Men's & Women's swimming & diving head coach at Roberts Wesleyan College, Sara Smith, was the runner-up of USG's 2022 Spring Reflection Scholarship. This blog will feature Sara's essay! You can view this year's scholarship essay prompt here.
Runner-up Spring 2022 Essay by: Sara Smith - Head Men's & Women's Swimming & Diving Coach at Roberts Wesleyan College
"According to Barna (2021), nearly 75% of young adults between the ages of 18 and 36 are actively “seeking to identify their purpose in life”. With such a large amount of individuals hunting for their next steps, it is important to reflect on my own purpose and how that has guided my path personally, academically, and professionally. Interestingly, the Lord outlined the purpose of life clearly throughout biblical texts with reminders to know God, serve God, be a witness for God, and “make disciples of all” (New International Version, 1978/2011). Additionally, the Lord provides clear instruction in 1 Peter 4 on how we should behave, treat others, and specifically use our gifts to serve others. Recognizing the importance of operating within the Lord’s guidelines, this paper will reflect on my own perceived purpose in the past, my current purpose as a coach and administrator, challenges I have faced that have aided in professional growth, and tangible ways to serve others.
Throughout my childhood and development years, I rarely considered how I would contribute to the external world. Specifically, I recognized my purpose within the realms of my reality and focused on being a good daughter, a good friend, an exceptional student, and a diligent athlete. Proverbs 23 suggested that we “apply ourselves” to discipline, instruction, and knowledge and as a child, I prioritized these things. My purpose consisted of building the foundation of being the best I could be athletically, academically, emotionally, and spiritually. The application of my parents, church, and mentor aided in my recognition that my purpose as a child would vary greatly from my purpose in the future but with the application of hard work and discipline, I’d be prepared to take on the purpose God had for me each step along the journey.
As I embarked on a career in athletics, I found my purpose in providing a safe, athletic outlet for children while prioritizing the love of the sport. However, my progression from youth sports to collegiate sports has allowed me to better understand my purpose for providing value and enrichment while helping student-athletes navigate life from childhood to adulthood. Sports involvement plays a critical role in the development of strong character traits such as discipline, leadership, and teamwork. My own experiences as a student-athlete indicated that the skills learned throughout sports need to be molded, rehearsed, and sometimes student-athletes need help applying them to other areas of life. Therefore, I have set out to ensure that the student-athletes I interact with are learning how to take skills such as the discipline of practice and apply them to the classroom, work environment, or the home.
Navigating the importance of connecting with student-athletes, guiding them through transitional periods of their lives, and being a support role for them during their college careers has stretched me in ways I never would have expected. Specifically, every personality test I have ever taken indicated that I work best behind the scenes, am task-oriented, and thrive in repetition. All of these areas are the complete opposite traits of those that I need to portray to fulfill the Lord’s current purpose for me. Therefore, I have had to adapt to being uncomfortable at times. Ultimately, I have grown significantly as an individual but also as a leader, learning how to apply leadership skills to effectively fulfill the goal of being a resource for student-athletes.
Ultimately, the Lord’s purpose for me has become my mission. First Peter 4:10 states that we should “use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace” (New International Version, 1978/2011). Therefore, I hope to utilize my gifts of knowledge, organization, and development to create programs to enhance student-athlete experiences. Specifically, I plan to serve others by developing student-athlete programming that will enhance opportunities, experiences, and create leaders to enter the workforce after graduation.
Recognizing the lack of purpose that many young adults face each day, I am grateful that the Lord has lit my path as I navigate college, coaching, and now intercollegiate sports administration. However, as I have traveled many paths I have recognized opportunities for enhancement and hope to continue to use my gifts to provide value for student-athletes within my organization. As a young child that felt purposeless, I can recognize how important it was that I prioritized building a foundation of good habits, work ethic, and discipline, all of which have allowed me to successfully live out the purpose that God has for my life. It is my hope that I can share with the student-athletes I encounter every day the same opportunities for personal development, growth, and ultimate success."
Thank you, Sara, for participating in this year's Spring Reflection Scholarship! We are also thankful to our sponsor, Helmet Tracker, for making this scholarship opportunity possible for all thirteen of our winners!
If you have an interest in taking part in USG's Reflection Scholarship program, be sure to apply for our Fall 2022 Reflection Scholarship in early September!
Our team looks forward to hearing more encouraging and uplifting stories from the next round of our scholarship program.