Religion, athletic ability fueled by Christian camp experience

Jansen Hess, Sports Editor

Between sixth and seventh grade, senior Sarah Hill attended a Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) camp that she said changed her life.
During her week at that camp, she said she gave herself to Christ, and her faith continued to grow from there.
“I was at an FCA camp, reluctantly,” she said. “I didn’t want to be there, but I was. I guess the whole week I was blessed with really awesome group leaders. I’d grown up going to church, but that week, I guess, it just really clicked with me, and I just realized it’s bigger than myself.”
Hill said having a relationship with Christ is the basis of her beliefs.
“He’s forgiven me for all my sins and has cleansed me of that,” she said. “So that is the stemming point of everything else that I do — reading my Bible, praying. Whatever it is, that’s the basis of it all. It’s not necessarily, ‘I go to church, so I’m a Christian.’ It’s, ‘I go to church because I’m a Christian,’ or ‘I do these types of things because I love Jesus.’”
Ever since the FCA camp, Hill said her beliefs and love of Christ have slowly become who she is.
“It’s not necessarily something that I have to do, but it’s just innate in me, and that’s who I am,” she said. “I’m striving to be like Christ, not because it’s the right thing to do, but because it’s just become a part of me. So keeping from drinking or keeping from cussing or doing all these things, it’s not really me trying to be like, ‘I’m a Christian, I don’t do those things.’ It’s just, I don’t want to do those things because I’m a Christian, and it’s OK because that’s just who I am.”
Hill will be attending John Brown University on a $25,000 soccer and academic scholarship next fall.
She said she decided between John Brown and Washburn University.
“I guess the sticking point with John Brown was they’re striving to make their program glorifying to God, and that’s something I try to do in the way I play, the way I live,” Hill said. “It’s just really cool to see people encouraging that type of lifestyle and living in community in that. I have kind of an interest in missions, and that’s a big part of their program. They’re striving to be more of a sports-ministry program. When they do their preseason, they go on mission trips and do it hand-in-hand. It just seems to be a really good fit of everything that I feel like I like doing.”
The summer before Hill’s freshman year in college, the soccer team is going to Brazil.
They will train in the morning, participate in mission work all day and worship at night.
Hill said her faith and soccer go hand-in-hand flawlessly.
“The Bible references sports all the time, like running the race to win the prize and striving for perfection and all these different things — it just seems to go right with it,” she said. “If I’m striving for perfection, and I’m striving to glorify God, then I’m going to give 110 percent all the time, no matter what. Not because it’s for me, but because I’m saying, ‘God, let You bless me with this talent, so I’m going to go back there to glorify You and show other people how You motivate me.’ I want to win because I’m going for God. It’s just really cool to not be playing for myself. Other players can have a bad game, and they’re crushed — they can’t deal with it. But if I have a bad game, I don’t put my identity into that, and it’s OK. I might get hurt, but it’s going to be OK — I’ll live.”
FCA sponsor and soccer coach K. Dean Snell said John Brown seems like the perfect fit for Hill.
“I think she lives her life with integrity, and she plays the game with integrity,” he said. “She plays hard. I think a lot of that has to do with her faith and her Christian walk. She demonstrates that without having to say it.”
Hill said she hopes other players recognize that she’s not the typical athlete.
“I may never know to the full extent, but I’d like to think that players take notice that when something goes wrong, I don’t throw out a cuss word — not saying that I don’t because it does happen sometimes,” she said. “Like, we’re losing four to zero and there’s no way we’re coming back, but I’m still out there busting my butt. Or at practice, I’m doing things right. Not that I’m perfect, but I’m striving for that. I’d like to think that people take notice in that and think, ‘Why are you different?’”
Snell said Hill’s attitude plays an important role on the team.
“I think it has a big effect,” he said. “I call it a silent -leadership. An ability that she has, and it carries over both consciously and unconsciously by her teammates to be positive. She’s a leader by example.”