Humbled Early

Humbled Early

– Kennedy Collins

“Being humbled early,” a phrase Christal Peterson uses to describe early events that led to her career as the Character Formation Coordinator at Baylor. Through selflessness and a willingness to trust life’s process, Peterson stepped out of cleats and into character development.  

The Houston, Texas native was born to St. Lucian parents who played sports growing up. When her father and cousins raved about basketball, she thought she would give it a try in high school.  

Although she was the fastest on the team, she was not the tallest. She stood at 5’6″ during her sophomore year. Peterson says this is when she knew she did not want to play basketball any longer. When a friend asked Peterson to try out for the cross-country team with her, she nonchalantly got her feet wet in track and field. Her main focus was to learn the sport, not to achieve her best times. Junior year, her mind shifted as she realized her potential and she toiled to become as fast as she could.  

Her junior year was explosive. She joined the USA Indoor Nationals team, won state champion in Group3A (finishing the 20M with a time of 24.09), was the runner-up for the 100M with a time of 11.88, and broke the 60M dash record at the Nike Indoor Nationals. Soon, her phone was ringing off the hook.  

When it came down to choosing a school, Peterson’s father put things into perspective. He asked her if she could no longer run track for that prospective school, would she enjoy getting her education there? As she was pondering other schools, the University of Central Florida called her mother, something other schools had not done. Peterson says her visit to UCF checked every box because she was immediately inducted into a family.  

Lap after lap, second after second, she chased after a career in track until injury struck during her sophomore year at UCF. Left thinking about her future, Peterson got more involved with UCF’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) and learned about who she was off the track.  

During her senior year, while at the Swords Awards, an award show for UCF student-athletes, the UCF Men’s Soccer coach, Scott Calabrese, and she had a conversation about her future. He recommended UCF’s DeVos Sports Business Management program. Peterson says this was pivotal because someone was envisioning more for her future than she did for herself. She would go on to join DeVos and complete the program.  

In 2019, the phone rang again. Baylor University, looking to strengthen their department, offered Peterson a job as their Character Formation Coordinator. Peterson describes her role as, “taking a person for who they are, unedited, and transforming them into the best version of themselves, whether they know it or not.” 

As she builds on her leadership foundation and does for student-athletes what Calabrese did for her, she advises young, black women not to take life’s tribulations for granted. “Trust the process, embrace the ‘no’s’, and never question your worth,” she says. “The ‘yes’s’ will all make sense after the ‘no’s’ happened.”

Watch Christal’s episode: