Updated: 5 days ago
Though Georgia McKee will soon catch the last softball of her career, her journey is not over yet.
A frequent starter for the Bruins, the right-handed catcher’s tasks are to read the game and defend the den. But off the field, her academic and spiritual goals are driving her to build community and help others feel like they belong.
Next, McKee will pursue a graduate degree at Wake Forest University as a top scholar in the divinity program. She wants to keep asking hard questions in the same capacity that Belmont encouraged her to do, as well as challenge Christian nationalism from within the church, she said.
“I want to be an expert in my field of religion. Not just Christian religion, but religion in general within America,” McKee said. “I want to basically just help religious people in America feel free and loved within their tradition.”
McKee’s four years at Belmont put her on this path, and her relationship with the university started early on.
McKee made up her mind about playing NCAA Division 1 softball at the age of 12, and since her dad’s side of the family lives in Nashville, the city was already her second home, she said. Belmont was a natural fit.
So as a sophomore in high school, McKee committed to a career as a Bruin, as well as a faith and social justice education through Belmont’s College of Theology and Christian Ministry.
“I came to college and kind of started to unlearn a lot of the stuff I believed growing up. I started to unlearn, and I started to relearn, and I started to build my own definitions of faith,” McKee said.
She started asking questions like, “Faith and what?” Where could her hope and trust be put?
Part of the answer: Belmont. As a student of religion, the university gave McKee the opportunity to challenge her faith.
“Everyone genuinely cares about you,” McKee said. “The faculty members, the students, athletic coaches, administration … They give you opportunities not only to succeed, but to challenge everything that you believe, and they give you opportunities to say, ‘I’ve changed my mind.’”
One of the things she made up her mind about is her mission to make people feel like they belong, McKee said, adding that there is room for improvement when it comes to inclusivity at institutions like Belmont.
“The overall institution has some listening to do, because I think the faculty have taught us how to listen and how to be great citizens and peers,” she said.
Bringing this perspective to a greater scale, McKee said hearing from communities around the nation about their lack of belonging was heartbreaking.
Her passion for making people feel like they belong might be due to her background in sports, she said.
Belmont softball head coach Laura Matthews said McKee does a good job of celebrating her teammates regardless of playing time, saying she “cares deeply about unity and everyone’s value to the team.”
As a student-athlete, McKee strives for excellence in all that she does, not only on the field and in the classroom, but in the community as well.
She has combined passion and opportunity by taking part in diversity, equity and inclusivity panels with the NCAA and the College Sports Information Directors of America.
And during the 2020 presidential debate at Belmont, McKee took part in the student engagement debate committee and worked as an usher in the debate hall.
Working the debate was one of her favorite experiences at the school, McKee said, and she brings up playing and traveling with her team as another.
As a teammate, head coach Matthews said McKee holds everyone accountable in working hard and succeeding as a team.
“She values a positive culture and making sure we do things the right way,” Matthews said. “She is an incredibly selfless teammate and walks the walk when it comes to team over self.”
On the diamond, McKee finds ways on both good and bad days to encourage her teammates and make them smile in a game where success is hard-won. “If you succeed 30% of the time, you’re considered to be very successful,” she said.
Besides physical strains from athletics, the mental aspect of softball can also be draining, McKee said.
“You have to really rely on your teammates and find ways to win and to honestly just stay mentally sane.”
And McKee emphasizes “teammates.”
After dealing with the turnaround of three different coaching staffs as well as a global pandemic, her teammates stand as the only consistent thing in her college career, and she is thankful for them.
“When I look to my left and to my right, whether it’s in the dugout or on the field or if we’re all getting lunch together, I’m reminded of the incredible 20 women around me … I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” McKee said.
The team and the sport are grounding, especially in times when life seems like it’s falling apart and you are trying to figure out who you are, she said.
Though McKee is leaving that safety net behind, a deeper sense is telling her that it is time to move forward, she said.
Hoping to make the same impact she left on Belmont and the softball program, McKee considers her time as a Bruin to be an important part of who she is.
“My college experience was not at all what I thought it would be,” McKee said. “But it’s made me the person I am today, and I’m really grateful for that. I’ve learned to love myself for that. I love the person I’ve become in my four years here at Belmont.”
This article was written by Jessica Mattsson. Photo by Jessica Mattsson.