Hope Athletics Podcast: Leigh Sears, Women’s Soccer

Leigh Sears chose to treat this fall for the Hope College women’s soccer team the same as previous seasons, even though so much is different.

The Flying Dutch practice every afternoon, following guidelines from the NCAA and Ottawa County Department of Health. The Saturdays that previously featured game days now have team workouts and special team activities.

In the latest Hope Athletics Orange and Blue Podcast, Sears talks with sports information director Alan Babbitt about her approach to this unprecedented soccer season. 

Leigh Sears points while giving directions on the soccer field.
Hope College women’s soccer coach Leigh Sears

The Flying Dutch are not scheduled to play a game until March 23, 2021 when they host Saint Mary’s College at Van Andel Soccer Stadium. It is the first of eight regular-season matches against MIAA opponents for Hope. A league tournament will conclude the season.

“We have tried to make this fall as much like a normal season as possible,” Sears said. “We decided early on that, without the pressure of the season, starting time and playing time, we would focus on individuals. We set our goals as individual goals as opposed to team goals. How can we get each player better?

“If everybody gets a little better, we’ll be that much better in the spring when it’s time to compete.”

Sears is in her 20th season as Hope’s head women’s soccer coach. She has guided the Flying Dutch to 232-116-32 overall record and six MIAA championships.

Hope finished second in the MIAA standings last season. The Flying Dutch posted a 6-5-6 overall record.

Sears is busy this fall teaching as well. She is an associate professor of kinesiology and specializes in nutrition education. 

On top of that, Sears is recovering from a breast cancer diagnosis last March that resulted in surgery and radiation. She also shares on the podcast her story as a breast cancer survivor and how she managed to handle that amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read a written transcript of the podcast.

Hope Athletics Podcast: Dan Margritz, Strength and Conditioning

Dan Margritz poses for a portrait wearing a blue sport coat, white button-up shirt and an orange tie.
Dan Margritz, Hope College strength and conditioning coach

Last Friday, Dan Margritz woke up at 3:45 a.m. and ate chicken enchilada lasagna for breakfast. He headed over to Hope College, then put in about 30,000 steps as strength and conditioning coach, or about 15 miles, before the day ended.

Life as a strength and conditioning coach is, without a question, different.

Margritz, however, loves every busy second of his day. He fuels himself so that he can train Hope College student-athletes, be a good husband and a loving father.

Margritz is this week’s guest in the Hope College Athletics Orange and Blue Podcast. He chatted with sports information director Alan Babbitt about his unusual schedule, his twin toddler daughters, and his love of Memphis barbecue.

A man constantly on the move, Margritz has been nimble the past six months. He has helped Hope student-athletes remain in top shape despite the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Margritz creatively designed and implemented safe outdoor and indoor workouts. He continued to inspire those around him with his never-ending enthusiasm and energy.

This is Margritz’s fifth year at Hope. He also is an assistant football coach who oversees linebackers.

Read a written transcript of the podcast interview.

Hope Athletics Podcast: Scott Lokers, Men’s Golf

Scott Lokers smiles as he walks on the golf course at Wuskowhan Players Club. Lynne Powe/Hope College

Head coach Scott Lokers shares his insights on the Hope College men’s golf team in this week’s edition of the Hope Athletics Orange and Blue Podcast with sports information director Alan Babbitt.

Lokers is in his fourth season leading the Flying Dutchmen on the links. He has guided Hope to two NCAA Division III Championship appearances and two Top-10 finishes at nationals during his tenure. The Flying Dutchmen were runner-up in the MIAA last season.

This season has started in a different and unprecedented fashion. With competition for the Flying Dutchmen and most NCAA Division III schools across the country postponed this fall due to COVID-19 pandemic, their focus is on skill development and building camaraderie.

“We are really young, which …. gives us the opportunity to challenge and the fun part of trying to grow together.”

Head Coach Scott Lokers

Lokers talks about how he and his golfers are trying to make the most of their fall and prepare for competing in the spring. Hope’s roster is composed of 11 golfers: five freshmen, four sophomores, one junior, and one senior. The Flying Dutchmen graduated senior Daniel Settecerri, a 2019-20 College Sports Information Directors of America Academic All-American and two-time, All-MIAA golfer.

Luke Tapini (Wayzata, Minnesota) is Hope’s lone returning senior. Austin Zolman (Wyoming, Michigan) is the returning junior. 

Sophomore Jack Crawford (Carmel, Indiana) is another key veteran for Hope. He earned All-MIAA recognition last season after recording the league’s fifth-lowest scoring average: 74.5 over 108 holes last fall.

“We are really young, which …. gives us the opportunity to challenge and the fun part of trying to grow together,” Lokers says.

During the podcast, Lokers also chats about his career as a pastor and consultant for the Reformed Church in America, his own start in the game of golf, how he began coaching with the Flying Dutchmen, and his inspiring 101-year-old father, Ray.

Read a written transcript of the podcast

Ana Tucker: “She’s a Kind of Renaissance Woman”

COVID-19 has unfortunately, and obviously, sidetracked many plans for college student-athletes across the country this year. But sophomore cross country and track student-athlete Ana Tucker has kept her focus forward, making a run at new opportunities and in new directions.

From summer research to freelance art work, from kinesiology classes to running practices, Tucker manages best when her mind and feet are in motion.

And that makes sense for this All-American student-athlete. 

Last year as a freshman, Tucker, a Midland native (Herbert Henry Dow HS), burst onto the Hope, MIAA and NCAA running scene with a fresh display of talent and a fierce competitiveness. 

In cross country, she finished second at the MIAA Championships, fourth at the NCAA Regionals, and 24th at the NCAA Division III Championships to earn All-American honors. In indoor track and field, she claimed second place in the 3,000-meter event at the 2020 MIAA Indoor Track and Field Championships, just behind teammate Anna Frazee ’20, and the two qualified for the NCAA Division III Indoor Meet. 

But as Tucker and Frazee practiced in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, on March 12, readying themselves to race the next day, the national championships were abruptly cancelled by the NCAA due to the emerging COVID-19 pandemic. They headed home to Hope with a profound level of shock and disappointment that was just beginning to grip the rest of the country.

It’s a memory Tucker would rather forget. 

Ana Tucker in the 2019 Vanderbilt Invitational, run for the first time on Hope’s campus last fall.

Yet, it’s fraught with motivation for her, too, to keep running after her goals. This past summer, she maintained her average 60 miles a week to be ready for the fall season. While she did so, she also conducted summer research with Dr. Mark Northuis, professor of kinesiology and head cross country coach, on how interventions — such as uphill interval training, plyometrics, speed work and strength training — affect running economy. The work was funded by the Coach Mark Northuis Summer Research Fund, donated by the parents of All-American runner Erin Herrmann ‘17, the Drs. Jay and Maureen Herrmann, and Constantine Family Research Fund.

Also during the summer, Tucker created illustrations for the cover of a new human anatomy laboratory workbook written by Dr. Kirk Brumels, professor of kinesiology and chair of the department, and Dr. Kevin Cole, associate professor of kinesiology and head track and field coach.

Both experiences emanated from and informed her love for her sport and for her academic path at Hope. 

“With research, I really liked independently thinking for myself, going out and finding articles myself and reading them and interpreting them,” says Tucker who is an exercise science major on a pre-physical therapy track. “In classes, everything is already put together for us to learn (by the professor). This is what you have to study. This is what you have to do. But research is more open ended: Here’s your topic, now go write a literature review. That gave me this amazing opportunity to go out and look at things on my own terms, at what really interests me.”

“She’s a kind of Renaissance woman. From art to science to writing to running, she’s just interested in and able to do things well in many capacities.” — Coach Mark Northuis

As for her illustration work, Tucker has loved drawing from an early age. In high school, she took three years of art classes, and at Hope, she has enrolled in basic design and printmaking. She now hopes to work toward an art studio minor.

“It’s really enjoyable to have a class (like art) that’s not science-based like all my other ones,” she says. “I think it actually helps me connect to science more. Doing those drawings (for the lab workbook) made me more excited about knowing anatomy.”

Skull illustration by Ana Tucker

While she worked with Northuis in her first research experience, her coach noticed a natural, an inquisitive, motivated learner who embraced the project with self-determined resolve. “Considering she had just finished her freshman year, she was able to grasp concepts quite quickly in areas that she hadn’t had any classes in yet,” Northuis says. “She just has a very sharp mind and ability to put things together. She’s also a very good and thorough writer.

“She’s a kind of Renaissance woman,” he observes. “From art to science to writing to running, she’s just interested in and able to do things well in many capacities.”

Tucker has already secured a number of academic accolades — Hope’s Dean’s List, MIAA Honor Roll, USTFCCCA Academic All-American. The wholehearted effort she gives in a distance race of any length is the same tact she uses in a physiology lab or printmaking project.  

And, that’s the benefit of studying at a liberal art school like Hope, she says. She is not just a scholar, a runner, an artist, or servant-leader who has coached with Girls on the Run. She is all of those things equally and at the same time. 

Though there are no MIAA races for her, or the team, to run this season, Tucker will “race” in a virtual half marathon later this month — Holland Hospital’s Park2Park. She and her teammates have also run a number of time trials at their practices this season. Through it all, she has been uplifted by the team’s camaraderie and its caring culture, a major determinant that got her to Hope in the first place and now has played out at a heightened level during the pandemic.

“All of the people on the team are still staying pretty motivated and enthusiastic about things,” Tucker declares. “We’ve been doing time trials, and I’ve been seeing a lot of girls get good times. It’s just inspiring to see all of my teammates working so hard and then doing so well even though there’s not any official races.”

Tucker’s own optimistic outlook feeds a good deal of that positive team culture, too. You need to look no farther than her student-athlete bio to find affirmation of that. On that webpage, when asked to recall the best advice she’s ever received, her pre-pandemic response was:

Enjoy the present and don’t stress as much about the future.”

One step, project and experience at a time, Ana Tucker is doing just that.

Hope College Swimmers Find ‘Flexible and Creative’ Ways to Train This Summer

Hope College swimmers, in multiple lanes, train outdoors at the City of Holland Bouws Pool.
Hope College swimmers, in multiple lanes, train outdoors at the City of Holland Bouws Pool in September. Photo/Aubrey East

Delaney Wesolek jumped into the sometimes chilly waters of Saginaw Bay in Lake Huron.

Lindsey Case and Jacob Peterson awoke before the crack of dawn to train at private pools in Detroit, Michigan and San Antonio, Texas, respectively.

This summer, Hope College student-athletes needed to get creative with their offseason training amid the COVID-19 pandemic. With indoor pools and indoor workout facilities closed by state orders across the country, their usual routines disappeared. 

So, first-year Hope College swimmers such as Case, Peterson, and Wesolek found new ways to work out. 

“I learned how much I love my sport and the smell of chlorine, but more important is the love I have for the people that swimming has brought into my life.”

Hope College freshman swimmer Delaney Wesolek

Lindsey Case: Plymouth, Michigan

“I had no access to pools for a little more than three months. That was the longest time I was out of pool training in at least eight years,” said Case, a freshman from Plymouth, Michigan (Farmington Hills Mercy HS). 

To compensate during the spring, Case did online cardiovascular workouts, bike rides and runs. 

In June, the dry stretch ended. Case received an invitation to join her club team in training at a local country club’s outdoor pool — but with another less-than-ideal condition. There would be no more hitting the snooze button on the alarm clock.

“Our practice started at 4:50 a.m. and 6:25 a.m. each day of the week except Fridays,” Case said. “Even though I had to wake up very early for practice, I was just grateful that I had a pool to swim and train in for my upcoming college season. When I first got back in the water, I felt pretty good and got into shape fast. On Mondays, we had doubles and all the other days we just had mornings. I like feeling tired after I work out because it feels like I worked hard and made myself stronger, and swimming gives me that feeling. 

“When returning to the pool to start training regularly again, I think I will be in good enough shape to train to the extent I was before, and still improve each practice. I am so excited to get back into training for this upcoming season.”

Case and her Hope teammates are scheduled to begin training indoors at Hope’s Kresge Natatorium inside the Dow Center next week since Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s executive order reopened gyms and pools across Michigan.

Earlier this month, both Hope swimming and diving squads held a training session outdoors at the City of Holland’s Bouws Pool, which is located near campus.

Jacob Peterson: San Antonio, Texas

Peterson faced a similar scenario as Case’s. The freshman from San Antonio, Texas (Winston Churchill HS) saw his club program shut down when its indoor pool closed. 

He and his brother were fortunate, he said, to find a private outdoor pool away from their neighborhood that would allow them to swim.

“We had to get a membership to use the pool, and we were only able to swim from 7-9 a.m.,” Peterson said. “However, the pool board members of that neighborhood were gracious enough to let us join and use their pool, even though we did not live in the neighborhood. Having the opportunity to train, even without a coach, proved to be an invaluable opportunity considering that most swimmers in San Antonio did not have access to a pool. I feel very confident coming into my freshman year at Hope. I am in shape and ready to swim, thanks to that opportunity.”

Wesolek felt like “a fish out of water” after losing the ability to train with her high school and club teams. The freshman from Bay City, Michigan (John Glenn HS) rode her mother’s Peloton bike and did weightlifting in her family’s basement instead.

Delaney Wesolek: Bay City, Michigan

In May, Wesolek learned her community center would not open its pool for the summer. Without access to a private pool, she was on dry land and growing frustrated.

Then, the thought of swimming in Saginaw Bay — first joked about by her club teammates — became reality. Ten of her peers also purchased wet suits and started swimming in the bay.

“I remember the first day we swam. We were all freezing and I’m not sure I could feel my toes because the water was so cold,” Wesolek said. “I was so happy just to be able to swim. We marked out 50 meters and the length of a mile swim. We swam five to six days a week from the middle of May until I left on August 11 to come to Hope College. 

“We had an awesome group of parents and grandparents that watched us and made sure everyone stayed safe. I don’t think I will ever look at the Saginaw Bay the same. We had days where we were swimming in 5-foot waves and our suits would be filled with seaweed and algae, but we had a place to swim and that was all that mattered.”

An unforgettable summer expanded Wesolek’s gratitude for everyone and everything around her.

“I know that God answers prayers in very strange ways sometimes. I prayed for a pool, but he gave me a beautiful summer with near perfect weather to train in the Saginaw Bay,” Wesolek said. “I know I am not where I had envisioned being as I start my freshman year on the Hope Swim and Dive team, but I know I learned a lot of valuable lessons this summer.

“I learned how much I love my sport and the smell of chlorine, but more important is the love I have for the people that swimming has brought into my life. I learned how much love and support surrounds me. My high school teammates and club teammates are some of the best people I have ever met. We pushed each other and did as much as we could to prepare each other for what was in front of us. We learned to be resilient and to lean on each other. 

“I learned that sometimes you have to adjust your plans and set new goals. And sometimes you need to be flexible and get creative,” Wesolek said. “I am excited to take all the lessons of summer 2020 and apply them to my next four years here at Hope College.”

Hope Athletics Podcast: Dave Brandt, Men’s Soccer

Head coach Dave Brandt points his right hand while instructing his team during practice at Van Andel Soccer Stadium.
Hope College men’s soccer coach Dave Brandt, left, talks with his team during practice at Van Andel Soccer Stadium.

Head coach Dave Brandt offers an update on his Hope College men’s soccer team in the latest edition of the Hope College Athletics Orange and Blue Podcast.

Brandt is in his third year leading the Flying Dutchmen. He guided Hope to a 14-6-1 record and an NCAA Tournament appearance last season.

The Flying Dutchmen are busy training this fall and determined to make the most of the time they have together. Their soccer games are postponed until the spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Brandt talks about his team’s potential and welcoming a former player to the coaching staff during the podcast hosted by sports information director Alan Babbitt.

He also chats about hiking and biking in West Michigan’s “amazing” outdoors and his beloved dog, Gracie.

Baseball with the Traverse City Pit Spitters a Hit for Evan Maday

Evan Maday of Hope College stands in the batter's box during a Traverse City Pit Spitters game this summer.
Evan Maday hit .315 for the Traverse City Pit Spitters in 21 Northwood League games this summer.

This summer, Hope College center fielder Evan Maday took a mighty swing at an activity that’s normal for him amid times that are anything but. He got to play competitive baseball. And at a high level, too.

The senior for the Flying Dutchmen suited up for the Traverse City Pit Spitters of the Northwoods League in the COVID-19 summer of 2020. It’s a collegiate summer baseball league composed of teams with roster spots filled by some of the top college amateur players in the country. 

Beginning in July, the Pit Spitters home field — Turtle Creek Stadium — served as a host for three Northwoods League teams as the league’s format was adjusted for the COVID-19 pandemic. Maday and the Pit Spitters didn’t travel to other Northwoods teams’ ballparks (like in Kalamazoo or Battle Creek, Wisconsin or Minnesota) but instead only played against the two other teams — Great Lakes Resorters and Northern Michigan Dune Bears — stationed in Traverse City.

Maday hit .315 over 21 games while starting in right field. The Grand Rapids, Michigan native (East Kentwood HS) finished with 23 hits, including eight multi-hit games. He also collected 13 runs batted in and scored 13 runs.

The Pit Spitters begin the Northwood League playoffs on Thursday, September 3, but Maday will be cheering them on from the Hope College campus. He left the team when classes began here last month. He is an engineering major with a concentration on civil engineering.

Maday chatted with Hope College sports information director Alan Babbitt this week about his experience.

Alan Babbitt: How did it come about for you to play with the Pit Spitters this summer?

Evan Maday: I played with them about half the season last year. I had already talked to Coach (Josh) Rebandt, who is the head coach up there, and signed my contract to play for the full season in the fall of last year. I knew even before we started practice for school last year that I was going to be playing this summer for the Pit Spitters.

AB: The Northwoods League is a pretty good level of summer baseball. Talk about what the baseball is like and how that’s helped your game.

EM: It’s a pretty elite league when it comes to summer leagues around the country. The Cape Cod and Northwoods Leagues are right up there with each other. We had a bunch of guys on our team bench from the Power 5, (NCAA) Division I guys. Just great, great baseball players all around me. It really helped my game that I was able to pick up some of the things that they do at their programs that I can implement into my game at Hope, then even bring back here to help our program a little bit. Although we didn’t get to travel around like we usually do, the competition was incredible. It’s a lot of fun playing at a high level with all those types of guys.

Evan Maday stands on first base after reaching safely during a Northwoods League baseball game.
With the Traverse City Pit Spitters, Evan Maday of Hope College played baseball against the Great Lakes Resorters and Northern Michigan Dune Bears this summer.

AB: How would you assess how you played, especially with a prominent role this year?

EM: I’m happy with how the season turned out.  Even though I would have liked the (batting) average a little better, I really felt that I got better this summer and worked on a few parts of my game that I’d been hoping to work on during the spring season (which was canceled at Hope College). I couldn’t have asked for better experience, and I had a great time. I am content with the way I played.

AB: You probably got an early feel for what this semester at Hope was going to be like because you were following safety protocols with the Pit Spitters. So, what was that experience like? Where did you live in Traverse City, how were you staying safe while you were playing every day?

EM: Our team’s players stayed with host families. Those were set in place before everything happened (with COVID-19). I stayed with my aunt and uncle, Joe and Marie Ward; that was great. I worked as a Shipt shopper to earn some spending money. The Pit Spitters organization in general did a great job with regulating the whole COVID-19 situation. We got tested before our first game and played three games, then tests came back and there were eight positive tests on the other two teams up there. We canceled for two weeks then tested again, and we ended up playing again.

They did a great job keeping us socially distanced, keeping masks on at all times. With fans, there could only be 500 in the stadium (which can hold 4,660 fans). They did a great job with regulating all the things they had to in order so we could keep playing. It’s kind of a tough situation to navigate, but I think they really set a good standard on how to do it.

AB: I know it was just a gut-wrenching spring to have the season wiped out by the pandemic. What did it mean to you just to be able to play this summer?

EM: This spring season getting canceled really hurt. It hurt all of us, every spring sport athlete at Hope. It was a really tough time for a lot of people, including me. You just want to go out there and play. That I was going to have an opportunity to do that (with the Pit Spitters) was, for a while, was the only thing I could keep my mind on. I felt super blessed just having the opportunity to go and play. Baseball is what I love to do.

AB: How do you hope your summer with the Pit Spitters propels you into this coming season at Hope?

EM: I’m hoping that I can continue to work on those things that I started working on this summer. I want to get to the best spot I can be in to help Hope win this spring once we hopefully start playing again.

Hope Athletics Podcast: Becky Schmidt, Volleyball

Head coach Becky Schmidt is leading her Hope College volleyball team during unprecedented times right now.

In the inaugural Hope College Athletics Orange and Blue Podcast, the Flying Dutch’s leader chats with sports information director Alan Babbitt after her team’s first week of practice outdoors.

With fall competition postponed until the spring because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hope is training on the sand courts at the City of Holland’s Matt Urban Park three days a week. One hour at a time, they practice in groups of eight.

During the Orange and Blue Podcast, Schmidt also discusses her coaching staff, including new full-time assistant coach Kyleigh Block, their inspirations for safe beach volleyball drills, and how they are embracing the national conversation regarding social injustice as part of their team covenant of relentless pursuit of community, faithful love and a championship mindset in order to inspire hope.

“We believe that, at no other time we can think of, does inspiring hope need to happen more,” Schmidt says.

Momentum

This is part of a series titled, Hope Speaks for Social Justice, written by former Hope student-athletes of color. Their words seek to educate and activate the Hope community in the nation’s quest to end racial injustice.

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In physics, it is the motion of a moving body quantified by its mass and velocity.

In sports, it is a game-changing play that gets the crowd, going in one team’s favor. 

On my visit to Hope College as a recruit, when I saw the support of 2500+ people packed in DeVos Fieldhouse and heard them cheer on the men’s basketball team, it was one of the biggest reasons I wanted to play for Hope. To have that momentum behind us at each home game.

The funny thing about momentum is that it can be gone in a second. One mishap or diversion and the crowd is no longer screaming with joy, but groaning.

At the time of this writing, it has been:

151 days since Ahmaud Arbery was murdered.

132 days since Breonna Taylor was murdered.

59 days since George Floyd was murdered.

41 days since Rayshard Brooks was murdered.

Social media was full of people running 2.23 miles to #runwithmaud, or posting black squares on their timelines for #blackouttuesday. People protested in Grand Rapids for a few weekends and are still protesting around the country to show that Black Lives Matter.

But where has that momentum gone? Do Black Lives not Matter anymore four months from the event that started this? Do we need to have another video of one of us killed for it to be popular again to support us?

When I arrived at work after those first few weeks of protesting, all I heard about was the rioting that was taking place. There was no talk of the centuries of systematic racism that has been perpetrated against BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color). There was no talk of the violations of freedoms and justices causing us to be unheard. The momentum switched to the result, not the cause of the issue.

In 1967 Martin Luther King Jr. said,

 “a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it that America has failed to hear?”

Why is it that people are more bothered by the burning of buildings and not the lives being taken? Why is this being made a political issue rather than the human rights issue it truly is? Is it that white people are more concerned about the status quo rather than justice and equality?

We are still fighting the same fight in 2020 to have equity at the table. I didn’t have one Black professor en route to get my engineering degree. I had no coaches of color. I have only been asked to help recruit Black players. If we are serious about keeping the momentum towards positive change, that doesn’t mean we hire Black coaches/professors because it is the popular thing to do. It means hiring those diverse candidates because there are plenty who are qualified and will be able to bring a different perspective, experiences and knowledge to the table. 

What can everyone do to keep this momentum going?

Hear BIPOC experiences and acknowledge them.

Own up to the fact that white privilege is real and use it to bring up BIPOC.

Push for systematic changes more than painting a street and taking down statues.

Educate yourself and others on the systematic racism of our country and speak up when you see it.

Do whatever you can to keep the momentum going so that Black Lives DO Matter.

Author Brock Benson (40) is a 2016 Hope College graduate who received a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering, with a minor in mathematics, while playing basketball for the Flying Dutchmen. Benson worked for Gentex Corp in Zeeland, Michigan, for the past four years in its microelectronics and prototype areas. Brock and his wife Klare (Northuis) Benson ‘16 recently relocated to the Sacramento, California, area.

Brock Benson ’16 dunks versus Alma

Use Your Peripheral Vision

This is part of a series titled, Hope Speaks for Social Justice, written by former Hope student-athletes of color. Their words seek to educate and activate the Hope community in the nation’s quest to end racial injustice.

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Some of my most vivid memories as a Hope College women’s basketball player was time spent in practice dedicated to defense. Arguably our team’s best asset was to move in unison and prevent opponents’ from executing their game plan.

Our mantra was consistent:

“Use your peripheral vision; Keep your head on a swivel; Don’t get caught sleeping; and, Make sure you help the helper.”

These commands are repeated by all my coaches, at every practice, over and over, until it is brainwashed in each player’s mind. We were to move on instinct, as one.

This winning approach and mantra was not just embedded in my mind on the basketball court, however. It also became a devastating reality as a Black student-athlete when:

  • Using my peripheral vision meant noticing the college’s “brand” as a safe haven for racial/ethnic-superiority sentiment; or in other words, “If you ain’t Dutch, you ain’t much.”
  • Keeping my head on a swivel meant acknowledging the older white men from the community debating Obama’s country of origin while working my shift at the Dow Center.
  • Falling asleep in my Cultural Heritage class was done so I didn’t have to watch an old play featuring actors in blackface.
  • Realizing that the few African Americans on the faculty and staff, who wanted to help, could feel just as marginalized as Black students.

In America, it is impossible to not be impacted or influenced by white supremacy. It is woven into the fabric of our systems and has continued to devastate Black communities. Learning our history as a political science major, while simultaneously experiencing racism, is almost debilitating for a young woman who wants to avoid being labeled “angry.” James Baldwin, a world-renowned novelist, said, “To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.” I couldn’t agree more.

Now in the year 2020, I truly believe that our college community can refocus, tie up our laces and work a new mantra into our daily practice.

  • Use our peripheral vision – Seek out what is easy to miss, what makes us uncomfortable, and who we do not agree with.
  • Keep our head on a swivel – Look at all sides of a situation before jumping to judgement or defense.
  • Don’t get caught sleeping – Change doesn’t have a timeline or speed limit. Let’s make it happen now since it is a priority.
  • Make sure we help the helpers – When a person of color is helping us, our team and organization achieve equitable success. Make sure they are supported and well compensated.

I have the utmost faith in humankind that if we all practice a mantra such as this, over and over, we can reprogram what has been brainwashed in all of us. Imagine how great of a community we could be if we protect and empower all Black people on instinct and work as one!

Living this mantra could be Hope College’s best asset.

Author Kamara Sudberry is a 2015 graduate of Hope College who majored in business management and political science and played basketball for the Flying Dutch. After graduation, Sudberry served as an AmeriCorps Member in Grand Rapids and now works for the Grand Rapids-based Spectrum Health System within the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Center of Expertise.    

Kamara Sudberry ’15 in action versus Calvin in 2015.