This story appears in FCA Magazine’s July/August 2018 issue.
Lima, Ohio Coaching Career:
• Villanova, Assistant Coach (2016-Present)
• Saginaw Valley State, Assistant Coach (2015-16) Athletic Career:
• Michigan State (2011-15)
"Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.”
– Psalm 119:105 (NIV)
Stephanie Sanders was born into a coaching family. Her father, Doug, coached multiple teams in Lima, Ohio, and two of her grandparents also coached baseball teams. Growing up in that competitive environment, Sanders followed her father and grandparents by excelling as a softball player before becoming a coach. At Bath High, Sanders’ FCA Huddle showed her how exemplary coaches and athletes can have an impact far greater than wins and losses.
FCA: What encouraged you to become a coach?
SS: The older I got in college, the more I realized how influential coaches are, and how I had been surrounded by great coaches. It really turned me onto the fact that I would love to be a coach who, yes, can make someone a better softball player, but who can also reach someone by teaching them more about life. I know how much better of a person my coaches made me.
FCA: Why is Psalm 119:105 your favorite Bible verse?
SS: I often question myself and my life’s journey. I question whether I’m doing the right things or if I’m where I need to be. Moving to Philadelphia two years ago has been such a test. I moved here without knowing a soul, away from all my friends and family. I’ve leaned on this verse because it reminds me that Jesus is guiding me. If I keep leaning on Him and hearing Him, praying to Him and thanking Him, I know I’m going where I need to go.
FCA: Why do you value FCA?
SS: I had a high school teacher, Mark Shine, who worked with FCA and helped run our Huddle. It was really important to me, as an athlete who was somewhat of a leader, to be present there. It’s hard as an athlete because you start to identify yourself as just that, but it was important to me to not just be an athlete. Going to FCA brought me back down to earth and let me lean on Jesus. I wanted my faith to drive me.
In my freshman year at Michigan State, at my first practice, I broke my tibia and fibula and dislocated my ankle while sliding into a base. I struggled and felt loss. A teammate told me about Athletes in Action. I needed that. Andrea Gasso, our assistant coach, ran our team Bible study. That all got me through my freshman year. It made me realize Jesus loves me, and softball isn’t what makes me feel whole.
FCA: How do you share your faith with your team?
SS: Being at Villanova, it’s made it easier to be open about my faith. We go on a team retreat twice a year. In those settings, it’s been easier for me to talk to them. It’s led me to conversations where I’ve had girls come to me and ask me things. I’m honest with them, and I just share my story with them.
FCA: What do you hope your players say about you?
SS: I hope I’m one of those coaches who they could rely on. I hope whenever they need something—whether it’s helping them look at their swing or sitting down over coffee and talking about whatever is going on in their life—they see me as a resource to help them, and they trust me. They do understand where I stand with my faith. They know that door is always open.
FCA Staff Quote:
“Stephanie Sanders exudes joy! Every summer, she comes back to her hometown of Lima, Ohio, to encourage hundreds of high school students at FCA’s Legends of Northwest Ohio Banquet. She shares how her faith journey is going in a real and positive way and leaves students with hope for a good future through the Lord.”
- Andy Lynch, FCA Area Representative
Photos courtesy of Jerry Millevoi and Dave Evans