Brittany Smith still has a year left at St. Hubert, but her love for her school already has her thinking about the future.
The way distant future.
“Even when I’m 80, I’ll be donating money to that school,” the senior-to-be said.
In a wide-ranging conversation, Smith always seemed to come back to the unconditional love that she has developed for St. Hubert since she enrolled as a “scared, timid, little” freshman.
The Rhawnhurst native has been heavily involved in all that the school has to offer, playing multiple sports and participating in a handful of extracurricular activities. After the summer ends, Smith will enter her fourth year as a varsity member of the Bambies’ field hockey and softball programs. She’s been a field hockey captain since her sophomore year, and has been named the lone softball captain for the 2014 season, one in which the corner outfielder will be attempting to reach her fourth consecutive Catholic League championship game (she won as a sophomore and lost as a freshman and junior). Smith is also fresh off an appearance in the Carpenter Cup, an All-Star showcase featuring softball players from Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.
Being appointed to such an important position for head coach Dave Schafer’s highly successful program is not a responsibility Smith is taking lightly.
“It’s a great honor, and obviously I have huge footsteps to follow,” Smith said, referring to last year’s talented captains, Erica Ragazzone and Gabby DeLeo. “But I feel like I’m ready. I’ve been a starter since freshman year, and I know what it takes to be a leader. Throughout the years I’ve learned so much from those girls, mainly how to lead with grace and to pick people up when they need it. I’ll work as hard as I can for my teammates so we can get back to Arcadia and win.”
Arcadia University was the site of this year’s Catholic League championship, and Smith remembers the Bambies’ crushing loss to Conwell-Egan all too well. She’s already dreaming about getting back to that point, but next year’s softball season is far from the only thing she has to look forward to in her senior year.
In the fall, she’ll be focusing on her final season of field hockey, a sport she didn’t pick up until freshman year. She instantly fell in love with it.
“Since the moment I picked up a stick, I was hooked,” she said. “I’ve been playing softball my whole life. At schools like Archbishop Carroll and Cardinal O’Hara, girls have been playing it forever, kind of like me and softball, so you’re 10 steps behind them. But that’s the fun of it. You learn fast and put your heart into it. It gives me the same adrenaline rush that softball does. I don’t know if I could pick just one of the sports if I had to.”
Smith is also immensely involved in non-athletic activities. She’s been a student council member since freshman year, and serves as a Bambie Ambassador, which essentially entails her making recruiting trips to local grade schools.
“Basically, I go to a grade school and talk St. Hubert up, telling the girls how much I love it and how much they can get out of it,” she said. “It’s awesome to see them later on if they decide come here. Maybe I convinced them to join this tradition and keep it alive.’”
Smith has grown immensely in her three years at St. Hubert, and she pointed to the efforts by the school’s extended community to save it from closure last year as a turning point in her self-development.
Smith’s mom and aunts had graduated as Bambies, but Smith herself didn’t see it — that special something, that St. Hubert lore that makes the school as beloved as it is — until she was joining the student body on the steps at 6 a.m. for rallies in the dead of winter.
“It was so emotional,” she recalled. “For awhile, it was just heartbreaking and sad, like I had lost someone close to me. It was awful waking up and standing in the freezing cold, but the thought of going to a new school was much worse. Being out on those steps, it showed me how awesome these girls are, and the love we have for each other.
“It was the scariest time in our lives, and we got through it as sisters. It just showed how strong we are, how we can overcome any obstacle no matter how overwhelming.”
As painful as it is, Smith has started thinking about what comes after St. Hubert.
She hopes to find a college that’s a perfect fit, which in her case would allow her to study Special Education and play at least one — but maybe both — of her favorite sports. Smith said thinking about life after St. Hubert is both stressful and exhilarating.
“I watched the seniors do all of their ‘lasts’ this year, and it really hit home,” she said. “It’s sad, but exciting to start that final chapter. My last field hockey game, my last softball game, my last winter formal … it’s going to be nerve-wracking, but I’m going to make the most out of every moment. Coach Schafer teaches us to treat every game like it’s our last, and that’s how I’m going to treat senior year.”
Above all else, Smith is thankful — and honored — to be such a big part of something that has become so special to her.
When asked to name her favorite memory and what she’ll miss the most, Smith couldn’t come up with just one answer.
“I’ll definitely never forget keeping the school alive, to have months of tears and heartbreak only to come out on top,” she said. “Getting to graduate from here I think is the best thing ever for me. And of course, winning the Catholic League championship my sophomore year … that’s something I can’t wait to tell my kids and grandkids how much it meant to me.
“And I think just the change in me as a person. I wasn’t outgoing when I got here; now, I feel like I can take the reins and lead a team and a school. St. Hubert brought that out in me and made me into the person I am now. It’s incredible what three years at a high school can to do to you. I’m definitely a different person than I was, in all of the right ways.” ••