Posted: September 13, 2007
The concept of the multi-sport athlete at the Division I college level has become increasingly rare. In this era of specialization, young student-athletes generally focus on maximizing their potential in one sport on the college level. Christy Smith has emerged as an exception to the rule. The senior from Downingtown, Pennsylvania is one of three Lehigh student-athletes who play field hockey in the fall and lacrosse in the spring; but what sets Christy apart is the success she’s experienced. Christy is an all-region performer in field hockey, and is the reigning Patriot League Scholar-Athlete of the Year for lacrosse; and oh by the way, she carries a 3.88 grade point average in industrial engineering.
It’s an extraordinary time commitment, but one she clearly balances well.
“Time management is very important,” notes Smith. “When you’re involved in so many activities, you’re forced to be structured. But if you’re involved in things you really like to do, you’ll make time to do them.”
It doesn’t hurt to have a pair of supportive coaches, both of whom successfully mastered the field hockey-lacrosse double in college. Field hockey coach Julie Mazer played both sports at West Chester, and lacrosse coach Liz Ota ’95 was a second-team All-America at Lehigh.
“Having two supportive coaches has made a big difference,” says Smith. “It’s an amazing opportunity to play both sports. The coaches’ styles are different, and the personalities on the teams are different, but it helps you appreciate both sides of the spectrum.”
“The concept of the two-sport athlete is a dinosaur,” explains Ota. “What helps Christy is that she has two head coaches that relate to her exceptionally well. I don’t think Julie or I resent the fact that we don’t have her for half the year, because we know she’s gaining competitive experience in the off season.”
“Christy is very talented, she has all the natural gifts,” adds Mazer. “She also has a very strong work ethic. Most athletes have either the natural talent or the work ethic, but she has both, and that’s why she can excel.”
The numbers speak for themselves: a team-best eight goals last field hockey season, followed by 22 goals on the lacrosse field in the spring. But equally important for Christy is what she’s accomplished off the field.
“Math and science are subjects that have always come easy to me,” explains Smith. “That was my initial draw to engineering. Early on I had interesting classes with good professors which really helped as well.”
When she’s not using burning opposing players with her speed, Smith has been burning pizza sauce in a lab setting, as part of her Integrated Business and Engineering (IBE) capstone course. As part of this six-credit, year-long course, Smith and a team of students have been working with start-up entrepreneurs to develop and commercialize a new product that will prevent pizza sauce from burning when left cooking on a stove top.
The team has presented the idea of using magnetic stirrers, most commonly used in chemistry labs.
“Christy and the team's first job was to investigate the technology to determine if it indeed could be manufactured to meet pre-established technical specs and then to explore the marketplace to identify potential market applications,” says Pat Costa, Christy’s professor in this IBE capstone course.
The team will formally present its findings to the Ben Franklin Technology Partners on the Goodman Campus in December.
“Christy has demonstrated strong leadership skills,” notes Costa. “She was instrumental in leading the initiative to develop an independent testing protocol. She burnt lots of sauce last semester in the lab, and analyzed the data for its meaningfulness to the project. She has exhibited all the analytical skills that would help her become a successful engineer as well as a visionary business leader.
Costa concludes, “Christy has the kind of work ethic and personal integrity that has made everyone associated with her in the IBE Program a better student and better teacher because she is part of our community.”
In addition, Smith has spent the last two summers gaining valuable experience interning at Synthes, a medical device company out of West Chester.
“I was able to get the internship through alumni contacts,” says Smith. “I’ve been there the last two summers; the first year I worked on the manufacturing side and this past year I worked in product development.”
In her first year, Smith worked predominantly on time studies and the plant layout, but in product development she spent time in cadaver labs. Among the medical devices that Synthes specializes in are plates and screws for broken bones.
“The experience really enforced my decision to become an engineer,” explains Smith. “It was neat to know that at the end of the day, the things I was working on were geared towards helping patients.”
With her senior year just getting underway, Christy is keeping her post graduation options open. As the field hockey season begins, Christy is enjoying the opportunity to play in the same midfield line as her sister Lindsey, a sophomore, who like Christy plays both field hockey and lacrosse for Lehigh and majors in industrial engineering.
“Because of the positive experiences I had early on, I certainly encouraged Lindsey to come to Lehigh too,” says Christy. “It’s just an added bonus to get to play along side her.”
And an added bonus for Lehigh to have a well-rounded student-athlete like Christy Smith on its playing fields and in its classrooms.