The head coach of the Thunder volleyball program, Brittany Smith, arrived at Wheaton in April 2013, following eight successful years at Taylor University, where she guided the Trojans’ volleyball program to victory in 72 percent of their matches. She earned 240 wins and only 94 losses in her time at Taylor, leading the program to five league championships and three consecutive National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Tournament appearances (2009-11). Family life, however, necessitated a change.
“My husband had been commuting from Naperville to Upland for about a year for his job, and just when we realized the situation was no longer working for our family, we got an email from Wheaton. It felt like the Lord was opening a door,” Brittany says.
Moving from Taylor to Wheaton did not change her primary focus.
“I have always known that sports can empower young women. My calling is to empower these women—to help them see their God-given gifts and to use those gifts for His glory.”
Brittany grew up in Grand Rapids, Mich., with her three sisters. The third of four girls, she became interested in volleyball when her older sister was cut from the team.
“My dad took her to our church gym, and they worked on her serve with the rest of us tagging along. We all started playing at that time,” she says.
From that early experience, Brittany went on to earn All-State honors as a middle hitter in high school. When it came time to select a college, she chose Taylor because she knew she’d have the opportunity to remain a middle hitter. Making the most of that opportunity, Brittany was a four-year starter. She earned NAIA First Team All-American recognition in 1998, and was a Second Team NAIA All-American in 1999.
She graduated from Taylor in 2000 with a degree in history, and won the 1999-2000 Lady Trojan Award, given to the university’s most outstanding female athlete.
“I am thankful for the opportunity I had to play at a Christian college,” she says.
After her first season at Wheaton, she appreciates “the quality of Wheaton’s student athletes” as well as the College’s willingness to enable students “to do their best to the glory of God.”
Brittany guided the Thunder to a 24-12 record in her first season, and Maddie McGinnis ’15 earned an All-American honorable mention—Wheaton’s first volleyball All-American since 2007.
When asked about her goals for the program, Brittany says, “We want to win a national championship.” In order to get there, she plans to focus on recruitment and intentional training—physical, mental, and spiritual.
“Wheaton has an amazing legacy of mentorship and discipleship, and we want to build on that legacy,” she says.
By teaching her players to put others first, Brittany says the entire team benefits.
“I want my players focused on how they can make their teammates better. It’s about serving one another. If this is our team focus, we’ll be excellent in a way that others will notice.”