Basketball tour helps Guerrette share beliefs

Posted June 25, 2009, at 10:32 p.m.

A visit Tuesday afternoon to Van Raymond Outfitters in Brewer produced a chance meeting with St. Agatha native Tracy Guerrette.

It turns out the University of Maine-Presque Isle’s sports information director and head women’s basketball and softball coach was on her way back to Aroostook County after a trip to South America.

Guerrette’s Christian faith and the game of basketball have been two key elements her life. This summer, the former Wisdom High and University of Maine basketball player had the chance to combine those passions while participating in the Athletes in Action ministry.

Guerrette, 28, is home after a two-week tour of Brazil. She served as a player and assistant coach for a women’s team led by head coach Sandy Thomas, a longtime coach who is the color commentator for UMaine women’s basketball, and Black Bears senior guard Amanda Tewksbury.

“It’s a really cool organization,” Guerrette said of Athletes In Action, which uses sports as a platform to spread Christian teachings to people across the U.S. and around the world.

In Brazil, Guerrette and her team worked with a local family that is part of the AIA ministry in there.

“We provided clinics for kids who are living in poverty,” Guerrette said. “We did it all free and gave them gifts. We loved them and we shared the Gospel with them.”

Since neither Guerrette nor others in the group spoke much Portuguese, they relied on the locals to help explain skills and drills during the clinics, which were held for players of various ages.

“There was such a language barrier,” said Guerrette, who enjoyed working with players of varying skill levels.

“We did some clinics for little kids who had no clue and some for girls ages 10-16 who were phenomenal. I told them, you need to come play for me [at UMPI],” she said with a laugh.

Guerrette also had the opportunity to play competitively for the first time in several years as the starting at point guard. One game was against Brazil’s junior national team.

“It was definitely a blessing when I found out I could play,” she said. “It was tiring [playing at night] after being at camp during the day.”

Even as the AIA team reached out to the Brazilians, the women also learned a lot about themselves during the course of their time together. It included a week of preparation at the organization’s headquarters in Ohio.

“Some of these girls that came with us weren’t necessarily strong in their faith,” said Guerrette, who explained religious fervor isn’t a prerequisite for participation in AIA. “We were ministering to each other. There was a lot of growth. It’s amazing what God can do.”

Guerrette said she was appreciative that UMPI athletic director Bill Casavant and dean of students Christine Corsello allowed her to take vacation time and make the trip.

Tewksbury participated in the trip, although she was recovering from a knee injury and was unable to play.

Guerrette first became involved with Athletes in Action through former UMaine teammate Ellen Geraghty. As an undergraduate, Guerrette took an AIA trip to Africa.

After graduation, she also played on an Athletes In Action team that took on many of the top U.S. college programs during a preseason exhibition tour. Thomas was an assistant coach for that team.

It was an unforgettable experience for Guerrette, who was a member of the 1999 UMaine team that beat Stanford in the NCAA tournament.

“We played Tennessee, Arizona, Indiana, Michigan. It was amazing,” Guerrette said, explaining some of the athletes shared their faith with the opposing teams and spoke to the crowds. She remembers fondly the trip to Tennessee.

“Pat Summitt made her kids sit there and listen to me,” said Guerrette, who talked to the crowd about her belief in God and how her important her faith was in her life.

“After that I got to meet her [Summitt]. She was really nice,” Guerrette added.

Through her experiences with AIA, Guerrette has been thrilled to meet many top-level athletes and discover they share her enthusiasm and passion for their faith. She was particularly impressed with University of Connecticut star Maya Moore.

“She is a strong Christian kid and she’s playing to glorify God,” Guerrette said. “She’s a really humble, really neat kid. I was awestruck.”

Guerrette believes the experience has helped make her a better person.

“I have a solid foundation of Christianity and I love my Catholic faith, but I have a better understanding of it because of my involvement with Athletes in Action.”

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