Sports Spectrum Magazine Summer 2021

Women's college basketball coach says she now lives for Christ and not for herself

“It’s crazy how God works”

Mount Vernon is a small town in Kentucky that you have probably never heard of. It is a place where athletics are paramount, and many kids view their sport as a ticket to bigger and better things. It is a place where athletes dream big, even when their chances seem small.

For Sara Hammond, she knew from an early age that her ticket was already punched. She graduated as Rockcastle County High School’s all-time leading scorer and the state of Kentucky’s first ever McDonald’s All-American. Her heart was set on the WNBA. But thankfully, she was raised to have her eyes fixed on Jesus.

“My parents raised me and my siblings [to know] that in ALL situations we need to depend on God and to seek Him first,” Sara told Sports Spectrum. She used this as her foundation as she went off on her own to play NCAA Division I basketball for the University of Louisville.

When she graduated, Sara was top-15 in scoring, top-5 in rebounding, and top-10 in blocks and double-double games in Louisville women’s basketball history. She played in two Elite Eights and a Final Four, and finished her career as Louisville’s all-time leader in games played. She also won a Gold Medal with Team USA in the FIBA 3-on-3 World Championships in Moscow, Russia in 2014.

Although many people in her life were telling Sara she would make a great coach, her focus was keeping her name on the WNBA draft boards. Coaching just did not seem appealing to her.

“I actually never wanted to be a coach, “Sara said. “Everyone always told me through high school and college ‘you’d be a great coach. From my personal experiences with coaches, I just saw how much they had to sacrifice whether [it was] their time, being away from family, no off days, working still once they leave their office.”

Sara hit the off-season hard after her senior year. The season did not exactly end the way she wanted it to, but she knew she had what it took to play professional basketball. Unfortunately, the WNBA draft came and went without Sara’s name being called.

“When I didn’t get drafted by the WNBA, I became very angry and bitter with God and my family, “Sara told Sports Spectrum. “My family said ‘it’s okay, life goes on. God will provide and direct your steps.’ I knew that deep down but because that was the one thing I had worked so hard for over the last 8 years. I always took to heart that if you work 120% and trust in the process it will pay off.”

But for Sara, the payoff was not playing professional basketball in America. Instead, she spent a year playing in Germany with SV Halle Lions. It was during her time overseas that Sara really started to read and deeply reflect on her relationship with Christ.

In particular, The End of Me by Kyle Idleman helped her understand “what it truly means to live and be a follower of Christ, how to be bold in my faith living in a secular world and living a selfless life and serving those around me just as Christ did when he came to earth. It really opened my eyes to what my purpose was and is.”

Not being able to break into the WNBA put Sara in a position to rely on God more than she ever had. “In that moment after college, God revealed himself to me. He humbled me, “she said. “It was clear that I was not in control of my own life and path. I put my own glory and success ahead of Him. I had forgotten that through Him was the reason it was even possible that I got to play basketball. I glorified myself and my work ethic over His grace and love.”

So God sent Sara on a path to Europe to travel, share the gospel, and have the time to really digest the fact that He had a plan for her. She did not know what that plan was, but when her contract expired with SV Halle Lions earlier this year she came back to the U.S. ready to find out. As it turns out, she did not have to wait very long.

 

“As soon as I landed back in the states from my season overseas, I turned on my phone and got a message from my AAU coach about a guy seeking a young woman who is a strong Christian as his assistant coach.”

A few phone calls and one visit later, Sara was named the new assistant coach for Union University’s women’s basketball team. Union University is a four year, liberal arts, private Christian university in Jackson, TN.

“It was exactly where God was calling because I asked when I prayed for what was next, that it would be somewhere where I would be challenged more than ever and where I could grow spiritually more so than ever in my life,” Sara said. “Both of those are occurring in my life at this exact moment and I feel closer to God than I ever have.”

When asked if this was a permanent career change, Sara said, “It’s crazy how God works. I just finished reading the story of Joseph in the Bible and it really stuck with me that he never questioned God based upon his circumstances, but remained faithful through it all knowing God would provide. Life doesn’t go as we plan, but if we remain faithful and do His will in all circumstances He has promised us that the end is good. Not what we see as good, but what He sees as what’s best for us. I love being a coach and look forward to being a coach for many years if it’s Gods will.”

You can follow along on Sara’s journey on her twitter page @SaraHamm10