t his first.
He began singing the national anthem at Golden Eagles sports events at age 3, appearing at soccer games, tennis matches and a women’s basketball game.
After Cooper performed at a volleyball game this year, he was invited to sing at a men’s basketball game. Not just any game, but perhaps the biggest of the season.
“All he’s wanted to do for the past two years is sing at a basketball game,” Todd Smith says. “His favorite part of the game is when the guys come out of the tunnel and the fight song’s going.”
Wearing a Marquette hoops jersey and a headband, Cooper didn’t show any signs of nervousness while belting out an earnest version of the anthem. Fans sang along in the background.
“He likes it,” Maggie Smith says. “He wants them all to cheer.”
Were his parents nervous?
“Oh, yeah,” Todd Smith says.
When he was done, several Marquette players stopped to congratulate him.
Cooper Smith’s national anthem skills are largely self-taught. His parents figure he absorbed the lyrics because he has been attending sports events since he was a baby.
“We never actually taught it to him,” Todd Smith says. “I came home one day, and he had his stuffed animals lined up like the guys do on the two teams. … ‘OK, dad, we’re going to do the flag song.’ I’m like, ‘What are you talking about, the flag song?’ He starts singing the national anthem.”
For the Smith family, it’s another sign that they belong at Marquette.
The two met while they were working at the University of the Pacific. Todd is in his sixth year as head strength and conditioning coach, and Maggie joined him as an assistant coach when there was an opening in the department three years ago.
“We couldn’t ask for anything better,” Todd Smith says.