Stu Fritz’s Full-Circle-Plus Journey in the ABCA

It’s 1992 in Dallas, Texas, and Stu Fritz is an eager graduate student from Northern Colorado attending his first American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) Convention. He is there to take in as much information and meet as many people as he can for his soon-to-be profession. And as he walks the convention’s halls, he wonders, “Who are those guys in sport coats with silver name badges?”

Press fast forward.

Stu Fritz speaks at the 2019 ABCA Convention

It’s 2019 in Dallas, Texas, and Stu Fritz is a seasoned and successful head baseball coach for Hope College attending his 28 consecutive ABCA Convention. He is there to coordinate the distribution of in-depth and innovative information on his longtime profession. And as he walks the convention halls, Fritz is one of those guys in a sport coat with a silver name badge.

It is ABCA board of directors who wear those shiny emblems.  As the ABCA’s second vice president in 2018, Fritz was the one responsible for what 7,000 baseball coaches would learn, and from whom, at the convention this past January. (Fritz had been the president of NCAA Division III with the ABCA before joining its board in 2016.) Clinics on pitching and catching, base-running and fielding, recruiting and player development, game strategy and game-time mental approach were all topics selected by Fritz and his committee. And, he found the speakers, too, for 25 mainstage presentation at the world’s largest baseball clinic.

“It was a dream come true,” Fritz says. “I know that might sound a little aggressive, but working on this year’s convention, working with all the guys I worked with, it was just a thrill for me.”

Fritz introducing former Major Leaguer Mike Matheny

Through his own personal connections — which run deep in baseball fields across the country and all NCAA divisions — and by his professional invitations, Fritz got creative. He stretched topic ideas and featured speakers, including the likes of former St. Louis Cardinal Mike Matheny to give the keynote address and University of Alabama softball coach Pat Murphy to address leadership development.

“Since I’m a big Cardinal fan, having Mike agree to speak at the convention was just awesome,” Fritz explains. “And it was my goal to put a head softball coach on the mainstage of the baseball convention. Murph has been a buddy of mine since high school, and he’s become legendary in terms what he’s done with that’s programs culture and win record.”

Fritz says his days were long at the four-day event, a before-dawn and well-after dusk requirement. While he had lined up each speaker prior, he also stayed in touch with them as they developed their topics as well as introduced them to the membership before each clinic at the convention.

Then, he took a seat in the audience to gain new knowledge, too.

“We target a wide range of speakers and talking with them about their topics and programs certainly makes me a better coach,” Fritz explains. “I get to be involved with their presentation from the beginning so I learn as they continue to change their presentation to get the final product. These are some of the best baseball minds in the country so I soak up as much as I can.”

Fritz in action as Hope’s head coach

You may think that with this full-circle convention story, Fritz’s journey is complete with the ABCA, but you’d be wrong. His baseball story at Hope and with his professional organization keeps rotating. As he opens his 26th season at the helm of Flying Dutchmen this weekend, Fritz enters another year on the ABCA board as the first vice president in 2019. He’ll become its president in 2020. His interactions with the ABCA, just like this work at Hope, is about valuing relationships in the game and classroom.

“I wanted to put the best product out there for our membership as I could,” says Fritz who is also an assistant professor of kinesiology. “This is the same when I teach and coach. I believe that each student and athlete deserves the best that I have to give each day. This experience has definitely broadened my knowledge as a coach and as a professor.”

They’ve Got That Family Feeling

Standing at the edge of a collegiate diving board during a meet— back to the water, ready to leap into contortions of twists and flips and pikes, it can be a lonely place for a diver. The natatorium is silent except for the annoying slurping of gutter water. A low hum of light whispers to full-on silence falls over the crowd; all eyes, few voices. And the spotlight can be harsh, focused as it is on one place. There — several feet above the pool’s water with more height to be added once the jump occurs — the diver stands alone with diver thoughts.

But not for long.

From left to right, Sara Plohetski, Kamaron Wilcox, Coach Becca Garza, Grant Williams, Areal Tolsma, Brian Simonish

The jump, the dive, the splash, the submersion, and then swim to the side of the pool — it all covers about 15 seconds. The loud cheering and subsequent greeting from fellow diving teammates and coaches back on deck. . . that gleeful reunion takes much longer. And that is exactly why being a Hope College diver is not a lone endeavor, after all. Every one of Hope’s five divers say that they are not really a singular entity and, surprisingly, they say they are not a team either. Instead they say, separately and unprompted, that they are family.

“This family is the best thing that Hope has given to me,” says senior Areal Tolsma. “When I joined the team four years ago, I didn’t realize I was joining a family,” declares senior Sara Plohetski. I just love this family, and I know they love me, too,” says freshman Kamaron Wilcox. “The second I stepped on the pool deck, I was welcomed with open arms,” affirms sophomore Grant Williams. (Diving coach) Becca (Garza) really supports us and our growth as a family,” reiterates senior Brian Simonich.

See what I mean.

At last weekend’s MIAA Championships, three of the five members of the Hope diving family qualified for the NCAA Division III Central Region Meet, held this weekend at Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Indiana. On Friday and Saturday, Plohetski, Simonich and Williams will be competing for a spot at the national championships later this month. And Tolsma and Wilcox will be there, too — cheering in the stands. Because that’s what families do.

In prayer. Photo by Tom Renner.

For Garza, that team unity is born out of each diver’s hard work and Christian character. From late September to late February (and not including out-of-season training), the divers give three hours a day to diving practice (and that includes weight-room work), plus more when it comes to their mental preparation. They also pray together at the end of each practice and before every meet.

“They push each other to be better athletes, better students and better Christians,” says Garza, who also teaches Spanish immersion for Zeeland Public Schools. “The environment they’ve created plays a large role in how successful their training has been. They challenge each other, support each other and have fun together. Our training is centered around God and the abilities He has given us to do what we love. . .That combined with mental training has made all of them stronger athletes.”

Diver Grant Williams. Photo by Lynne Powe.

To get to regionals, Plohetski, Simonich and Williams all qualified with B-cut point totals on both the 1- and 3-meter boards. Each became all-MIAA honorees, too. Williams won the MIAA title on the 3-meter and was runner-up on the 1-meter; Simonich and Plohetski took third place on each board.

The added bonus of continuing their season now with regional competition is something that none of the three takes for granted while it was also something they determinedly prepared for since day one.  Simonich knows the competition at regionals; he’s seen it twice before, and it won’t be easy.  “It is going to be pretty hard to get out of our region to nationals,” explains the senior. “But since this is potentially my last meet, I’m just going to go out there and have fun and compete and be present.”

Diver Brian Simonich. Photo by Lynne Powe

“My hope for our three divers this weekend is that they leave the pool deck Saturday night knowing they gave it all they had,” Garza says. “For my two seniors, I want them to feel like this weekend showcases their training, abilities and hard work — no matter the results. This is a fun meet and a great time to spend together. Though punching a ticket to nationals would be a great addition.”

Plohetski has the same mindset as Garza and Simonich for this weekend but really, it has been that way for her entire career at Hope. As a Division III student-athlete, all she has ever wanted to do was work hard at something she loves, no scholarships or strings attached.

“This weekend, I just want to leave it all on the boards,” the senior says. “A week ago, I didn’t even know if I would have the opportunity to compete this weekend, so having this chance is just a gift. I want to dive my dives and just glorify God through my actions and attitude through the whole weekend. I also just want to soak up every moment with my diving family.”

There it is again. That family feeling.

Follow the Hope divers progress at the NCAA Division III Central Region Meet.

Friends Out of Competitors

Last week when I came back from Florida, Michigan welcomed me with open arms, and the Polar Vortex.

Murphy Stadelmaier ’19

I was in Orlando for the Annual NCAA Convention. Not only was I was able to represent Hope at a national level, but I represented Hope with fellow MIAA student-athletes. As Division III student-athletes, we had a special opportunity to attend the convention, an opportunity that not each division extends to their student-athletes.

I first heard about the convention through SAAC, an organization in which I take part at Hope. SAAC stands for Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and is a way for student-athletes to provide insight on their experience and offer input on the rules, regulations and policies that affect them. The convention was a special chance to provide my input on the national level as well as see a little of how the NCAA works from “behind the scenes.”

The first session I attended was a Self and Team Awareness Workshop put on by Equilibria in Sports. During the workshop, we found out our “E-color” based on a test we took prior to the event. This gave us the tools to assess our leadership styles by learning about our strengths and our potential limiters. It was an insightful way to learn about ourselves and improve our leadership, both athletically and relationally.

After the workshop, I attended a Special Olympics Event with all the other Division III student-athletes. We played soccer with Special Olympic athletes from Orlando and Miami. It was rewarding to compete against fellow athletes while having fun with Special Olympic athletes.

MIAA student-athletes come together at the Special Olympics Unified Event.

This year was a special convention to attend because I was able to witness history. Over 1,000 NCAA members voted to add leaders from outside of higher education to the NCAA Board of Governors, a first. These five, new independent members will join 16 college and university presidents on the board starting in 2020.

Prior to that historic vote, we heard from NCAA President Mark Emmert about “The State of College Sports.” He spoke about the NCAA’s past, present, and future directions. This talk and the vote were powerful because I got a glimpse into the administrative side of the NCAA. You see one thing in the media about the governance of the NCAA, but to actually experience these changes was an amazing opportunity.

Murphy with fellow MIAA student-athletes at the Division III business session.

Not only was I able to watch changes in the operations of the NCAA overall, but I witnessed how Division III legislation changes. During a Division III Issues Forum, the Division III board put forth six amendments to legislature. These changes included football preseason timing, coach and recruit relationships on social media, and field hockey and soccer preseason. Being a soccer player, I was intrigued by the soccer amendment to expand preseason by three days. Although this amendment did not pass this year, it was compelling to observe tangible changes that could impact my teammates in future.

Murphy meets Mia Hamm.

A moment from the convention that I will remember for the rest of my life is meeting my role model, Mia Hamm. Not only is she the greatest women’s soccer player of all time, but she is also considered one of the best female athletes ever. Mia was a recipient of the NCAA Silver Anniversary Award, given each year to a distinguished former athlete on their 25th anniversary as college graduates. The night she received the award, I was able to meet Mia. This was a dream come true.

Murphy and Shaquem Griffin.

I was also lucky enough to meet University of Central Florida alumnus and current NFL linebacker Shaquem Griffin. Shaquem, who had one of his hands amputated at a young age due to a congenital condition, gained recognition during his successful career at UCF. He received the NCAA Inspiration Award.

The NCAA is much more than its appearance on the surface. For four days at the Annual NCAA Convention, I was able to get a glimpse behind the scenes and be in the presence of many amazing individuals not the least of whom was a women from George Fox University in Oregon who was very excited to hear that I was from Hope College. She said she loves Hope because she won the 2009 NCAA basketball national championship hosted at DeVos Fieldhouse. This was just another reminder, out of many at the NCAA Convention, that sports can create friends out of competitors. The NCAA Convention, in many ways, affirmed that important message.

 

Women’s Basketball Team Learns Life-Lasting Lessons about MLK in Atlanta

Back in December 2018, the Hope College women’s basketball team traveled to Atlanta, Georgia, to compete in the Oglethorpe Holiday Classic. The trip was not just about competition, though. Thanks to the organizing efforts of Vanessa Greene, Hope’s associate dean of students and director of the Center for Diversity and Inclusion, and the support of the college’s Orange and Blue Fund, the team also took in first-hand looks and lectures on the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and America’s Civil Rights Movement.

Hope women’s basketball meets civil rights activist Xernona Clayton, center, in Atlanta in December.

Head coach Brian Morehouse and the Flying Dutch spent two additional days in Atlanta visiting the King Center, Ebenezer Baptist Church where Martin Luther King, Jr. preached, and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s childhood home. They also met with prominent civil rights activists Xernona Clayton and Bunnie Jackson-Ransom. Three Hope student-athletes share what they gained from the experience: junior Arika Tolbert of Lathrup Village, Michigan (Detroit Country Day HS), sophomore Natalee Kott of Manistee, Michigan (Manistee HS), and freshman Hannah Smith of Midland, Michigan (Midland HS).

Xernona Clayton speaks with the Flying Dutch.

Describe an impactful moment from your experience learning about the history of Civil Rights in Atlanta.

Hannah Smith ’22

One moment that really stood out to me was our meeting with Xernona Clayton, who worked alongside Martin Luther King Jr. in the Civil Rights Movement and tremendously impacted the nation we live in today. For example, she denounced the Ku Klux Klan by speaking with their leader. She also worked to desegregate all of the hospitals in the United States. Although she may be small in stature, she has had a big influence on our society and is still working to provoke change in Atlanta. I cannot describe how impactful this meeting was to our team; to not only learn our nation’s history firsthand but to be inspired to create positive change no matter what we choose to pursue in life. My greatest takeaway from Ms. Clayton is to wake up everyday with a purpose to fulfill and to impact others in my everyday life.

Arika Tolbert ’20

The most impactful moment I had on the Atlanta trip regarding the Civil Rights Movement was meeting and talking to Xernona Clayton. She told us her story in the Civil Rights Movement. It was very impactful to talk to someone first hand who was experiencing these issues and is still involved in trying to improve our country’s current circumstances.

Natalee Kott ’21

I’d not heard of Xernona Clayton before (traveling to Atlanta). She is an incredible woman. You realize if someone like her didn’t take part in the Civil Rights struggle, the country wouldn’t be what it is today. To listen to her story was amazing. 

Bunnie Jackson-Ransom addresses the team at the Cascade United Methodist Church.

What does Martin Luther King Day mean to you?

Arika Tolbert ’20

Martin Luther King Day means very much to me because I am a huge advocate for equal rights. It represents a man who strived to make our country better through equality among all people, regardless of color. This day is a constant reminder that without Martin Luther King Jr., I may not have the right to a good education, high-quality public service, or any friends of a different race.

Hannah Smith ’22

Martin Luther King Day to me means a day of service. In high school, we always had the day off, and as a member of Student Council, we would organize a school-wide day of service for students to sign up and serve at various locations in our hometown. As a Student Council, our goal was to have each student serve in someway, whether that being pursuing a passion they may have or serving their next door neighbor in need. I believe that Martin Luther King Day embodies serving others and spreading kindness.

Natalee Kott ’21

This is a day of inspiration and motivation. Knowing all of the incredible things that Martin Luther King did and all of the hardships he faced, but never gave up, encourages me to follow my dreams. Even when the going gets tough, I look up to people like MLK to know that anything is possible if you work for it and follow your heart.

How helpful is it for you and your teammates to have educational opportunities together off the court like this?

Arika Tolbert ’20

I think it is very important for my teammates and me to have educational opportunities such as these off the court. These types of experiences create long-lasting impacts or memories of things we may have never learned about if it were not for this trip. In times like these, we are allowed to grow together in ways we wouldn’t experience through basketball.

Natalee Kott ’21

To have educational opportunities like this means a lot. Looking ahead to the future, you want to make sure you have opportunities like this to learn. You want to make sure you’re ready and prepared for the future. Hope definitely offers a ton of extracurricular activities. That’s really important. That’s one of the reasons I came here.

Hannah Smith ’22

I believe that we are extremely blessed to have these educational experiences off the court, in which we can learn about our history and how we can impact others. Our Atlanta trip was unbelievably beneficial for our team to bond and build greater relationships with one another off the court. I’m so happy that Hope provides our team with these experiences outside of basketball.

Athletes’ Journal: Jake Kozlowski

My name is Jake Kozlowski. I am a senior business major from Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, and a tight end on the football team for Hope College. After reading the previous Athlete’s Journals and sharing my story with others, we agreed mine would be an impactful addition to the already inspiring stories you have read before. So with that said, here we go:

On July 1st, 2017, my world was flipped upside down. Something that I had never imagined happening happened. I lost the one thing in my life that meant the most to me. My rock, my best friend… my dad.

My dad was an incredible guy and an even better father. Selfless, funny, loving and passionate is how most people would describe him. He was a single father; my mom had walked out on us my senior year of high school. He did an incredible job playing both roles and providing all that he could for my sisters and me. Never missed a sporting event, pushed us to be the best versions of ourselves, he was the guy we could go to for anything. He was everything to us.

My dad unexpectedly became very sick at the beginning of the summer of 2017.  On May 31st, he woke up very weak, struggled to get out of bed and ended up in the emergency room. His first stint in the hospital was a week in the ICU. Tests discovered cancer and heart failure.  With no previous signs, it hit all of us like a freight train steam-rolling out of nowhere. He was released with prescribed follow-ups on the next steps for each diagnosis. The future was full of uncertainty.

Less than two days after driving him home from the hospital, I was shaken awake at 4:00 a.m. on night by my younger sister. “Jacob! Call 911! Dad can’t breathe!” Sure enough he was hunched over in bed struggling. His heart was giving out. He was taken from the house on a stretcher. Sitting in my car behind the ambulance, I watched as the EMTs performed CPR on him before they took off. In the emergency room, his pulse came and went. I sat there and watched as a machine breathed for him. His vitals flatlined and came back. I stared into his seemingly empty eyes as he coded numerous times.

“What do you want us to do? He is not going make it these next fifteen minutes,” the doctors asked. “I need you to save my dad,” the words just rolled out of my mouth. It was an out of body experience; I couldn’t believe what I was watching or hearing. Twenty-one years old, there I was, begging doctors to save my dad. I was put in charge of each following medical decision for him over the next couple weeks. His life, in my hands.

By the grace of God my dad, still unconscious, was stabilized enough for two helicopter transports to get him to a cardiac hospital in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, that same day. We had no guarantee he would survive the flights, but he made it, in stable but critical condition. Emergency heart surgery was needed, but his heart was so weak. Three days passed and he showed some improvement. He was able to regain consciousness, enough to be able to speak and converse with us, slowly building strength for his heart surgery planned for the following week.

But before the weekend was out, his vitals began to decline. A decision had to be made. Surgery needed to happen immediately. Sunday, June 18th 2017: Father’s Day. On that day, my dad went into an emergency heart surgery that he would never wake up from. Saturday, July 1st, after two weeks fighting on life support, a final brain scan determined there was no activity. As his medical (and financial) power of attorney, I had to make the hardest decision of my 22-year-old life, one I thankfully made with my aunt who’s a nurse. We decided Dad would be taken off of his life support.

It wasn’t until the spring of the 2017-18 school year that I actually had time to reflect on the events that had transpired over the summer of 2017. Moving out of our house, returning to school and football consumed the majority of my time. It was my escape. In my senior seminar class during the spring semester, I had the opportunity to reflect and I wrote a 78-page lifeview paper on my experience and what it had taught me. Most senior seminar papers have to be 20-22 pages long; it turns out I had a lot more to say.

My dad taught me more than I have room to write in this blog post. (Which is also why my senior seminar paper was 58 pages longer than it had to be!) For example, he taught me to surround myself with good people and to always try to be a good guy. There is one lesson more, though, that I’d like to leave with you from him, and it is this:

Have a “why” in your life.

My dad always told me his favorite word was ‘passion.’ He said it was something everyone could relate to. Everyone is passionate about something. Having a passion for something gives you your “why”. It’s what motivates you to do what you do, it gets you out of bed on the hardest days, it keeps you going when times are tough. It fuels you.

I have witnessed the extent of which the human body can be pushed, through my dad’s fight to live. His “why” was his kids. When I taped my wrists for every game and practice, I wrote “DFK,” his initials, on them with a Sharpie pen. Through a grueling practice or the heat of a game, a Coach Margritz fourth-quarter workout finisher, or just when I don’t think I have anymore left in the tank, I looked at my wrists. A reminder, a motivation. “DFK.”

My dad now is my “why.” What’s yours?

 

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THE HOPE ATHLETES’ JOURNAL MISSION STATEMENT
from creator Stephen Binnig

The mission of the Hope Athletes’ Journal is to give members of the Hope Athletics Community a medium where they can share their stories to relate to, understand, and appreciate coaches, players, prospective students, and fans beyond the game. My goal through this project is that those in and around our community will write vulnerable, principled, honest, and respectful stories that ultimately knit our college even closer together. If you or someone you know has a story that could be shared on the Hope Athletes’ Journal, please reach out to me via email at Stephen.Binnig@hope.edu.

If you or someone you know is in need of help, here are some resources both on and off campus:

Hope College Office of Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS): 616-395-7945

Hope College Campus Ministries: 616-395-7145

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673

Athletes’ Journal: Ryann Stutz

Finding Balance and Self-Worth

My name is Ryann Stutz, and I am a junior on Hope’s volleyball team. Ever since the Hope Athlete’s Journal started, I knew I wanted to write something to help bring our beautiful community closer together – as it’s been proven in the previous posts, Hope College needs to have more vulnerable conversations. We can only go so far in our relationships around campus with the surface-level “I’m doing great, how are you?” pattern we all fall into. It wasn’t until recently that I was able to uncover exactly what I’ve been struggling with, and how to deal with it, but now that I’ve recognized the issue I want to share my thoughts and advice.

So, let’s dig in.

Ryann (8) celebrating with teammates.

It doesn’t take long to understand the type of person I am. I laugh loud, am pretty much ALWAYS dancing, and will talk your ear off if you let me. I’m curious, passionate, and loyal to my tribe of amazing friends and family. I dream big, and thrive in high-energy, fast-paced environments. As self-driven and ambitious as I am, though, there are times when my battery runs low and I need time to recharge. Oftentimes, though, I can’t afford to make space in my schedule for this “recharge,” because I spread myself too thin. Striving to be viewed in high regard as a hardworking multitasker, as “the girl who can do it all,” I tack on as many things as I can fit into my schedule at once. If my planner is filled with various meetings, activities and jobs, then I feel more important. In the beginning, I transition from one thing to the next with ease; but as the workload increases and time goes on, the burden becomes too heavy to carry.

I start to realize I’m in over my head, and become paralyzed with the fear that I’m not good enough.

How will my dreams become a reality if I can’t handle juggling the demands of work, school, volleyball and my social life? This paralysis is overwhelming, and floods into every aspect of my day. As my busy schedule goes on, my fiery passion dwindles, and I worry to the point of being incapable of the simplest of tasks.

Let’s go back to the idea of being “the girl who can do it all.” Why do we have to do everything today? I find myself thinking too often about the accomplishments I want people to know me for, and comparing that image to just about everyone else. I compare myself to people who aren’t going to college and instead traveling the world; people who are going to college and are accomplishing major feats in their research; people who I perceive as being stronger in their faith than me; and athletes from other schools that I play against. The worst part about this is that it stops me from pursuing my dreams. It makes me ask myself, “Am I good enough?” “Why haven’t I done that?” I think, “Their team is ranked higher than ours,” or “What’s the point of applying to this internship? Someone from an Ivy League with a higher GPA probably already applied.” This is so unhealthy! I know I am not the only one who does this, either. So far in my life, my response has been what I mentioned before: overloading my schedule, progressively being exhausted by said schedule, and freezing up in inaction and fear.

How do I break this cycle? As of right now, I don’t have a solid answer. I can’t say I’ve successfully broken through this, as I’m in one of these dangerous cycles as we speak! What I do know is that I am not isolated in times of stress and pain. Friends, teammates, mentors, coaches, and most importantly, our Lord and Savior have all shown up and given me something to lean on when I’m too weak to do anything on my own.

The book of Joshua has shed some light on this issue of ambition becoming fear for me, and I’d like to share it. The first chapter begins with Joshua, the former aide to Moses, being asked by God to lead the Israelites to Canaan after Moses passes away. He was so well-prepared and capable for this position, yet still he feared failure and questioned his ability to lead God’s people. God said to him, “Have I not commanded you? Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9). The biggest takeaway I have from this message is even as unqualified as you may feel, God is the rock that will assure you of your potential.

Who are you to say that you aren’t good enough?

You were created with so much love and care by the One who saves!

The second Bible verse I want to share is about pain, because being Christian doesn’t mean we are free from it. John 15:1-2 says “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” I once heard that this idea of pruning means to “carefully, intentionally inflict pain to increase growth.” How amazing is this, that as I feel like there’s no way to stay afloat amidst my struggles, God is using it to make me stronger and better equipped for the future He has planned for me!

Ryann (on the left) going up for a block.

The best version of me is the ambition, the fire and energy that hasn’t been tainted by envy, fear and sloth. But that is a rare gem. What I can do to fuel the fire again is remind myself that I’m the only one who’s stopping me. This became an important phrase my sophomore season, when I would get insecure in my own head and not play to my potential. “Who’s stopping you?” was written everywhere in my room, planner and locker. Being scared of failure is not what God put me (or you, for that matter!) on this earth to do. Rather than “Am I good enough?” remind yourself “God has prepared me for this.”

To conclude, settle your anxiety-ridden heart. Know your limits and don’t overcommit. Dive deep into His life-changing Word. Open up and be honest with the people around you. Remember to be grateful for the things you have been blessed with, for every season you have been in. I pray hearing this heals someone as much as writing it has healed me.

 

 

 

THE HOPE ATHLETES’ JOURNAL MISSION STATEMENT
from creator Stephen Binnig

The mission of the Hope Athletes’ Journal is to give members of the Hope Athletics Community a medium where they can share their stories to relate to, understand, and appreciate coaches, players, prospective students, and fans beyond the game. My goal through this project is that those in and around our community will write vulnerable, principled, honest, and respectful stories that ultimately knit our college even closer together. If you or someone you know has a story that could be shared on the Hope Athletes’ Journal, please reach out to me via email at Stephen.Binnig@hope.edu.

If you or someone you know is in need of help, here are some resources both on and off campus:

Hope College Office of Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS): 616-395-7945

Hope College Campus Ministries: 616-395-7145

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673

Athletes’ Journal: Jacob Faustyn

My name is Jake Faustyn, and I am a senior on the Hope College men’s ice hockey team. I’ve never really considered sharing my story publicly. When Steve asked me if I would be willing to write an entry for the Hope Athletes’ Journey, something inside of me jumped up and agreed to it. Seeing my peers, who preceded me with these entries, become more vulnerable for the benefit of the Hope Athletic community helped make my decision easier. I hope my words resonate with you, and I hope you walk, or in my case, crutch, away with the same lessons that I did.

Jake (#28) in action for the Flying Dutchmen.

Outside of my faith and my family, hockey has been one of the biggest parts of my life.  When I tell someone I play hockey, their first comment is usually “Hey, you’re in one piece and have all your teeth!” For the greater part of my life, I would laugh and say “You’re right! I’ve been pretty lucky with injuries!”

In high school, I was able to record a number of personal accolades – I thought that was everything. When I got to Hope, I strived for the same accolades. I strived for the personal success. I look back now and just chuckle at how backwards I had it. It didn’t take long for God to humble me. In the 5th game of the season, I was hit into the boards and suffered a humeral fracture. I underwent a surgical process the following Monday that used an 8-inch metal plate and 9 screws to repair my broken arm.

I remember sitting at home in the following weeks in shock, why me? I think God was calling me to Him. He wanted me to see things for how they were and wanted me to give thanks. I remember getting back to campus and listening to Paul Boersma preach to a small group of hockey guys on Psalms 37:5 which read this: “Commit your way to the Lord, Trust in Him and He will do this.” This verse has become a staple in my testimony, for I feel it speaks to so many things. I moved on from this injury with a much better head on my shoulders.

Fast forward to my junior year. We were playing Indiana Tech in Fort Wayne on a Saturday night. I remember thinking, “I don’t want to be here.” Morale was low, and I had been slipping back into my selfish tendencies. I remember being upset after games I didn’t score, as if the only thing that mattered was my personal stat line. With 8 seconds left in the first period of that game, my life changed forever.

I got hit going into the corner for a puck and stuck my knee out to brace the impact. I was too scared to put my arm out, considering I was 0 for 1 there, so my knee seemed like the best option. My shin pad slid down exposing the top of my knee, and it hit the side of the boards. After being helped off the ice and into the locker room, our team doctor said he thought it was just a bone bruise.

I remember sitting in the locker room by myself during the 2nd period, crying partly because of the physical pain, but more so because of the emotional pain of once again not being able to play hockey. I wasn’t emotionally strong enough to go down this road again.

That Thursday at practice, I decided to give it a shot and skate. About 15 minutes into practice, my coach pulled me aside and said, “you don’t look like you can skate.” I couldn’t, but anything was better than being put back on the “injured reserve”.  That Friday I went to get x-rays which revealed a hairline fracture on my patella that would take about 6 weeks to heal. Little did I know, this was only the beginning.

After six weeks of rest and rehab, I was finally ready to get back on the ice.  Days before I was set to skate, I slipped on a slick surface and hyper flexed my knee, resulting in a new fracture. My knee swelled up roughly 10 times the size of what it should be. After countless prayers, doctors’ appointments and an MRI, the doctors confirmed it was only the kneecap that had re-fractured, and there was no other internal damage. What a relief that was, no surgery!

Roughly two months of healing and therapy followed. It felt so good to be back on track. On the first Friday on the second semester, I took off for my 9:30 class. I took one step into the road and slipped on a patch of ice, twisting my leg in an odd position. I fell to the ground and felt my body go into shock. The first thing I did was run my fingers over my kneecap, where I could feel it clearly split into two pieces. I tried calling everyone in my contacts before my roommate Evan picked up his phone. He hurried over to my location in the middle of 14th street to bring me to the ER. My kneecap was completely separated in half. We scheduled surgery for the following Monday.

I sat in silence for most of the days following. I was in shock. Three times? Clearly God had been trying to tell me something that I was missing.

I dropped out of Hope for the semester and moved home. I couldn’t get out of bed for days at a time after the surgery. My parents and two younger brothers can certainly attest when I say I battled with my mental health during this time period. I was nothing more than a lifeless body who sat in bed with my hood up. I couldn’t find an ounce of good in the situation, and I was frustrated with myself and with God.

I tried pulling myself out of that abyss of anger and sadness, but nothing worked. I remember receiving a sympathy card from my team. Inside was a personal note and some words of encouragement from every player and coach. I got halfway through and broke down into tears. Everything kind of hit me at once. It was tough to comprehend it all. I cried, prayed, and began to figure it out. They say time heals all, and this proved true in my case. I started smiling again, and I began to really understand my situation. I looked away from the past and towards the future. I would even laugh to myself at times, like, “yo, I really just broke my kneecap 3 times and had to drop out of school… WHAT?!” I began to understand that life is all about how you respond to things.

God’s plan for you is perfect, and it has already been written start to finish. Adversity will find you. You have to respond with a good attitude, that’s all you can do.

After the initial shock and interminable sadness began to fade, I decided I would not let this injury rule me. Although I felt helpless for much of the 10 months I battled this, I continued to put all I had into God. He kept gifting me (yes, gifting me) with all these injuries to teach me lessons you just can’t learn anywhere else. Not in the classroom or in the office. These are valuable life lessons I hold close and have built my faith on.

I wasn’t sure if I would ever play hockey again, but I was sure that I would come back and be a support system and an outlet of faith for my teammates.

Those guys are, and always will be, my family. I am eternally grateful for the support of them, my friends, my girlfriend and especially my family throughout this all- they stood by me at my worst.

My close friend Justin Pinto encouraged me to create a bucket list shortly after I first broke my kneecap. Just under 9 months after surgery, on October 5th, 2018, I was able to cross #8 off of that list: Play another Hope hockey game. I came into this season with a greater perspective of what it’s all about, and I want to try to be the best teammate I can be. I still get mad at myself and others on and off the ice, but now, I try to catch myself in the midst of that anger and remind myself why I am back on the ice and who got me there. I didn’t have these kinds of reminders before this all. I am grateful God gave me another chance, and I know I am doing this all solely through Him.

Just as Steve mentioned in his reflection, “This is not a pity party. I am not asking for your sympathy. Save it.” I’m not here to tell you how tough my journey was. It could have been so much worse. Battling something like cancer and going through rounds of chemotherapy? That’s bad. Those are the people I look up to.

God reveals parts of his plans for us in ambiguous and sometimes painful ways. I don’t want this to sound like I have my faith figured out because that’s not true, but I’m evolving; I’m getting there. The past year of my life has been something beyond comprehension, and I am slowly taking it all in and rejoicing in what I’ve learned. Keep your head up, for He has a much greater plan for you. Let Psalms 37:5 ring through your head. It’s applicable to everyone’s situation in some way, and I have come around to understand that in full. I am beyond thankful for this life, my fragile bones, and a gracious God who loves us so much. I’m excited to see what’s down the road with these new lenses of appreciation God has given me.  

Whatever you’re going through will reveal something to you. Be strong and remember why you’re fighting the fight.

Life is short. Give thanks. Be intentional. Embrace adversity. Work hard. He gave us life, guys. Your story is written – go live it.

 

 

THE HOPE ATHLETES’ JOURNAL MISSION STATEMENT
from creator Stephen Binnig

The mission of the Hope Athletes’ Journal is to give members of the Hope Athletics Community a medium where they can share their stories to relate to, understand, and appreciate coaches, players, prospective students, and fans beyond the game. My goal through this project is that those in and around our community will write vulnerable, principled, honest, and respectful stories that ultimately knit our college even closer together. If you or someone you know has a story that could be shared on the Hope Athletes’ Journal, please reach out to me via email at Stephen.Binnig@hope.edu.

If you or someone you know is in need of help, here are some resources both on and off campus:

Hope College Office of Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS): 616-395-7945

Hope College Campus Ministries: 616-395-7145

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673

 

Hope Athletes’ Journal: Aubrey Wilson

 

My name is Aubrey Wilson, a sophomore at Hope College. I was a member of the Hope College Women’s Volleyball Team until my world turned upside down. I no longer play but here’s a little piece of my story.

Just when I thought I had an upper hand on college, the joke was on me. My freshman year volleyball spring season had just started. Going into the season, I was hesitant if my heart was in it. I decided to play because I always had. Little did I know what was going to hit me. First Friday practice, we were in a drill. The pass was shanked. Doing what I was supposed to do, I chased down and laid out for the ball. After diving and rolling through it, I had knocked the base of my head on the gym floor, but I kept playing. I thought it was just another knock on the noggin until my strength quickly declined. From that point on, I would experience the scariest few hours of my life.

It started with “I’m going to be fine, I just need to sit down” and quickly jumped to little to no vision, an inability to keep up with conversation, generate responses, or verbalize my thoughts. Then the trip to the Athletic Trainers changed to a trip to the ER when I started to “posture.” In layman’s terms that means my limbs (in my case my arms, hands, and fingers) were stuck in a crippled position yet it did not hurt. In fact, they were numb. Jenna VanderLaan (my teammate) and Camden (my brother) stood by me, trying to keep me calm. They were the first of many to stand by me through this.

Despite being told I was one of the “top worst 20 cases” my specialist had seen (and I was “zombie like”), I still thought this would only be a few days setback, then I’d be back at it. There were three main components to my head injury; concussion, occipital neuralgia, and vestibular deficit. My symptoms ranged from speech loss, memory loss, a lack of emotional regulation, zoning out with no control over when I came to, neck pain, and heightened noise sensitivity. My thinking had to stay at surface level, otherwise I would lose ability for the rest of the day to function. Not all symptoms were noticeably present within the first week. Within the first month, I came to the realization my world had been rocked. For the next five months, I would be retraining and strengthening my brain.

Immediately I started physical, cognitive, and occupational therapy. Because of my state, my doctor, therapists and specialists urged me to not follow through with my plan to be a Camp Geneva counselor that summer. They left the final decision up to me but strongly advised against it. I was left with no job for the summer and no longer playing the sport I had always played. I was unable to have a conversation as a typical 19-year-old would, unable to remember simple tasks, or stay awake for more than a few hours.

Everything I had known was none of what I knew now. One hour of activity came with at least two hours of rest. A shower or lunch trip would require a two to three hour nap. It wasn’t until a month into therapy when I was able to stay awake enough to drive myself anywhere. Communicating was more difficult than ever before. Asking for the remote once came out as “Can you hand me the iron?” Sometimes I would notice my slip-up, but more times than not it would not even register. Not being able to keep up with conversation and social environments took another toll on my emotional state. My frustration over the simplest thing led to hours of tears. Specifically, on the Fourth of July, I hit my head on the side of a boat – nothing severe — but it shook me. Not choosing to, I began to relentlessly bawl for no reason. Who cries on a boat on the best day of the summer? It just isn’t logical. That started to become me: not logical. I was not somebody who forgot conversations. I didn’t cry in front of people. I managed myself well. I always smiled. I remained composed. But none of that was true anymore. I started to become not me.

I began to fight my own body. Accompanied by these physical struggles came mind struggles. With my own anxiety and depression rising, every step forward felt like two steps back. Those who have known me for a while know I struggle with more than just anxiety, eating is a battle I face daily. As this season of despair took over, so did my weight loss. I began to lose weight. Losing weight is a blessing for many people, but for me, it’s the opposite. Having seen a number of dieticians previously, I had started to become okay with reaching out for help. But this was going to require a whole new type of help. Luckily I had a doctor who helped me see the ease of taking daily meds to help with my anxiety, depression, and ability to eat. The thought of not being able to manage myself by myself was difficult to grasp.

From April 6, 2018 to September 2018, I was destroyed and made new within a series of five months. My heart, mind, and perspective was changed. It did not hit me at first, it took a long while. But there were a few moments that I was shifted. In the early weeks, I listened to “Blessings” by Laura Story. I had listened to it countless times, but this time it hit me different. She says, “What if blessings came in raindrops? …What if your trials of this life is His mercy in disguise?” That is exactly what I was enduring; trials that were His mercy. His mercy was showing up through people as well. Coach Mitchell (he most likely doesn’t know this) gave me the biggest compliment somebody could ever tell me. “You are looking healthy,” he said. Healthy is a feeling I had been missing for a long while. A few weeks later, I began sharing how I was doing physically and mentally with those I was close with. Unsurprisingly He showed up through them.

Through opening up, I met more of my friends. They were friends I already had; in fact, some of them had been in my life for years and years. But I saw sides of them I had never seen before. My eyes were opened to the number of people, and more specifically, Hope students who fight the same battle. Yet, every story is a tad different.  

It wasn’t until a few raindrops hit my life and turned into a full-fledged downpour that I found God’s mercy. The sport I thought that made me also destroyed me. The schedule I built up and perfected was left in ashes. The people that cheered me on were now standing by me. The body that carried me 19 years forced me to carry it. The depression and anxiety I hear in other testimonies took ahold of mine. It took ahold not only of me but of my life. I was left face to face with this lie: “Everything I ever knew was no longer.” But the one thing I needed to know was this; God was there. He is there. And He always will be. God handed me this life and is fighting for it too, just as I am. No matter how much we pour into our own plan, we sometimes do not get to pick our own battles. But how we chose to fight is a daily testament to God’s faith in you and your faith in God.

 

 

THE HOPE ATHLETES’ JOURNAL MISSION STATEMENT
from creator Stephen Binnig

The mission of the Hope Athletes’ Journal is to give members of the Hope Athletics Community a medium where they can share their stories to relate to, understand, and appreciate coaches, players, prospective students, and fans beyond the game. My goal through this project is that those in and around our community will write vulnerable, principled, honest, and respectful stories that ultimately knit our college even closer together. If you or someone you know has a story that could be shared on the Hope Athletes’ Journal, please reach out to me via email at Stephen.Binnig@hope.edu.

If you or someone you know is in need of help, here are some resources both on and off campus:

Hope College Office of Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS): 616-395-7945

Hope College Campus Ministries: 616-395-7145

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673

Hope Athletes’ Journal: Jason Beckman

LAYING DOWN NUMBER ONE

        My name is Jason Beckman, and I am a senior on the Hope College men’s basketball team.  I was a bit weary at first to open up and let a more vulnerable side of me show to readers here on the Hope Athletes’ Journal, but I think it’s “about time people start sharing who they really are, rather than what we think people want us to be,” as my friend Steve Binnig told me.  So, without further ado, here is a deeper look into the guy behind that jersey with the number one.

Jason in action at Devos Fieldhouse.

To be honest with you, I had first written a pretty concise, neatly packaged story that painted me in a favorable light. But it wasn’t good enough because it wasn’t the “real Jason.” So I scrapped it.  The real Jason is WACK. Legitimately messed-up. Like, I don’t think many people would want to be friends with the real Jason. I’ve made a ton of mistakes, and I’ve often missed the mark. There have been times when I’ve been impatient, unkind, and downright terrible to people, especially my closest friends and family.  I’ve often tried to mask my fear of rejection and fear of failure with addictions of the flesh, like hyperactivity in my schedule, lust and impurity, and putting on a mask that “everything’s cool.” That’s wack. I’ve been fake a lot of times, showing most people the better me. I’ve often been a dude I’m not, and I apologize for not being consistent with the way I act and treat people.  The real Jason is often too short-tempered, too selfish, and often ignores the real needs of those around him. I’ve fallen short, and I’ve truly been a disappointment in myself at times. The real Jason has been imperfect, but I think this has been the best realization I could possibly come to.

        Over the course of my 23 years, I’ve begun to realize that on my own, I’m pretty piss-poor at living what I see as a “noble life.” I’m messed up on my own, but actually that’s the beauty of it.  I believe that in my weakness, in my failures, and in my dirt, my Lord Jesus is rejoicing. The fact is that I have realized my weakness is cause for joy, because it points me to the only true source of perfection.  The only solution for my human insufficiency is divine intervention from God Almighty, in the form of his son Jesus. And as cliche as it may sound, I find peace in my brokenness. I know that Jesus is bringing new wine out of this old, broken-down, wacked-out wineskin.  Praise the Lord! I rejoice in the fact that I know this battle is no longer mine: Jesus conquered death and He conquered my biggest mistakes. Thank you God! So, I’m good because He is good. This realization crushes that mask that the fake Jason has often put on and relieves me of the stresses of the flesh.  I’m good, and SO ARE YOU! Praise Jesus.

        All of this said, I’m sure that some of you reading this feel a lot like me.  “Sure man, I know Jesus saved me (or maybe you don’t, that’s okay too. I’m right here with you!) and I know I’m good, but right now I feel like garbage.  I messed up again, and I don’t know if I can get back up.” To you, I’m extending my hand.  Extending my hand to help you up, and extending my arm to wrap around you.  I’ve been there, and I will likely be there again. I don’t have this figured out in any way, shape, or form, but I know that we are in this together. This crazy thing we call life is going to hit us all in the teeth and going to make fools of all of us.  In these valleys, I believe that we, as a Hope College athletic community, need to bond together and embrace our imperfections. We need to  stop putting on this fake persona of “nice” and stop leading people on that ‘everything’s good.’ We need to stop trying to look good on the outside and to live into the ways that we are all broken. It is only in this brokenness that God can receive the glory He is due. And then, when we find those mountaintops together and we reach our pinnacle, it’s going to taste that much sweeter, knowing that we had a brother and sister next to us who got us there, who spurred us on, and who saw us as we really are.  Bringing Jesus glory in both the hills and the valleys — that’s what my true dream is for Hope College.

        Lastly, I need all of you reading this to know how amazing God has fashioned you to be.  No matter where you are now, He has called you and me both to more. More love, more patience, and more HOPE.  We each have a unique set of talents, gifts, abilities, and a unique identity. Let’s embrace who we really are and who we are made to be. YOU ARE AMAZING! Believe that, no matter how far you are from your “amazing.” It’s coming! Jesus promises that. It seems to me that it’s a waste of time to try to be anyone else at this point, so be and do you with all the gifts and forgiveness God has given you.  Embracing our differences in a community of encouragement is how we are really going to make an impact on this campus. Let’s push each other to each of our AMAZINGs with the help of Jesus.

        Finally, please know that whatever you have done or whatever you will do, and wherever you are at, you are in good company: Number one on your men’s basketball team can be a damn fool too.  Praise the Lord. In my weakness, He is made strong.

 

THE HOPE ATHLETES’ JOURNAL MISSION STATEMENT
from creator Stephen Binnig

The mission of the Hope Athletes’ Journal is to give members of the Hope Athletics Community a medium where they can share their stories to relate to, understand, and appreciate coaches, players, prospective students, and fans beyond the game. My goal through this project is that those in and around our community will write vulnerable, principled, honest, and respectful stories that ultimately knit our college even closer together. If you or someone you know has a story that could be shared on the Hope Athletes’ Journal, please reach out to me via email at Stephen.Binnig@hope.edu.

If you or someone you know is in need of help, here are some resources both on and off campus:

Hope College Office of Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS): 616-395-7945

Hope College Campus Ministries: 616-395-7145

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673

 

Walking Into the Fire

This past summer I had the opportunity to attend the Global Leadership Summit. I was selected, along with a group of other Hope athletes to attend GLS and it tremendously changed my perspective on leadership and motivation.

The Summit had speakers from around the world come and share their knowledge and different views of leadership and how God plays a part. Hope Athletics presented me with an opportunity to listen to several moving speakers talk and teach about their experiences and lessons learned in our world today. This world around us and the people in it are constantly changing, it almost becomes hard to keep up with. I learned that a big piece in the center of all of that is leadership, and that means us as leaders. Everyone can be a leader, and in some way, shape, or form, we all are. During this time, I realized that I was always looking for someone to inspire me, I was always looking for my motivation to come from somewhere or someone that wasn’t me. But what if I was the reason for someone else’s inspiration? What if I was the reason someone else was motivated to do something? This made me take a step back and see that I could be that person too. I could be that person here at Hope or on my lacrosse team, that showed someone else the way. Everyone has a chance to be that person. It doesn’t have to start tomorrow, it can start today.

The Hope Athletics Global Leadership Summit group spent an evening reflecting on what they learned while taking in a beautiful sunset on Lake Michigan.

I was able to be part of our lacrosse team last year where we made it a priority to celebrate the little wins in our practices or in our games. We didn’t just focus on the big goals at the end of the season, we also focused on the little steps it took to get there.This was something as small as having good communication while we were man down on a penalty card. This little win contributed and brought us a step closer to our bigger goal of winning conference. As a team, leaders stepped up and brought us closer by celebrating these small steps. One of the speakers at The Summit, Craig Groeschel, pointed out that anyone can be a leader, you don’t have to have a title to be one. Many people think that captains on a sports team or managers in a business team are the only leaders, that’s not necessarily true. This was something important for me to realize because it is an idea that I would like to implement and continue on our lacrosse team. You can be a leader to anyone, just like someone can be a leader to you.

One of my favorite speakers was Erwin McManus. He spoke on the idea of becoming the person we were supposed to be and how fear plays into that. He had an incredible story of his own fear and this brought me even closer to my own story. I really connected with the idea of running into the fire. McManus pointed out that our fear is what is controlling us, like how fire controls the damage it causes, and that on the other side of our fears, is freedom. As leaders, we can’t run from the fire, we can’t pull our followers away from the fire, that would show that it is still controlling us, right? Then leaders must run into the fire, because freedom and greatness is what is on the other side. I have made this a daily part of my life since I let this sink in after the conference. I strongly relate to the phrase, “no longer a slave to fear,” and I have since before I even heard McManus speak, but hearing all his lessons and teachings, I got a chance to revisit why I started believing in that in the first place. I don’t want fear to control me, anyone that I follow, or anyone that follows me. I agree with the idea that, as a leader, you can’t lead other people away from the fire, you have to show them and lead them through it.

Leaders create other leaders. This is something that I see at Hope College every day, no matter how small. I am incredibly appreciative to have had this opportunity to hear these amazing stories and have the chance to go out and implement these ideals into my life and the lives of others on this campus and on my team. I intend to keep spreading the great leadership tips that I got in hopes that maybe I can be that inspiration or motivation for someone else to do the same, just like these speakers did for me.

About the writer Laurel Frederickson is a sophomore majoring in public accounting and is a member of our women’s lacrosse team.