NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Vanderbilt goalkeeper Sarah Fuller knows how to lead on the soccer pitch. This offseason, however, she gained some invaluable experience leading fellow student-athletes in the community.
The senior from Texas joined Vanderbilt’s Summer Immersion Experience during the summer and found herself, “thrown in,” to a consulting experience that became both fulfilling and enjoyable.
“It was definitely a little bit of a whirlwind,” Fuller said. “But we worked really hard and we learned quickly and learned to adjust. It was a really great experience. I’m really glad we had this opportunity to do this.”
Fuller led a team of Emily Cohen (track and field), Kayla Eason (soccer), Gabe Jeudy (football), Taylor Ward (swimming) and Michael Warden (football) in an effort to help End Slavery Tennessee market a tea produced by Thistle Farms. The Commodores had to help figure out a way to market and rebrand the product while also aiding victims of human trafficking find a way to make an income with a flexible schedule.
All this while taking into account the economic hardships caused by the global pandemic COVID-19.
Fuller and her team produced a sustainable income stream through rebranding and commercializing their product, generated employment opportunities that offered a flexible and safe work environment for victims and created a marketing strategy for their product that promotes public education and awareness of human trafficking.
“Our job was to create a marketing strategy and a three-year business plan for them to move forward with this tea business and hopefully create a profit off of that,” Fuller said.
Now that Fuller, who worked with the Nashville Adult Literacy Council in 2019, and her soccer teammates are back on campus and preparing for the 2020 season, she’s turned her leadership focus toward the Commodores. Vandy is coming off a 14-5-2 season and SEC Eastern Division title – but also coming off an offseason unlike any other.
The Commodores were unable to have a spring season due to the threat of COVID-19. That meant every Vandy student-athlete had to train on their own before returning to West End earlier this month.
“We’re very hard-working and we’re very goal-oriented,” Fuller said of her team. “Our plan was to stay in shape and keep going and be ready for whatever this season holds for us. I have no doubt – we talk a lot about trust and as a team and that’s huge for us.
“I totally trust my teammates 100 percent to do what they need to do.”
A three-time SEC Academic Honor Roll selection and Medicine, Health and Society Major, Fuller will be one of three keepers vying for playing time for the Commodores this season. Of course, her and the Commodores aren’t exactly sure what the 2020 season will look like as the college athletics world tries its best to safely navigate through a pandemic.
It’s something that Fuller said her and her teammates must not let distract them from the ultimate goal of defending a title.
“We talk a lot about the uncontrollables and we can’t get frustrated over those things. COVID is definitely an uncontrollable,” Fuller said. “The thing that we can control is our attitudes and our work ethics.
“I think our team is working really hard to stay positive and focus on the goals we have just building our community and our skills as soccer players with the opportunity we have to play.”
Chad Bishop covers Vanderbilt for VUCommodores.com. Follow him @MrChadBishop.