Editor’s Note: Current missioner in formation Hannah Hagarty shares with us how her experience with athletics has shaped who she is today.

Athletics was an important part of my life growing up. My great grandfather was a professional boxer. His son, my grandpa, played both basketball and tennis in college. Like their dad, my mom and two of her siblings were college athletes, and I played golf in college.  Some of my earliest childhood memories were lessons learned through being on a team; hard work, loyalty, determination, and self-discipline. Our athletic and religious practices blended, with pre-game prayer, a St. Sebastian medal hanging in my locker, and references to Paul’s letter to Timothy stating he fought the good fight, finished the race, and kept the faith. (2 Timothy 4-7)

More recently I discovered my passion for coaching.  I find joy in helping young athletes learn the fundamentals of their sport, as well as the incidental lessons about life. I find myself deeply satisfied watching their skills and passion for the game grow.

The day I held my first practice, I instantly fell in love with coaching. I loved building relationships with my girls, being a role model for them, putting together team meals and organizing off-court activities.  I reflected back on what I learned through competition and practice, seeking ways to share those lessons as a coach. When I contemplate that experience, I come to a better understanding of discipleship. As the dictionary defines it, a disciple is “one who accepts and assists in spreading the doctrines of another.”  What doctrines did I learn from my coaches and share with my athletes?

I taught them to work hard, and play hard. To take care of each other on and off the court. To respect those in authority while maintaining self-respect. I taught them the importance of athletic training to develop skills and to prevent injury.  The human body is an amazing gift from God. We are charged with nourishing and caring for our bodies.

Surrounded by a gym full of families and fans, we celebrated senior night at our last home game of the season.  After the principal was done introducing the last senior, one of my players took the microphone. I was handed a beautiful bouquet of flowers as she told the crowd how grateful the team was for my attention to and genuine interest in each one of my players, how they were sad I wasn’t coming back next year, and how much of a positive impact I had on the program. It was an incredibly moving moment to share with my girls, one that will stick with me forever.

Coaching high school girls has changed my life.  When I agreed to help out with the team, I told the athletic director that as much as I would love to coach for several years, my main goal was to move abroad to do mission work. I only signed on for one year, and the girls knew that.

It was very hard to say goodbye to my girls, but I know that my coaching has not come to an end as I transition into this time on mission. I just have a different team.

Reflection Question: In your life, who have you coached? What lessons have they learned from you?