Academics and athletics a winning combination for Faith Smith

Sports 'broadens your horizons' as a student

Faith Smith (12), Eckerd College.
Eckerd College freshman Faith Smith (12) finds beach volleyball to be a valuable outlet. (Photo by Ian Finlayson) 

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Though balancing sports and academics can be difficult for some students, Faith Smith doesn’t have that problem.  

Playing beach volleyball at Eckerd College has provided her with a positive outlet and helped the freshman player make new friends. 

“It really tests you mentally, and I think to be an athlete you have to have a certain mentality and know your sport,” Smith said, last week after practice. “I think it really helps with academics because it forces you to think harder and not just be narrow minded.

“You have to kind of broaden your horizons. I think it really helps overall.” 

In beach volleyball, you must work with your partner, and the whole team needs to perform well together.  

Coach Jade Hayes believes the communication skills necessary to be successful in the sport also extend to other areas of life.  

“I think beach volleyball brings a family, unity, friendship vibe, and they all get to be a part of that. We talk about how it’s not just about the volleyball,” said Hayes, who also played beach volleyball in her fifth year of college at the University of South Carolina.  

Beach Volleyball helps Eckerd College students develop strong friendships. (Photo by Ian Finlayson)

“Beach volleyball encompasses that relational aspect, because you have to communicate really well, you have to have positive body language,” Hayes said. “You can’t win without your partner, we can’t win if three of the five pairs don’t win, so I think it just has a huge aspect of team and unity.”  

The freshman players have connected with some of the older players on the team that have the same area of study.  

“All of the first years have the same major as a returner,” Smith said. “Anna (Jupin) and Teagan (VanderMey) have the same major as me so they’ve like taken me under their wings and just helped me with what I’ll go through in the future.”  

Jupin and VanderMey are sophomores. There are seven freshmen, six sophomores and one junior on the very young team. 

The balance of newcomers and returners means there is no shortage of experienced players for rookies like Smith to look to for guidance on or off the sand.  

“We did a lot of team bonding activities, like we would hangout together on the weekends during offseason, and now we don’t have a lot of planned team bonding,” she said. “But we’ve just become so close that we always hangout outside of practice.

“Like we eat all of our meals together, we go to other team’s sports events together, and yeah, it’s a lot of fun.”

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Posted: Mar 7 2024 9:39 pm
Filed under: College NCAA Sports