By Andrew Mindeman / Director of Athletic Communications
LOOKOUT MOUNTAIN -- As the Covenant softball program prepares for the upcoming season on the field, new head coach Jenny Rohn has emphasized the need for her players to pursue excellence off the field in the classroom and the community.
The community service initiative hits home for several players, including juniors Baylie Sims, Lauren Kierpa, and Cassee Wood. The trio has been involved in various volunteer opportunities, both within the Chattanooga-area and back in their hometowns.
"The culture of the softball team is focused on Christ-centered community and building relationships with each other," said Sims, a junior from Haleyville, Ala. "I think this impacts our willingness to serve because we know that the community doesn't just involve us, but it involves the community behind the sport."
Sims has been involved locally with Big Brother Big Sister since the spring semester of her freshman year. She was matched with an elementary school-aged girl and spent time with her match once a week.
"Being involved with these community outreach programs has had a tremendous impact on me. My goal with my match has always been to make her feel valued and be there to listen to her," noted Sims. "She's reminded me of the importance of being present, slowing down, and finding joy in the little things. God has definitely taught me the importance of relationships and getting to know people on a deeper level.
Additionally, Sims volunteered with Brainerd Baptist Church's International Community Connection initiative and assisted with several aspects of that program.
"Everybody comes from different backgrounds and you never really know what people are going through, but you can be a listening ear and show love to others," added Sims.
Kierpa, a junior pitcher from Alpharetta, Ga., volunteers with Operation Christmas Child every Thanksgiving. She assists in collecting shoeboxes full of toys, candy, hygiene products, and more, within the processing center in Atlanta. Kierpa recalled how the center shows videos of kids' reactions when receiving those shoeboxes and how it influenced her.
"It is always humbling to see these children who are surrounded by poverty to have such a genuine joy about them when receiving such a humble gift," said Kierpa. "One can truly see the work of God being done through this organization because they are reaching people who have never heard God's word before and being a light to them."
Wood, a junior outfielder from Conyers, Ga., seeks out opportunities near her to serve. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Wood had very practical areas to assist within her own neighborhood. She spent time doing chores and other odd jobs for older neighbors who may have been at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19.
"The heart of gratitude that my neighbors had truly humbled me," said Wood. "The Lord used my elderly friends to soften my heart and remind me that I take a lot for granted. It was really neat to see how God knits together our stories and the community to create a tapestry for His glory. Every humbling moment and hiccup, every good time and laugh, all woven together for a grander purpose that is so much bigger than myself."
Since taking over the program this past summer, Rohn has made it a point to her players to be an example of service to others and reach out to where there are needs. Sims acknowledged that can be accomplished both on and off the Covenant campus.
"Our goal to foster relationships transcends just the team and reaches out to involve those on campus, at our churches, and on the mountain," said Sims. "I think our desire to share this community that means so much to all of us is a driving factor in serving others.
Wood and Kierpa also spoke volumes of the way Rohn and her coaching staff encourage and challenge players in this area and all aspects of their lives.
"The coaches have already done an incredible job of pushing us to be better in all aspects of life," added Wood. "I think that really shapes how we are wanting to serve each other, and ultimately push each other to serve other people.
Added Kierpa, "This culture of service has continually been cultivating and growing and becoming a huge part of our program."
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