Women's Basketball Feature: Sarah Beth Barnette
March 3, 2015
“I don’t know how I am going to leave my mark on the world when I leave UVa, but I hope that I am able to tell a really good story with whatever it is that I do,” said senior forward Sarah Beth Barnette. “I don’t know exactly what that is going to look like, but I hope it looks like making a difference in other people’s lives in a really great way.”
Barnette, who will be honored this afternoon in the annual Senior Day ceremony, has been writing the pages of a really good story and leaving her mark in people’s lives for the past four years in Charlottesville. After playing her freshman year at Kentucky, the 6-2 forward transferred to Virginia, sitting out the 2011-12 season before making her on-court debut against James Madison in 2012, scoring 10 points against the Dukes, and going on to play in 71 more games after that.
“It’s strange, but several of the biggest-standout basketball moments for me came in that first year when [Sarah Imovbioh] and I were sitting out,” Barnette said. “We were watching from the sidelines for the Tennessee game. I don’t know why, even though I wasn’t playing, that moment of beating Tennessee was one of the biggest moments of my career. I wanted to be out there so badly, but SI and I would lock eyes in those moments and think, `I can’t wait to do this. This is so cool.’ Just remembering that huge feeling of anticipation, that will always stick with me.”
Even after getting her chance to be part of big moments, like last year’s upset of No. 6 Maryland, it is still sharing in the joy of her teammate’s accomplishments that are remain at the top of her list of basketball memories.
“One standout moment that immediately comes to mind was when [Jae’Lisa Allen] scored her first point this year,” Barnette said with a huge smile, recalling the basket that gave UVa its 100th point against Delaware State. “That was awesome! I will always remember that! I loved that.”
So much of Barnette’s story, and where she has left her mark, has happened off the court. A nominee for the 2015 Allstate Good Works Team, Barnette has eagerly volunteered for almost every community service opportunity she could in the last four years. It was on one of these community service projects, a visit to UVa Children’s Hospital, that will resonate with her for the rest of her life.
“My second or third year here, there was a little girl who was really gravely ill, Olivia, that a couple of us went to visit in the hospital,” Barnette recalled. “She is healthy now and she comes to games and I’ve run into her around town and we just kind of built this little friendship. She has been such an inspiration to me. Whenever I see her, she is just the smartest and cutest and very witty. I really do appreciate the fact that we have so many opportunities for community service and to have made a friendship like that with Olivia, she’s been a huge inspiration.
“People say that when we go to community service that we’re the ones making the difference, but I really think it’s the other way around. Olivia is a bright spot from my time here and to have made that connection through a hospital visit that was set up through our basketball team is so cool.”
Barnette’s genuine concern about people and interest in making a connection and learning their stories goes well beyond hospital visits and reading programs at local elementary schools. On autograph Sundays, a quick glance will tell you at which table Barnette is seated – the one with the longest line. The number of people waiting for her autograph isn’t just a testimony to her popularity, it is also because she takes the time to chat with each and every person when they reach the front of the line.
“No matter if you play or if you don’t, if you win or if you lose, these people go crazy just to get you to write your name on their poster and it is really one of my favorite things to do,” Barnette said. “I do try to take the time to ask people their names and something about their story. I ask if they want me to write their name on their paper because I don’t really see how my name is more important than theirs and I want theirs to be on there, too. I try to remember those people’s names and it can be hard, but they make me feel so important and I want them to know they’re equally important.”
The rapport that Barnette has cultivated with fans has definitely made her a fan favorite. Several weeks ago, a fan named Lillie sent a picture to the women’s basketball office of her new stuffed giraffe that she had named Sarah Beth.
“That just blew my mind,” Barnette said. “It is so cool to have that kind of impact on someone and I love giraffes too, actually! That’s one of my favorite animals, I don’t know if she knew that.”
Of course, the people that Barnette has formed the deepest bonds with these last four years are her teammates. The stories of those moments, from times like trying to teach Imovbioh how to swim to even just giggly moments in car rides to practice, are ones she will always treasure.
“There are some funny memories of waking up early for workouts, particularly in the springtime and going over to Kellogg and picking up some of the girls with some of the conversations we would have and the music we would play. I’m going to miss that for sure,” Barnette said. “You don’t think you’re going to miss waking up at 5 a.m. or 6 a.m. when it’s happen, but I’m going to miss those moments. Why else would I be doing that? Moments in between everything we do are special and it’s special because of the people.”
The finale of Barnette’s story would be incomplete without an appearance by some of the most important people in her life: her family. Her parents, Ross and Michelle, and her older brother, Ryan, will definitely be in attendance today while her younger brother, Taylor, and her grandparents were still valiantly trying to find a way to make it to her special day.
“Sports are pretty big in my family’s life, and just being active in general, but I have such a great family and such great parents, and I know that whatever I would have been interested in, that’s what they would have taken interest in. That is something I really love about them. They’ve shown me so much support by making the trips here when they can and showing up at away games. It’s just such a great feeling to have your family somewhere that they don’t have to be. I know that they will continue to do that for the rest of my life with whatever I’m interested in. That goes for my brothers, too, and for my grandparents. After games, no matter how it went, I can always count on those seven texts or so from my family who were watching, listening or clicking on stats. They are supportive and it just means a ton. My family has a really sturdy foundation that I have been so fortunate to grow up with.”