Into the GPAC Season And A Little Bit More

As good a time as any to get caught up on what’s happening now that we’re a month into the fall season.

Men’s soccer is 1-1 in league play after a 1-0 loss last night to Northwestern.  The early returns have the Defenders finding the goal more often with Josh Brinkerhoff knocking in seven so far and Eric Grootenboer five.  Win over Concordia last week was a great way to start the GPAC season.

Women’s team was beset with injuries early in the season and the offense has suffered because of it.  Team is finding ways to stay close as evidenced by the 1-0 loss to Northwestern on Wednesday night.  Allison Hogan and Sarah Byron have five and four goals each to lead the team.  Katie Kortman has faced 75 shots on goal through eight games and has made 54 saves.

Road challenge for both teams on Saturday night in Lincoln.

Football team had a tough go of it on Saturday of last week, giving up 52 points against Concordia.  Defenders were hamstrung by a variety of turnovers, and could never really get it back on track until the second half when they scored two touchdowns.  This week they face a pass-happy Briar Cliff team that is averaging about 300 yards in the air per game.

Cross Country competes in one of the biggest meets, if not the biggest meet of the year from a numbers standpoint when they travel to St. Paul, Minnesota to compete in the Roy Griak Invite.  Huge day with a total of eight races being run over the course of the day.  Look for a release about women holding at #13 in the national poll later on Thursday.

Volleyball is 5-0 in the GPAC after back to back five set thrillers.  Dordt dropped Northwestern on Wednesday night, winning the first two sets and dropping three and four to set up the race to 15.  Dordt has had good balance with four players averaging between two and three kills per set.  Kayla Gesink has filled in the gaps at setter and is second on the team in digs.

A murderer’s row of sorts coming up with home matches against Doane (ranked) and Morningside before going to nationally ranked Midland next Saturday.  It’s a 16 match conference schedule in case you are curious.

Basketball teams are gearing up for practice and the ice is in the hockey arena.  Winter sports are looming.

Baseball is hosting their annual intra-squad World Series to cap the fall with the teams deadlocked at one win each.

If you don’t want to read some personal observations, you’re excused from the rest of the post….

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Why athletics?

This past week I had the opportunity to sit in on a class that is a part of Dordt’s sports management program.  Myself and Dordt athletic director Glenn Bouma took a few minutes to explain, briefly, what our jobs entail and to answer questions.

It was a sobering moment for me as I looked out at a class with 20 and 21 year olds and it jarred me, some of these students were just born when I started working professionally in athletics.  1993-1994 was my first school year of covering everything from football to wrestling to cross country to, well you name it.  Over that time I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly.

One thing I have on my rides to and from athletic events is time.  Time alone with my thoughts, I mean, a guy can only listen to so much Cornhusker football on a Saturday morning ride on the highways of Nebraska and I try to examine what I’m doing and say, does it matter, what is being accomplished through my work?  Am I getting too old for this stuff, chasing athletes across the Midwest for most of the school year?

You may have noticed I haven’t blogged much as of late.  It’s not because I don’t have topic matter.  There are still plenty of stories to tell, but with a son in high school running cross country and another in middle school playing football, and a daughter that isn’t in organized activities (yet) but is busy in her own right, some of this takes a back seat to the activities of life.

Ok, I’m getting away from my original question.

Why follow athletics, or more accurately, why do I still love organized athletics after dealing with them for nearly two decades?

I think I have my answer and it’s taken getting hit in the face with something dramatic to make it clear to me.

This story has been sitting on my desk for the better part of a month—just wondering how to use it.

As I mentioned earlier, my oldest son runs cross country.  Not a glamour sport by any means.  He’s a part of a team that includes every grade level from freshman through senior at the high school he attends.
Earlier this fall, after all of the summer running was complete, a teammate found out he had cancer on a bone in his leg.

The treatment?

Take the leg.

A cross country runner with no leg.  That’s like a radio announcer with no vocal chords.

Hardly seems fair.

How’s that kid going to respond?

How are his teammates going to respond?

So the runners and coach do what runners and coaches do.  They care for the fallen athlete and they prepare to do the best they can in competitions.

They and their families remember him in their prayers.

They try to enjoy each day.

They learn in a very real way that we live in a fallen world where we are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus.

Ironic isn’t it?

The hands, and the feet.

They find out what it means to be a part of a body.

And then the athlete comes back and is at a meet in late September on crutches.  When the meet is over the runners are seen getting a wheelchair out.  They include their teammate in the post-meet cool down.
Other teams and runners get the chance, first hand, to see a team made up of individuals caring about someone other than themselves and this is what it looked like.

Brings tears to my eyes to see those smiles.

Now, some may see a group of high school boys and that’s true, but I see more.

I see future leaders in our churches, schools and families.  I see young men who are going to be better husbands, fathers and sons because of how they are coping with a very traumatic experience.

And I think athletics is a vehicle to teach many of those strengths.

That’s why, after 20 years of travel and time away from home, I still love athletics and the lessons it can teach.

This weekend Jake Slings, a pitcher on the Dordt baseball team the last two seasons will be back on campus.

Jake was diagnosed with leukemia earlier this summer and has been undergoing treatments since.  I’d guess he’ll be welcomed by his team with open arms because a part of the team’s body will be there that had been missing.

Some learning takes place in the classroom.  Some takes place in the dorms.  Some happens in labs that span a couple hours.

And some of it happens on the athletic fields and courts in practice and competitions.

And that’s why I still love athletics.

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