By NICHOLE GOLDEN, Staff Writer | Published August 4, 2016
ATLANTA—Newlyweds Sara and Gary Schmitt understand that both marriage and competitive sports take a good deal of teamwork.
Gary Schmitt is known as “Schmitty” at St. Pius X High School in Atlanta, where he has served as athletic trainer for 14 years. His bride is head coach of the girls soccer team, an assistant for the cross country team, and teaches math.
The January wedding of the Schmitts at the Cathedral of Christ the King in Atlanta was a time of celebration for the entire St. Pius X High School family.
“It was a total St. Pius community effort,” said Sara Schmitt.
Students, alumni and parents pitched in to make the day special, handling details from wedding planning to video production.
Many of the students were surprised to learn of the engagement of two of their favorite educators in April 2015.
“We did date a long time—seven and a half years,” said Sara Schmitt. “When he proposed to me, he actually announced it at Mass.”
The couple met for the first time in the summer of 2007, just as the newly hired coach was preparing for soccer camp.
“She was in my office checking on athletes,” recalled Schmitty.
His wife remembers the first meeting in the training room differently and said that he asked for her phone number in the event of emergencies.
“He says I spied him. There’s definitely a discrepancy,” she said.
They eventually began spending time together and the friendship blossomed.
“She’s just a really wonderful person,” said Schmitty.
The trainer said winning is important to his favorite coach but that “it’s not her main focus.”
Instead, she works to help her athletes be better.
That strategy seems to work for the girls soccer team. Under Coach Schmitt’s leadership, the team won its fourth straight state title this spring after a 2-0 victory against Marist School in Class AAAA. Schmitt has guided the team to seven championships in the last eight years.
“We love going to baseball games”
Soccer has long been part of the former Sara Geiger’s life. The oldest in a family of four children, she played for Parkview High School in Lilburn and the Gwinnett Soccer Association, scoring the game-winning goal for her school her senior year. She continued to play in college at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama.
Schmitty is a native of Sheboygan Falls, Wisconsin, and was the youngest child in his family.
“I grew up being an athletic trainer,” he said.
He loves helping young people overcome injury and compete.
“They come back, and say ‘Schmitty, thanks for everything’.”
A certified athletic trainer, he worked with world-renowned orthopedic surgeon James Andrews in Birmingham before coming to St. Pius X in 2002. He has also worked pre-season camps with the Atlanta Falcons. Schmitty earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh and then a master’s degree at Eastern Kentucky University.
Supporting Golden Lions sports and Atlanta professional teams is something they enjoy doing together.
“It’s a huge part of our dynamic,” she said. “We love going to baseball games.”
Both husband and wife are outgoing by nature, try to be good listeners and include others.
“We’re just two people who like to say ‘hello’,” said Sara.
In addition to serving as athletic trainer, Schmitty also oversees ESPX, the school’s webcast primarily featuring athletic events.
Principal Steve Spellman calls the Schmitts two of his “most favorite people ever.”
“Sara and Gary are both true professionals. They are truly dedicated educators who always ask the most of their students, but at the same time, always give their best to them,” said Spellman. “They love their jobs and it shows each and every day.”
The first challenge as a couple arrived just four days after their engagement. While jogging together, Schmitty suffered an injury to his Achilles tendon. He became a patient, and his fiancée the caregiver.
“That was the trial run,” she said.
“I was testing those wedding vows,” he said.
“I was going to be a bachelor”
Msgr. Richard Lopez was celebrant for the evening wedding Mass at the cathedral. Both Schmitts agreed that the feeling of love in the sanctuary was palpable.
“I was an emotional mess,” said Schmitty. “I didn’t see her. As she got closer I just lost it. Her hand was shaking.”
They both wanted the emphasis to be on the sacrament of marriage.
“We did it as bare minimum as you could do,” said Sara. “We tried to keep it simple.”
Jim Grady and Barry Lennon, members of the St. Pius X community, provided food for guests. Carson Travers and Kaitlyn Orman, both 2014 graduates of SPX, were the photographers. Their former classmate Matthew Coody served as DJ for the reception.
Parent Judy Manzo volunteered in a special way to help the bride and groom.
“She was the most help. She was my wedding coordinator for free,” said Sara about Manzo.
St. Pius X students and teachers returned to the classroom Aug. 3. The newly married educators used part of their summer vacation to take a delayed wedding trip to Aruba.
Now, they are adjusting to married life.
“My closet shrunk. There’s makeup everywhere,” joked Schmitty.
“I love coming home and seeing her,” he added.
The Schmitts are aware they can provide an example of the vocation of marriage to young people, showing the importance of working together.
“They certainly see how much we love each other,” she said.
Schmitty never expected to be getting married at the age of 46. “I’m glad I waited. I was going to be a bachelor.”
They both said marriage should not be rushed and that God is most important to the relationship.
Principal Spellman remembers Msgr. Lopez saying he had never seen such happiness between two people.
“When they got married, the church was packed, and when Gary walked out onto the altar at Christ the King, the entire church applauded,” said Spellman. “They are beloved by all, and the impact that they have both made is immeasurable and you just love it when the romance began at St. Pius X by being friends and developed into being husband and wife.”