Life of a Christian Athlete: Rachel Sweger

The women’s basketball program has been successful in the past, but this year they are hoping to be even better. Jim Reed is heading into his 14th season as head coach of the women’s basketball team. Along with Reed is assistant coach Alexandra Kebetz. Last season, the team finished 6th in the Landmark Conference with an overall record of 11-13. Five seniors graduated last season and there are nine freshmen who have filled their spots. Last season, the team made progress with developing a hard-working mentality and positive culture. This season, the goal is for the team to focus on working together and creating a selfless system. By putting in maximum effort and focusing on one game at a time, the team wants to make it as far into conference play as possible.

In this interview, head captain Rachel Sweger talks about the women’s basketball program, as well as her extracurricular involvement on campus.

Amanda: Hi Rachel! Thank you so much for meeting with me to answer some questions. From experience of being on your team, I know how great of a role model you are and I thought that you would have a lot of amazing advice to tell. To start off, can you tell a little bit about yourself and your involvement here at Susquehanna University?

Rachel: Hi, I’m Rachel. I’m a junior in college and I’m majoring in Business Administration Management with a minor in Entrepreneurship and Innovation. On campus, I’m a Global Business Perspectives coach. I also play basketball. I was a captain last year and I’m hoping to be a captain again this year. I’m also the personal development chair for SAC (Student Athlete Advisory Committee). I’m a part of C.O.R.E (Champions of Opportunities, Respect, and Equality). I am also in the club Disciple Makers and within that, I am a co-leader of the athlete bible study. I’m very active within that group!

Amanda: Wow, you are very involved! As a basketball player, how has your experience been as a student athlete at SU?

Rachel: My experience has been good. It’s been a rollercoaster the past three years of being here. There’s been a lot of challenging moments, but also some awesome moments like meeting certain teammates, building friendships, creating a good relationship with all our coaches and the other coaches on the athletic staff. The season, basketball-wise, has been great. I love all the games and practices we have and just being able to train every day. Coach Joe has been super helpful with getting us on track with weightlifting and getting us up to speed with our strength and conditioning. The student side of things has been great too. Academics always come first as a student athlete and that has been very prominent in women’s basketball. Coach Reed makes sure we take care of academics before we do anything with basketball. That’s super important because academics are going to take us way farther than basketball will in the future.

Amanda: Along with being an athlete, you mentioned that you were a part of Disciple Makers, which is a Christian club on campus. Can you explain more about what that club consists of?

Rachel: Basically, Disciple Makers is a group that doesn’t have a preference on what you may believe in or what you are looking to succeed in. It consists of a group of people who love Jesus and who want other people to know and love Jesus. It is a lot of learning, but also applying what we learn into real-life situations. We are literally disciples going out into the world and sharing God’s word. Especially now, with our athletic bible study, we can bring different groups to learn about the Word we want to be spreading and following, so that has been cool. We also have other bible studies besides the athletes one. We have a large group that is open to anybody. We have a brunch group that meets on Fridays at around 10:00. We have a bible study just for males, and we also have another study on Thursday that is open to all people. We try to be as inclusive as we can by providing many different meeting times.

Amanda: By your involvement in Disciple Makers, I can tell that your faith is important to you. What has been the biggest challenge of being an athlete while keeping your morals as your main priority?

Rachel: I think the hardest part of being an athlete and trying to keep your morals is how many different personalities you must interact with on a daily basis. Nobody on the team is on the same page. I mean everyone is there for basketball and wants to play and wants to win, but no one is aligned with each other with what we want to accomplish outside of basketball. It is challenging to get along with so many different girls. Having twenty different girls on the team means interacting with twenty different personalities, but you make it work by playing people to their different strengths. I must make sure not to demoralize people because they don’t believe in what I believe in. What I try to do is not let my morals become a conflict in athletics because I can’t control people. They are going to do what they want and believe in what they want, so it is difficult to keep morals out of it. You still must stay strong in what you believe in and what you value in your life.

Amanda: Even though there are some challenges with it, what is the most rewarding part of incorporating your faith with your athletics?

Rachel: The most rewarding part is having the relief of knowing that you can just give it all up to God and whatever you do or don’t do is not a factor. You can just go out there and try your hardest and that is good enough. You don’t need to feel like you must please somebody because that’s not something you need to worry about. The one person you should be looking to please is already pleased with us. It is so rewarding to have that relief, after a loss, that there is nothing you can do about it now.

Amanda: That is so true. By having a couple years of experience being a Christian within college athletics, what advice would you give to other Christian athletes or just college students in general?

Rachel: I think good advice for other Christian athletes would be to understand who you’re playing for. It is not for yourself. There’s a higher being who deserves all that glory and all that you work hard for. It is so important to always remind yourself of that. Daily devotionals are great. I know there are a lot of athlete based devotional books out there. That’s a good resource to use because sometimes you do get lost in thinking “Am I ready?” “Am I working hard enough?” “Am I good enough?” “Am I going to play?” All those things flood into your mind, but you must let go of that and just control what you can. Also, unite with each other in the community. Having other people who believe in what you believe in is great too. Especially when they are athletes because you are all working towards a common goal and know who your identity is in.

Amanda: That is some great advice! Ending on a fun note, what is your favorite bible verse and why?

Rachel: My favorite bible verse is Deuteronomy 31:6, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you or forsake you.” That’s my favorite verse because it constantly reminds me that no matter what you go through, what may be happening, what you’re fearful of, there is always a reason to be strong and to continue pushing and to never give up.

Amanda: Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to talk to me. It was nice to hear how your faith plays a role in your college experience and I hope that others feel inspired by this interview.

Rachel: No problem!