Sunday, September 21, 2014

From ball girl to assistant coach

Brittany Campbell accomplished her dream of playing Liberty basketball, overcoming adversity along the way

From the baseline to the sideline, Brittany Campbell has graced all parts of the Vines Center court at Liberty University.

Campbell started her Liberty career on the baseline as a ball girl for the Liberty women’s basketball team when she was just a child. Over the course of more than 10 years, Campbell ascended through the ranks, spending five seasons on the court as a player before becoming an assistant coach.

mentor — Brittany Campbell (right) goes over a game plan. Photo credit Ruth Bibby

Mentor — Brittany Campbell (right) goes over a game plan. Photo credit Ruth Bibby

But Campbell’s basketball career extends beyond the Lynchburg, Va., campus. During her high school years on the varsity team at nearby Brookville High School, Campbell scored 1,202 points and led her team to a 98-11 record over four years, according to liberty.edu/flames.

Following her high school years, Campbell made the short journey to Liberty, where she became a scholarship player for the women’s basketball team.

“It was always my dream,” Campbell said. “I just didn’t know if it was gonna be possible.”

As she began her college career in the 2008-2009 season, Campbell played four of the first five games. But it was during the fifth game, an away game at James Madison University (JMU), that Campbell began to face adversity.

In the game, Campbell amassed nine points off three three-pointers heading into halftime. As she came out of the locker room to play second half, however, her game was cut short by a knee injury — a partially torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and a completely torn medial collateral ligament (MCL) — that happened when a JMU player ran into her.

According to Campbell, she let her knee naturally heal and was back to practice after eight weeks, but because the Lady Flames only had a short amount of time left in their season, Head Coach Carey Green did not play Campbell for the rest of the year.

“Yeah, it was hard because I had the mentality that I can play, I can play, I can play,” Campbell said. “… (But Green) just knew best. I trusted him, and I knew that he knew what was best for me and the team.”

But Campbell’s struggles did not end there.

In the summer of 2009, Campbell was playing basketball in an open-gym setting when she felt her knee “tweak a little bit.” This time, Campbell had torn her entire ACL.

According to Campbell, despite the injury, she actually ran on the treadmill the next day. Campbell said that because her knee was so strong from the rehabilitation she did for her previous injury, she was not originally affected.

“I was fine,” Campbell said. “(My knee) just kept catching, so I knew something was wrong.”

Campbell had surgery to repair the ligament and began practicing five months later. However, because she was ready to play so close to the end of the season, Green again chose to keep her on the sideline for the remainder of the year.

Although Campbell said she was disappointed, she learned to make the best of the situation.

“A lot of being on the sideline for me was learning to be a servant … remembering that it’s not about me,” Campbell said. “It’s not about what I’m going through, but how can I encourage others.”

According to Green, Campbell also learned to focus on God’s will through the obstacles.

“(S)he would not have grown if she hadn’t had these setbacks,” Green said. “… (They) made her slow down and stop and see where God was working in her life.”

Campbell was finally able to return to play for the Lady Flames during the 2010-2011 season. Despite all her injuries, Campbell played in 64 games during her Liberty career. In her senior season in 2012-2013, she started all 34 games and led her team to a Big South Championship and NCAA tournament game, according to liberty.edu/flames.

Although Campbell finished her career as a player at Liberty in 2013, her Lady Flames career did not end when the season did.

A few months after playing her last game, there was a vacancy on Liberty’s coaching staff, and Campbell was offered an opportunity to be an assistant coach. According to Campbell, she was offered the job in late May of 2013 and accepted only a few days later.

“I just felt like it was totally the Lord and something he wanted me to do at the moment,” Campbell said. “And I was just honored … and blessed and so thankful, because who else could say that they coached where they played?”

According to liberty.edu/flames, Campbell is the first former Lady Flame to become a coach at her alma mater since before the turn of the century.

“(T)he whole coaching staff is excited because we’ve got a sister in Christ who’s our little sister, but she’s so much full of energy,” Green said. “… She brings so much to the table and to our program and to Liberty University because she is part of our program … part of our family.”

Campbell said that, as she reflects on her career, she has learned to appreciate being a part of God’s story.

“(I’ve learned) that my life, my story is not about me,” Campbell said. “It’s kinda like his journey, his story, you know. He’s just been leading me the whole time.”

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