Not long ago, I heard secondary teacher Trent De Jong describe athletics by saying, “At ACS we don’t just compete, we represent.” I heard a great story the other day from one of our coaches in the staff room that exemplified this idea. Here is Joanne Friesen, the Junior Boys’ Volleyball Head Coach, in her own words:
Billy Graham once said, “A coach will impact more people in a year than the average person does in a lifetime.” In 2016, our junior boys volleyball coaching team knew we had the potential for greatness. We had the depth and the skill to take it all; Provincial bound!
“Eye on the prize,” as they always say. Although our expectations for the season were high, there was something deeper we desired. We wanted to coach boys how to be men who could impact the Kingdom of God. We never lost sight of this focus for the whole season.
Strong and Unified
Early in the season, after a difficult win on the volleyball court, the opposing coach shook my hand and asked for a moment of my time. To my amazement, this strong, determined, and seasoned coach asked me, “How do you coach your players, because they are different?”
I talked about prayer, worship, and the way in which we taught these young men to seek the heart of God. That’s what made us different. We talked for about half an hour.
I met this coach again late in the season at the provincial championship tournament in Kelowna. That day, we started our day reading from Philippians 2, which speaks of humility and having a like-mind and attitude of Christ.
Off we went to the gym to face a big game. We were strong and unified.
On the way to the game, the same coach I had spoken to months earlier told me that she had mentioned our ACS Jr. Boys in their team time that morning as an example of what a team ought to look like. She wanted me to know this.
I gave a quick smile, nodded and said thank you. I was sure that our paths as teams were going to cross later that day in the quarter finals and our goal was to compete well against them.
Dazed and Confused
Sure enough, we met this team at the quarter finals. As a team we worked hard to remain unified, to work our offensive and defensive strategies, to encourage one another, but in the third set after a well fought battle, there was an upset and we lost.
It was a devastating loss because it knocked us out of the championship round. As a coaching staff, we stood there bewildered at the turn of events, watching our exhausted players trying to make sense of it.
As I shook hands under the net with the opposing coach, she reached under the net and gave me a big hug. It was awkward, for sure, and not just because there was a volleyball net between us. But then she said, “I need to tell you how much we loved playing your team because they are men who exemplify Christ and you showed us how to do that this season. The things you told me months ago changed our whole season. Thank-you.”
Shaping God’s World
I know what you may be thinking, “You helped a team become a team. And that team eventually beat you in the championship tournament. How does that feel?” I will admit there were parts of me that felt the irony of the moment. But I also know there is more to this than a banner or a championship medal. I know that our boys learned something eternal through this season. For when people see Christ in us, by our character and our attitude, we have raised a banner high.
By the time that tournament was over, we knew we had experienced the best season ever and we didn’t come first.
PS – Our Junior Boys Volleyball team did finish in 5th place in BC, winning our final game of the season definitively and without discouragement. Many said, “It was amazing to watch a team that could have won it all, play like that for 5th place. THAT was something to see.”