Rachelle Noble did not have to face the problem of playing on Sundays until she was a freshman in college. She remembers the day perfectly. She was in her first year at Columbia University in New York City. She had been recruited to be a member of Columbia’s track-and-field team, to participate in the throwing events. She had told her coach up front that she would not be participating in Sunday meets.
“I was in my room,” says Rachelle. “I had just received our media guide, and I was looking at the schedule. I saw that half of our season’s meets were going to be on Sundays. At that moment, all the stories I had heard in Primary and all the lessons I had had in Sunday School came back to me. I had talked to my parents about it. That’s when my decision became conscious. I would not be playing on Sundays.”
That’s when strange things started happening. Her first meet was switched to Saturday. Then weather caused another Sunday cancellation. Then the biggest meet was changed at the last minute. In the meets that were not rescheduled, Rachelle participated in events on Saturday but would then bow out on Sunday. Her coaches tried to persuade her to change her mind the whole year. At the end, Rachelle felt that she needed to play for a coaching staff she was more comfortable with.
Rachelle then transferred to a junior college near her hometown of Show Low, Arizona. The problem with Sunday competition went away since no junior college meets were scheduled for Sunday. But Rachelle wanted to pursue her talents at the highest levels of college competition, so she sent a highlight film and her transcript to a lot of schools, including the tough track team at UCLA. It was a long shot because the UCLA team was among the best college teams in the nation, and the UCLA throwing coach didn’t take transfer students.
Rachelle’s dream started to come true. Coach Art Venegas at UCLA called and asked her to come. Then came the hard part. Rachelle says, “He was really excited and saying all this really cool stuff, and I decided that would be the time to tell him. I told him I can’t compete on Sunday.” Even if she had to give up her dream, Rachelle couldn’t change her mind. But the coach said, “Okay, I don’t see any problem with that.”
Then the coach said something that let Rachelle know he was serious. “He said if they schedule the NCAA hammer throw, which is my best event, on Sunday, you just won’t throw it.”
Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened. The hammer throw was scheduled for Sunday in the big Pacific-10 Conference meet in Seattle. Rachelle was expected to win or place. Her performance could mean the difference in points between her team winning or losing the entire meet. An assistant coach asked her, out of curiosity, why she had made this stand. “I told him,” says Rachelle, “that even if I won on Sunday, I would have this piece of metal, but I would have gone against everything I’ve learned for the last 18 years. It made total sense to him.”
It turned out that her team didn’t need the points Rachelle might have earned. The team took first in the meet.
Rachelle feels that blessings have come from her decision. On that Sunday afternoon, after the big Pac-10 meet, Rachelle’s coach approached where she was sitting in her Sunday dress waiting for the team bus. He handed her his coaching credentials as a souvenir and said, “I want you to have this. You’ve given me the most memorable performance of this meet.”
Rachelle is now aiming for the 2000 Summer Olympics in Australia. But what if her events are scheduled on Sunday? “The only thing I can say,” says Rachelle, “is to have faith. I just don’t see how I could change my mind. I have friends who went to the Olympics, but it didn’t change their lives. It was just another track meet that everyone cares about. I would just hope that the Lord would take care of it. And if not, he’s taking care of me.”
Editor’s Note: Since this story was written, Rachelle Noble won the Pac-10 track-and-field meet in the hammer throw, setting a meet record. The organizing committee had voted to change the event from Sunday to Saturday so Rachelle could participate. Rachelle has been called to serve in the Lithuania Vilnius Mission.