How would you describe the picture of a true athlete? Are athletes born with innate qualities and abilities distinguishing themselves from others; or do athletes acquire skills and abilities over a period of time? Is work ethic the defining factor in separating the “true” athlete from a mediocre one? Is the definition of a true athlete a combination of these?
For North Greenville University athlete Rebecca Stidham, it is a combination of all three. Stidham, a junior Health and Wellness major, is a native of West Virginia. Stidham currently resides in Red House, West Virginia, with her parents, Ken and Karen Stidham, older brother Daniel (23), and twin brother, Michael (20). Growing up, Rebecca enjoyed playing sports with her brothers and being active. Stidham’s parents allowed her to only participate in one sport at a time. As a third grader, Rebecca joined Great Teays Soccer Club. After a few seasons, Rebecca was ready for something new. She began horseback riding, which coincided well with her home school schedule. Stidham was home schooled through the sixth grade, and upon entering the seventh grade, enrolled in Calvary Baptist Academy (Hurricane, WV). Unfortunately, Calvary did not have a soccer team but was in the stages of beginning a basketball program. Rebecca had never played the game of basketball, but her dad, who grew up playing the sport, had taught her to shoot and other basic fundamentals. Stidham’s first season was less than ideal. The team had lost every game but one. It took Rebecca and her team two seasons to reach the championship game of the West Virginia Christian Education Association’s state tournament. Stidham and the Calvary Patriots won the 2004 single-A championship. For her efforts, Rebecca was named the tournament’s most valuable player, selected first-team all state, and was a member of the all-tournament team. The following season, Stidham and the Patriots found themselves, again, in the WVCEA championship game. The Patriots fell short, finishing second in the tournament for double-A. Stidham was, again, selected to all-state and all-tournament teams. After spending her 2005 season at Calvary Baptist Academy, Stidham transferred to Winfield High School at the start of her junior year. Repeating her athletic experiences at Calvary, the Winfield Generals won the state championship her junior season and found themselves the runner-up her senior year. While at Winfield, Rebecca scored her 1,000th career point. Although Rebecca did not grow up playing basketball, in no time she had established herself as an important asset to her teams and appeared as though she had been playing all her life. Upon graduating from Winfield, Rebecca attended Marshall University (Huntington, WV) the first semester of her freshmen year. Stidham made the daily commute from Red House to Huntington, all the while wishing she were attending a smaller, southern school. Marshall was a convenient option for its close location to home. Toward the close of her first collegiate semester, Rebecca began to feel God’s calling for her to transfer and attend North Greenville University (Tigerville, SC). Rebecca had heard of North Greenville through a church camp she had attended when she was younger. Stidham’s second semester had come around, and the freshmen found herself seven hours from home in a town nearly the size of the one she grew up in. One of Rebecca’s first friends at NGU was Katie Beck, a member of the women’s soccer team. As their friendship grew, Katie realized Rebecca’s natural athletic ability and suggested she come to soccer’s spring try-out. Stidham realized it had been eight years since she had played soccer, but felt it would be fun to play once again. During her first session of spring training, head coach Jesse McCormick saw something great in Rebecca. “When I saw Rebecca play, I noticed her athleticism could be an asset to our team. I could tell that, technically, she would need a little more work, but her athletic ability would make it worth the wait while the technical skills came together.” said McCormick. The 2008 season served as a preparation period for Stidham’s technical skills to develop and improve. Like her basketball career, it did not take long for Stidham to establish herself as a hard-working asset for the women’s soccer team. Currently, North Greenville’s women’s soccer program is in the final stretch of its 2009 season. In her second season as a collegiate soccer player, Rebecca has produced several big plays in key situations. In North Greenville’s match against Truett McConnell (Cleveland, GA), on October 2, 2009, Stidham scored the game-winning goal placing NGU ahead of the Bears 2-1. More recently, Stidham found the back of the net, again, in North Greenville’s homecoming match against the visiting Hawks of Chowan University (Murfreesboro, NC) on October 17, 2009. Rebecca scored the first goal in the Crusaders 2-0 homecoming victory. At the beginning of the season, Rebecca made contributions coming off the bench, but is now finding herself in a starting position. “Rebecca has really grown a lot in her soccer skills over the past year. She comes out every game and gives 100 percent and has improved greatly since her freshman year,” says Jesse McCormick. So, what makes an athlete a truly exceptional athlete? What distinguishes the good athletes from the great ones? For Rebecca Stidham, natural athletic ability and the knack for quickly learning necessary skills to be an athletic success has given her the total package. Rebecca has put in long hours of training to become the collegiate athlete she is today, but ask her and she will tell you she enjoys every minute. “I have always loved to play sports. If I know there is something I can improve on, I will give 100 percent to become the player I need to be and help my team in any way I can!” says Stidham.