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Speedy Recovery

Texas A&M’s Sharonda McDonald credits Christ for her quick comeback
By Susie Magill

With a good lead off of second base, Texas A&M outfielder Sharonda McDonald sprinted to third after teammate Jana James knocked a single through the infield. But knowing her own ability to get from third to home in a mere 2.4 seconds, McDonald wasn’t stopping. Realizing the throw would cut it close, she slid cleats-first into home and scored the first run of the Aggies’ game against the Missouri Tigers.

As the dust settled, however, McDonald knew something was wrong. Pain shot through her knee, and she realized that the impact had been more than her body could handle.

The result was a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in her left knee. And though McDonald was an accomplished athlete, A&M coach Jo Evans doubted she would be able to recover from the injury and finish her sophomore season in 2005. But with her faith and trust placed firmly in God, the #8 Aggie was determined to prove her coach wrong.

“[As an athlete] she is going to prove you wrong no matter what,” said South Houston FCA Area Director Fleceia Comeaux, who worked closely with McDonald when she was one of Comeaux’s local high school Huddle Leaders. “She’s unwilling to compromise. That’s just what it comes down to.”

Capturing the Big 12 Freshman of the Year title in her previous season, all eyes were focused on how McDonald would handle the challenges of rehab, but she was directing her attention to Someone else.

“Working to come back and play was scary, but I knew the only way I could do it was through God,” said McDonald. “It was a huge struggle for me to get through it and rely on Him.”

For three weeks, McDonald attended rehab sessions. Though it was challenging, she remained calm and trusted God which caused her teammates to take notice. “At first, little things like running or walking were hard for her to do, but then she started to realize that everything happened for a reason,” explained A&M third baseman Jamie Hinshaw, also McDonald’s roommate. “It was very noticeable to the team that this wasn’t the end of the world for her. There was something stronger inside of Sharonda that helped her work hard and get through it. It was contagious and spread throughout the team.”

McDonald’s teammates were not the only ones who noticed her drive and passion. “She is a phenomenal athlete,” said Bill Johnston, Brazo Valley FCA Area Director and Texas A&M Huddle Coach. “She has the talent and doesn’t take it for granted. [During her injury] she gave everything she had and really worked hard—full force. And everyone else was better because of her work ethic.”

McDonald’s work and determination paid off. Sidelined for only three weeks, she returned to the diamond as a pinch runner in a regional game against Penn State. Five days later she was in the starting line up for a super regional match-up with the University of Alabama.

But what McDonald found was that there are tougher things to heal than ligaments—her broken confidence in sliding being one of them.

“It was very noticeable to the team that this wasn’t the end of the world for her. There was something stronger inside of Sharonda…”
– Jamie Hinshaw, third base

“The mental part is the hardest thing,” said McDonald. “This year, I was still scared to slide. Just getting back out there and trusting, that’s what I had to do—really, really trust. And softball is about who is more confident and who has the edge mentally.”

Through prayer and the encouragement of Johnston’s wife, Johnna, and other FCA members, McDonald regained more of her edge throughout her junior year, both on and off the softball field. She served on the A&M FCA leadership team, led a Sunday Bible study for her softball team and became more vocal about her faith in Christ.

“At first, I didn’t like to pray out loud, but we do that every week now at our leadership team meetings,” said McDonald. “I have changed a lot this year, and FCA has really helped me with my confidence. It is easier for me to talk to other people about what they are going through and if they want to know more about Christ.”

But McDonald isn’t just about the “talk.” She also understands the importance of a valid walk with Christ.

“I like to lead by action, by the way I live and play,” she said. “I hope people can see God through that. I think what we see is an important part of how and what we learn, and if I can show a good example of God’s love in my actions, that is huge.”

Comeaux echoes McDonald’s dedication to leading by example.“When she became the co-captain of FCA in high school, everything changed. What she said became how she lived. There wasn’t a dichotomy, it was the same. She understands that if she is going to act a certain way in FCA, she is going to have to do the same when she is walking to class or going out on the weekends, representing Christ at all times.”

Johnston agrees, “Sharonda reveals her passion through her life. You see that she has weight behind her words. And she is a good, consistent leader. She’s selfless in her serving and has raised the standards for those around her.”

For McDonald, even with setting the A&M career stolen base record (95) and going a perfect 48 for 48 in stolen base attempts at the end of her sophomore season, her confidence in Christ and the experiences He has provided help her stay grounded and humble.

“Getting hurt was a huge lesson for me,” said McDonald. “It showed me that life isn’t always about softball. I steal a lot of bases, so people ask me, ‘How many bases did you steal this game?’ They make my speed what I am, but I know that isn’t who I am. I am a child of Christ first. If it wasn’t for God, I wouldn’t have this ability.”

Photos courtesy of Texas A&M.

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