Coaches score high as role models
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It takes a team
During their “12 seasons” over four years in college cross country, indoor track, and track and field, Fogelsanger has three goals for his runners: that each one becomes more Christ-centered, self-motivated, and—as he puts it—“team-enriched.” Fogelsanger explains: “If we trained and raced by ourselves, none of us would run as fast or throw and jump as far as we can when part of a team.” Even though track and field is an individual sport, “by training and competing together, everyone performs better.” The team offers encouragement, adds Fogelsanger, and accountability.
Hutchinson agrees. In high school, he played for Montrose Christian School’s nationally ranked basketball team in Rockville, Maryland. He says his coaches gave him “a tremendous amount of attention” even though he wasn’t one of the starting players. “They continually pushed me because they knew I would push the guys who played a lot,” he says. Even as a reserve player on a great team, Hutchinson knew he was needed and benefited from the experience. “I got to see what good basketball was, and I got to rise to that level in a lot of ways.” As a coach, Hutchinson says his playing experience as a second-string player helps him understand the whole team “because I wasn’t a star.” He knows that good players make great players better through daily interaction and competition.
The sheer number of hours coaches, athletes, and teammates spend together deepens not only “the bench,” but also the personal bonds among them. Most sports programs develop team subcultures and traditions that foster belonging, trust, and personal growth. During her years on Messiah’s field hockey team, Cheri Horst found this support personally transforming. She says that team prayer before games and weekly team devotions gradually worked on her and helped her “find her feet” and her place at Messiah. Eventually, she realized, “How I acted and treated people on the field reflected who I was as a Christian.” At the time, says Horst, this concept was a revelation to her. “I didn’t do a very good job of that my first year,” she recalls. “You get in the heat of competition and think [overreacting] is acceptable, when it’s not.”
At times, playing a sport and being on a team is simply fun. The “fun,” in fact, is no small part of why Dale Fogelsanger continues to coach and encourages the social side of team life by hosting dinners, leading team mission trips during spring break, and cultivating other team traditions. The runners look forward to the little things, such as making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for each other at meets, Fogelsanger says. “In cross country, not everyone can score, but I want everybody to have the same awesome experience I had.”
Passing the baton
Reaching specific, personal goals was a highlight of Fogelsanger’s “awesome experience” as an athlete. And, as a coach, he has continued his affinity for improving Messiah’s running records. In his first year of coaching, for example, he set a goal to coach the athlete who would better the College’s—and Fogelsanger’s—400-meter record. Years later Fogelsanger reached this goal through the talent and effort of politics student Patrick Roach ’09, who set a new College record in April 2007, twenty years to the season after Fogelsanger earned the same honor.
“I remember running across the field, seeing Pat’s time, feeling very pleased for him and very excited for both of us,” he relates. The team was “jumping up and down and cheering, congratulating Pat and watching my reaction, which was sheer delight,” says Fogelsanger.
As he and his team of 80 athletes celebrated Roach’s victory, Fogelsanger could also recall the joy he felt years ago when he achieved his personal best as an athlete. But, he says, “you take that times 80” on the satisfaction scale when, as a coach, you guide others to the joy that comes with achieving hard-won goals.