Talented player altered course after five months of babysitting
Among NCAA's (National Collegiate Athletic Association) Top 11 tennis players of all time, Mary Weatherholt capped off a tremendous college career with an interesting twist after coming runner-up to a two-time national champion in 2013.
Fighting injuries, the top-3 doubles player amassed 208 career wins.
Despite her success, Mary shocked fans in saying that her ultimate goal has nothing to do with tennis. She wants to be a stay-at-home mum.
She made up her mind after spending five months babysitting for her best friend but the decision had its genesis by another life-changing decision in her freshman year.
With an Administration degree at University of Nebraska, Mary was already excelling both on and off the court but says she was not satisfied.
Searching for guidance, she noticed that a fellow student footballer Roy Helu Jr. seemed to have a better grasp on the meaning of life.
"He just lived his life differently and had an inner joy. I was wondering how I could get that too," she explains.
After finding out that Roy was a Christian, Mary decided to read the Bible to find out more, and in these pages she realised that she needed to know Jesus Christ personally.
"Bible study became the answer for what I was missing, even though I was succeeding in ways that everyone seemed to recognise," Mary says.
Mary's favourite Bible verse is from Romans chapter 5, verse 8, which says, "God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."
As she explained to Fellowship of Christian Athletes, "that [verse] just really hits me because I didn't have to get better before I came to God. Even now when I still sin, I can still come to God."
At the end of her first year in college, Mary says she "came to know Christ" as her Lord and Saviour through surrendering her life to Him and choosing to honour Him in everything.
This decision, she explains, "helped me realise what things really mattered in life and what I might be called to do in life."
Mary met her best friend in a Bible study group and later volunteered to babysit her little boy on weekdays in 2012.
She says this was a very humbling experience that "reinforced everything I was thinking".
"It was the first time I took care of a baby, and I was so in awe of how they're formed and how natural it is to care for one."
She laughs about the sharp contrast between being a tennis star and a nanny in the same week.
"We'd have a huge win [in a tournament]... next morning I was taking care of a big poop explosion. It balanced out everything I was thinking."
First-hand experience, Mary says, taught her that stay-at-home mums "have the hardest jobs in the world".
“I was so in awe of how natural it is to care for a baby”
"There's a song that says no matter what you do, do for the glory of the One who made you because God sees little stuff, big stuff and in between stuff all the same.
"I think that song helped point me in the right direction. Whether I'm helping my team mates battle or come together or helping my best friend out as a nanny, God sees it all the same."
Mary visibly grimaced from knee pain in her final tennis match in 2013, so it is no surprise that she is taking some months off to seek God's guidance for her next steps.
"I'm not worrying about anything. I'm just praying for God to lead me after this season ends," she told Huskers.com.
Throughout her college career, Mary's attitude impressed University of Nebraska's associate athletic director Keith Zimmer, who was on the panel that voted her 2013 student-athlete of the year.
Keith commented to Huskers.com that countless college graduates can't wait for the "successful career and big income", but Mary is "none of that" as she "can't wait to make a difference in other people's lives."
"Some people might be disappointed to hear that [being a stay-at-home mum] is her loftiest goal, but what could be a better goal?"
Interview thanks to Fellowship of Christian Athletes (fca.org).