courtesy of Joshua Hutchinson '04
Coaches score high as role models
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Athletics as a ‘venue for growth’
In keeping with the College mission, Messiah coaches and alumni address character and personal growth issues holistically, integrating the physical disciplines of athletics with the intellectual and spiritual aspects of maturity and Christian faith. Messiah’s soccer coaches, for example, have developed for their teams 9 foundational principles, 11 core values, and a statement of Christian values that focuses on faith, integrity, discipline, trust, sportsmanship, and teamwork. The coaches relay these principles as “a steady message,” in and out of season, explains Dave Brandt ’85, former men’s head soccer coach and athletics public relations representative at the College (see article about Brandt on page 17). “We talk about these things in ways that are not just specific to athletics or soccer, but try to apply them to our journey as people of faith,” he says.
Likewise, during his 20 years of coaching at EMU, Lester Zook has found opportunities to talk to his teams about Christian scriptural teaching. “I see sport as the opportunity to nudge us to grow in every area of our life,”
including the spiritual aspects, he says. “One thing we’ve talked about quite a bit is that the visible things people look at—like whether we’re winning or coming in first or getting a lot of medals—really are not important to the audience that matters most. God isn’t looking at the outward appearance; he’s looking at our hearts. He’s looking at whether we demonstrate humility and honor and integrity.”
Cheri (Kolb) Horst ’90, field hockey head coach at Garden Spot High School in New Holland, Pennsylvania, also takes to heart the unique opportunity coaches have to encourage personal responsibility. In her current role, Horst says, “My coaching philosophy, bottom line, is ministry. This is an opportunity for me to plant seeds in young athletes’ lives.”
For himself and his teams, Fogelsanger has found athletics to be “a great venue for positive self-growth, for practicing life skills, and for finding God when we’re feeling broken or confident.” In his experience, chronic injuries present the most difficult challenges and disappointments, especially when athletes must miss whole seasons to heal properly. But, in the pursuit of finding life-balance, these difficulties can also produce meaningful growth as athletes practice patience and perseverance in physical therapy and learn to accept their limits in training. “[At Messiah] we are at the top of our conference and region because we train on the edge—and sometimes we [inadvertently] go over the edge. Athletics is not an exact science—it is both a science and an art— both physiologically and psychologically,” adds Fogelsanger.
On several levels, facing and accepting limits go hand-in-hand with sports, both for individuals and teams, and for athletes and coaches. “The tape measure and clock are very objective,” says Fogelsanger. “You have to accept responsibility for the results, and that’s tough sometimes to deal with.”
As with many college coaches, both Brandt and Fogelsanger have experienced the pressures of the highly competitive NCAA environment. According to Brandt, “As a coach, you can never have done too much and, for that reason, it is certainly a job you take home with you.”
Says Fogelsanger, “I had to realize that I can’t do it all.” In track and field, for instance, “there are 80 athletes, 23 events, meet-logistics, recruiting; there’s always more I can do for the team; but I need to practice what I teach, trying to balance team, family, and self.”