Lisa Winkle and Becky Weima are two of the most accomplished athletes in Calvin’s history. Both graduates will be teaching this fall in local Christian high schools—Winkle at South Christian (Grand Rapids) and Weima at Holland Christian. The following is their reflection on their college careers.
Why did you choose Calvin?
Winkle: I ended up choosing Calvin because I wanted to compete in both basketball and track. After visiting Calvin, I just really liked the Christian community here, and that was a huge draw for me. I also felt like the academics at Calvin were really strong, and I am going to college for an education, not just to play sports, so that was definitely high on the list as well.
Weima: When I was in high school just thinking about what colleges to go to, I had kind of a different picture in my mind of where I wanted to go. I wanted to get that Division I scholarship. But when I visited those places, I was so disappointed, and it was really because of the people that I had met and the coaches and the people on the swim team. The facilities were amazing and they had so much to offer to their athletes, but it was definitely the people who I met and had come in contact with, and it just didn’t click. So I came to visit Calvin and I was just so taken back because I almost didn’t want to like it as much as I did. It was the people that I met and Dan [Gelderloos], the coach, and the philosophy that Calvin has that we are not just swimmers or basketball players, but we’re athletes and we’re Christians and we have relationships to build with people. That really struck, and I knew in my heart that I had to go here even though all along in my plan I had pictured myself not coming here. It just goes to show that God has a place for us, and things fall into your lap when he wants them to work out the way they do.
Do you feel like you picked the right place?
Winkle: Now that we are seniors, a lot of my teammates have asked me, “Do you ever regret your decision or wish you had gone someplace else?” I definitely don’t because I think about how I’ve grown as a person. I just don’t see how that could have happened at a different school. And the relationships I’ve had with my teammates, I think it’s so much deeper when you can connect spiritually. It’s been amazing.
Weima: Oh my goodness, yes. I was telling my coaches, I could not imagine myself somewhere else and what type of person I would become. Coming into Calvin as a freshman, you think you know yourself and you know who you are, but I changed who I was so drastically from who I was as a freshman to a senior. Would I be that same person had I decided to go to Notre Dame or Harvard? Because of all of the wonderful opportunities that have fallen into my lap since being at Calvin, it’s just so clear to me that I was here for a reason. I feel so blessed to be here; I cannot imagine being anywhere else.
Has your experience exceeded your expectations?
Winkle: Well for me, athletically, it has far exceeded my expectations. When I came here, I remember I was talking with Aaron Winkle [Calvin’s coordinator for Christian formation for athletes and teams] and I just said, “Well, I guess I’ll just try to play basketball for a year, and we’ll just see how it goes,” and I didn’t think I would really play, and then all of a sudden I was starting my freshman year. So, just that was a huge surprise, and just the success that our team has had has been great, and a lot of it is because of Coach [John] Ross. He’s a great coach, so that has been wonderful.
Weima: My first year, I was disappointed, not the way things went personally, because I was happy with that, but just as a team. The swim team had hit kind of a lull, and we weren’t sending many swimmers to nationals. Then that next year it was just a world of difference; all of the sudden we were sending relays to nationals, and that’s when it really became fun and exciting and just more than I’d thought it would be. Going to nationals this past year with 13 or 14 girls—and looking back to my freshman year when we only had two—has been the most fun thing to be a part of. Not only on our record boards and winning MIAA championships, but to be a part of a team that’s grown from just being about individual members to a team that cares so much and everyone being a part of the reason why we ended up being there. So that has exceeded my expectations and just surprised me by, like Lisa said, how much your team can become a family and just the support system that we get as athletes here.
What is the No. 1 way that Calvin will continue to influence you when you leave?
Weima: I think the biggest thing is leadership. As a freshman I looked at myself as not really being a leader. I was a captain on my swim team my senior year of high school, but I considered that making goody bags and locker posters. How great of a leader is that? Going to Gainey [Leadership Retreat] is probably one of the most influential experiences that I’ve had since I’ve been at Calvin, and it really has shaped not only my athletics, but also my teaching. When I applied for a job, they asked, “What else can you bring to the table besides teaching?” And I honestly said, “leadership.” I feel that I had not necessarily seen that gift in me, but people at Calvin have shown me that gift and have been able to encourage that gift.
Winkle: I would agree that the biggest thing that I’ve learned is leadership. I was always a quieter person, and I didn’t see how my personality could be a leader on a team. So I guess the big thing that I learned at the Gainey Leadership Retreat was that any personality can be a leader. So over the past three years, I have really learned how to stay within what I feel comfortable with as a person. I noticed that I approach friendships, my teaching, everything a lot differently because you learn where your focus should be. I’ve learned that you have to have a servant leader, and that plays out in my classroom as well. It really changes my approach in how I am going to teach my class if I look at it with more of a servant leadership heart.
Any final reflections before leaving Calvin?
Weima: After my last race at the NCAA Division III nationals, it hit me, and it wasn’t just because I was done swimming. It was because I was leaving this group of people. I’ve developed relationships that are going to stick with me for the rest of my life, but it’s not the same thing as fighting for one goal together, going through the same things, sharing each other’s joys and burdens. I just started crying; I was just so sad. But now that I look back on it, I don’t regret anything for a minute. I know I’m leaving this place with people who are going to do the same things that Lisa and I have helped other people do. It’s so encouraging and such a great feeling to look back and see the freshmen who have such great leadership potential, and I know that they’re going to do so much more. So that’s what kind of gives me happiness instead of being sad.
Winkle: I would say that it’s just sort of a bittersweet time. I think about what we’ve built together as a coach and a team, and that makes me really excited. I think my past four years have been successful because hopefully I’ve had an impact on underclassmen and have been able to show them how to be a Christian leader and a Christian athlete. I think that I am ready to move on. I feel like I’m completely prepared to enter into the next phase of my life.
Weima: After I was done swimming, I went to Aaron Winkle and he said to me, “You know I shared the same struggles and the same emotions after I was done playing basketball.” He kept asking himself the question, which I kept asking myself, too: Is this all? Is this all I’m going to become? Is there anything greater I’m going to accomplish than being this MVP swimmer and everything that I have been awarded? Am I ever going to top this? And he just told me that it’s amazing how God is always preparing you for what’s next, and that there is always something bigger that He has planned for us. So that was really encouraging for me to hear that this isn’t all that there is. And Calvin has done such a great job of preparing us for those next steps to come.
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