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About Messiah Athletics
Messiah Athletics at a glance:
Location: Grantham, PA
College Founded: 1909
College Enrollment: 2,900
Athletics Director: Jack Cole
Athletics Phone: (717) 691-6018
Affiliation: NCAA Division III
Conference: Middle Atlantic
Number of teams: 22
Colors: Navy and White
Team name: Falcons

Pursuing Athletic Excellence … Developing Christian Character
These are the two goals for which Messiah Athletics is known. Our student-athletes and coaches know our philosophy is that, if we don’t accomplish both of these goals in a season, then we have not had a successful season.  Doing one without doing the other is not good enough at Messiah, we hold each other accountable to meeting these goals.

This is intercollegiate athletics – not intramurals.  There is a scoreboard.  We compete against other institutions; one team will leave the event with a win, and the other with a loss.  Conference standings are published.  There are championships in every sport in which we compete.  Pursuing athletic excellence is important.

But equally important is the way we compete.  As we work at developing character, how do our student-athletes carry themselves during competition?  How do they do in the classroom?  Are our athletes serious students?  Do they demonstrate sportsmanship as they compete?  Does their faith impact the way they approach the game?  Developing Christian character is every bit as important to us.

We often talk about these goals.  They are on signs.  They appear on letterhead.  They appear on awards.  They are on the cover of our Student-Athlete Handbook.  We want people to know that this is what Messiah Athletics is all about.

The Scope of Messiah’s Program
Messiah is a member of the National Collegiate Athletic Association – more commonly known as the NCAA – and is a Division III member.  Being Division III means that we do not offer any financial aid based on athletic ability.  Our athletes are true amateurs, and they compete because they love the sport.

Messiah is in the Middle Atlantic Conference (MAC), a group of 15 Division III institutions.  The MAC is divided into the Commonwealth and Freedom Conferences; Messiah is in the Commonwealth Conference with five other Pennsylvania colleges in 2007: Albright, Elizabethtown, Lebanon Valley, Lycoming, and Widener.  In most team sports, we compete against those five schools.  In a few team sports, and in all individual sports, we compete in the MAC.

In 2010-11, Messiah has 11 women’s sports and 11 men’s sports.  Women compete in basketball, cross country, field hockey, indoor track and field, lacrosse, outdoor track and field, soccer, softball, swimming, tennis and volleyball.  Men’s sports include baseball, basketball, cross country, golf, indoor track and field, lacrosse, outdoor track and field, soccer, swimming, tennis and wrestling.

How Athletics Supports Messiah’s Mission
Athletics is part of the cocurriculum and an integral part of the educational side of the College – and we believe that this is where Division III programs should be.  We’re housed in the Student Affairs Division at Messiah.  Our coaches are members of the Community of Educators, and that supports our conviction that we are indeed educators.  It’s just that our classrooms and laboratories look different than the typical classroom and lab you might find in Boyer Hall or Jordan Science Center.  Our classrooms are the soccer field, the track, the artificial turf field, the baseball and softball fields, the volleyball court, the basketball floor, and other indoor and outdoor venues. Our classrooms include the locker room, the training room, and practice fields as well. 

And we know that the impact coaches have on their student-athletes is significant – student-athletes will see coaches and staff every day during the season for several hours; will travel with them in buses or vans; will see how they react to bad calls from officials; and will share tears of joy after a big win or tears of sorrow after a tough loss.  The lessons taught by the coach over four years will last a lifetime.

Our mission in Athletics supports the College’s educational mission:  The Department of Athletics at Messiah College seeks to develop Christian character while pursuing athletic excellence.  In doing so, the Department fulfills Messiah College’s mission to educate men and women toward maturity of intellect, character, and Christian faith.

It is clear that intercollegiate athletics supports the College’s educational mission.

Lessons Learned Through Participation in Messiah Athletics
We have a list of lessons that participation in Athletics can teach.  There are 15 of them, and we refer to them as our “Core Values.”  Development will occur as the student-athlete:

Learns to seek excellence;
Develops core support and relationships within the team and a mentoring relationship with the coach;
Sets, maintains, and achieves goals;
Develops and implements servant-leadership skills;
Learns teamwork and cooperation, and recognizes that s/he is part of the community/group;
Experiences self-sacrifice for greater team prosperity;
Develops a sincere work ethic;
Develops integrity;
Learns to answer a challenge;
Develops perseverance;
Develops discipline;     
Experiences shared suffering;
Learns to follow;
Learns time-management skills; and
Develops sport-specific skills.

Why Messiah Does So Well
Why is Messiah achieving its goals of Pursuing Athletic Excellence and Developing Christian Character?  There are several reasons.

Messiah is a Christian academic community.  It has a niche as a Christian institution – there are student-athletes who want an education with a Christian worldview.  The College’s motto is Christ Preeminent.  Messiah is a strong academic community, recognized for its outstanding faculty and challenging coursework.

Second, our coaches and Athletics staff members are knowledgeable and hard-working, and there’s a stability within the department that makes a difference.  All of our staff members are committed to Messiah’s mission.  They know that there isn’t much point in “talking the talk” if they aren’t “walking the walk” as they serve as role models and mentors for our student-athletes.

The third reason, one that is every bit as important as the first two, is the attitudes with which our student-athletes approach competition as they represent Messiah.  They are students, first and foremost.  We may have an athlete or two who can play at a professional level, but there are few of them.  Our student-athletes are here to learn, to receive a degree, to graduate.  They are smart – and smart student-athletes will be more successful in sports.

More importantly, their purposes for competing may differ from our opponents’ purposes.  All student-athletes, at Messiah and at every school with whom we compete, play for themselves, for their families, for their teammates and their coach, and for their institution.  But beyond that, Messiah student-athletes believe that they are playing for the Savior whose name they wear on their uniforms.  Our student-athletes take that seriously.  Their purpose goes beyond what others’ purposes may be:  Their purpose is to glorify God.

Final Thoughts
Our women’s soccer coach, Scott Frey, said it best prior to the 2002 national championship game.  He told our team in the locker room, with CBS cameras alongside for the moment, “We are a playing a sport we love, with teammates we love, for a God we love.”  That statement basically sums up our student-athletes’ approach to competition.

There is a poem titled Teamwork (the author is unknown).  It goes like this:

You can pitch a no-hit ball game, but it’s just another loss
If the errors of your teammates put opponents’ runs across.
You might be a brilliant shooter, run and jump with easy grace,
But you’ll miss the winning basket if a teammate’s out of place.
In the sporting world of business, in the office or the mill,
Nothing can produce a winner like a little teamwork will.

When teamwork at Messiah includes our God as its captain, we can approach competition and athletics participation as a truly wonderful opportunity.