“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”
Lauren Sisler loved gymnastics. As she grew up, she loved spending time in the gym and made it her goal to compete at the next level. She wanted to give back to all those who had supported her from the beginning. She spent her high school days training and preparing every day for the chance to compete collegiately. As she sent out letters and highlights to schools throughout the country, she got a note from Rutgers. Although it had never been on her radar, she visited and fell in love with the campus. After signing her letter of intent, she was off to New Jersey to compete for the Scarlet Knights.Going to Rutgers, faith was a big part of Lauren Sisler’s identity. Growing up in Virginia, Sisler says faith was always important for her family. She credits her parents for making faith a priority. “Faith has been such a big part of my life. I grew up going to church and someone who used Christ to help me through my sports career. I would say my prayers and talk to God often. I knew that no matter the challenges life threw at me, God would lift me through it.” Her parents were her biggest supporters. During her first year at Rutgers, her parents came out to visit. Her coaches graciously put her in so she could compete in front of her parents, who Lauren said were the loudest ones in the stands. She hugged them before they left and they said their goodbyes. It was the last time Lauren would see them. On March 23rd, 2003, Lauren called her parents like she normally would. “We talked about life, talked about gymnastics and how things were going. Said I love you, and hung up the phone. That was it, nothing out of the ordinary.” Lauren went to bed before waking up at 3 AM on March 24 to a tragic phone call from her dad. “I woke up to a phone call at 3 o’clock in the morning, and it was my dad telling me my mom died. I was so confused about what had happened. He said he would be at the airport to pick me up.” As Lauren tried to hold herself together and get her things ready, she arrived at the airport to realize her dad wasn’t there, either. “He never made it. Instead it was my cousin and uncle who delivered the news that my dad had passed away. Later we would find out that my parents were battling prescription drug addiction. They were fighting a concealed battle with addiction and were unable to overcome it.” Two fatal overdoses had left Lauren broken.
Sisler says that she was blindsided by the news. She knew her parents had been taking painkillers, but she never realized the severity of it. She went back to school, and says it was a roller coaster ride. She fought her way through nights filled with tears and worked toward taking each day one step at a time. Although she wanted to be strong, Lauren says it was difficult to recover. However, she says that through her support system, she soon learned she didn’t want to run away anymore. “I had to be the one to take that first step. About a year and a half after my parents passed away, that is when my faith began to come into the forefront again. There was initially a lot of shock, anger, and sadness, and what I was finding out was when I needed God most I was turning my back on God. I realized that this is when I need him and need to lean on him more than ever. As I started to open my heart back to God and realize that he would get me through this, things started to change.”
As Lauren continued to rebound from that night, she said she spent years in shame over how her parents passed away. Now, she is looking to use her story to inspire others. “I spent 7 years living in shame and running away. I was ashamed of it. I never wanted to use the words addiction for my parents. As I got older and started to understand what addiction was, I realized we are all impacted from addiction. Nobody is exempt from life’s circumstances. I can use my story to influence and impact other people’s lives.” For Lauren, that influence has come through sports.
Always loving sports, Lauren got into broadcasting soon after her collegiate years ended. After initially covering local stories in Virginia, she got her chance working for a CBS affiliate in Alabama. As she has worked her way up, she now stands as a sideline reporter for ESPN and the SEC Network, where she says she is working to use her platform as an opportunity to share her faith and tell others they are not alone. “Being able to be a sports broadcaster, I have the opportunity to share stories. I have the opportunity to be a platform for these players, athletes, and fans. As I become the storyteller, I realize I am also part of the story. My goal is to share my story and be as open and transparent as I can be to help others through their struggle. I feel my purpose on this earth has been revealed. Through my faith I have found my purpose. Success is not all about the job you have or the car you drive or the money you make, success is measured on significance.”
As Lauren continues her career reporting on games across the country, she also continues to inspire countless lives with her messages of hope and encouragement. “We all have a struggle and we all are facing challenges. But what is important is how we respond. I believe I have been delivered through hardships. My spiritual journey has only continued to grow and show itself in my life as I have opened my heart to him.”