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Coaches
By Mike Van Denend

 

Today, college coaches often make headlines for the wrong reasons. They leave one six-figure position for another with an even higher payday. They physically abuse players and they put Ws before As, Bs and Cs.

I was watching Calvin men's basketball coach Kevin Vande Streek on a local sports broadcast about 24 hours after the Knights won the NCAA Division III National Championship. He was asked about the highlight of this dream season.

The coach said, "It was my privilege to work closely with such fine Christian young men. These men exemplify what athletics at a Christian college is all about."

Good thing I caught the remark on late night television. That comment didn't make many headlines.

I had the unforgettable experience of doing the radio broadcast of the Calvin women's basketball game against Capital University in Ohio during the team's amazing NCAA tournament run into the "Sweet Sixteen."

The Calvin women won an incredible come-from-behind victory over the heavily favored home team as Pella, Iowa senior Mindi Andringa nailed a three-pointer with a few seconds left.

Coach Kim Gall deflected all of the media attention to her players, saying, "These women are all heart and soul. They are incredible examples of what dedication, perseverance and teamwork is all about."

After winning back-to-back national championships in women's cross country, Coach Nancy Meyer quoted the Psalms and talked about the inner peace her runners have achieved.

"These women are, of course, very fast," she said at a championship celebration dinner. "But they are also persons of spirit and character, on God's path to greatness."

Coaches are important people in the formation of young minds and bodies. These dedicated professionals are more than athletic trainers; they help students form attitudes about themselves and others. They are teachers, counselors, critics, mediators, friends, confidants and leaders.

The best coaches do one more thing. They know that the heart is the most important muscle an athlete can exercise.

They know this because they have taken great care to develop their own hearts.

Win or lose, the well-developed heart helps an athlete realize that the greatest victory lies in how Christ is honored in behavior not only during the game, but also in every moment before the gun goes off and every moment after the last buzzer sounds.

Sure, the well-developed heart helps the well-conditioned body initiate an incredible dunk or a great kick to win at the tape. But that same heart delights in the successes of a bench player and the personal record time of a teammate whose finish doesn't count in the final scoring. It even delights in the excellent performance of an opponent.

I am pleased to report that Calvin College employs coaches that seek to exercise hearts.

Oh, and at Calvin, the coaches fill yet another important role.

On that same late night sports show mentioned above, Coach Vande Streek was asked what was the he'd be doing next week now that the season was over at last and every goal had been reached.

He replied, " I'll be grading the 120 papers that need to be marked before my students get back from spring break."

Thanks, coaches.

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