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.

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.

Hope Athletes’ Journal: Grace Bubin

My name is Grace Bubin. I am a senior and a member of the Hope College women’s soccer team. Here is a piece of my story.

Let me give you a little background on the life of Grace. I come from a great family and a great community — Rockford, Michigan. I have two parents who set a perfect example of loving the Lord and one another. I have a brother who is altogether intelligent and compassionate. And lastly, I have an angel watching over me at all times – my oldest brother, Bobby, who passed away from a heroin overdose about two years ago. Although Bobby’s passing was devastating and heart wrenching, it ultimately led me to strengthen my relationship with Christ and get my mental health back on track. Now, let me tell you a little bit more of my personal battle with mental health.

No one knew it; not my teachers, not even my closest friends. I became a master of putting on a happy face.

Growing up with a supportive family and in an awesome town, I had everything laid out for me. It was no question that I would be successful in both academics and in athletics – both of my brothers were, so therefore, I would be too. And I was. I was able to balance several sports, advanced level classes, extracurriculars, and friendships with ease. I finished my senior year of high school with high academic honors in addition to earning all-state honors in soccer. Being involved in so many things allowed me to get out of the house and escape what was going on back home where both of my brother’s lives were in shambles due to drugs and alcohol. No one knew it; not my teachers, not even my closest friends. I became a master of putting on a happy face.

My parents didn’t know of my inward struggles with anxiety or depression either. I avoided talking to them about my brothers’ battles with addiction and pretended that I didn’t know what was going on. I continued to excel as if there was no other option. I knew if I didn’t, it would cause my parents more troubles. I wanted to bring them a little bit of happiness in the battle they already faced.  

It was hard trying to stay strong for everyone around you with a pasted-on smile that quickly goes away when you’re alone.

It was hard trying to stay strong for everyone around you with a pasted-on smile that quickly goes away when you’re alone. I knew I should express it, but for some reason I only wanted to suppress it. I can tell you first hand it’s tough trying to kill something that’s on the inside, that eats you alive, and there’s nothing you can do about it. No matter how hard you try, the pit in your stomach, the racing thoughts, the tears, and that feeling of numbness just won’t go away.

When I arrived at Hope as a freshman year, I still faced this battle, but I continued to put up a front and kept a smile on my face. Meanwhile, on the inside, I was crumbling, even though I was pre-accepted into the nursing program, I got decent playing time, I had friends in all different things on campus, and I had a boyfriend who thought the world of me. Yet I still felt funny. You know people love you, but it doesn’t feel like they do. You know there is something that will make you feel better, but you just don’t know what that something is. You want to be well, but you just can’t seem to get there. Then the anxiety begins to creep in, causing you to forget how to breathe. Your throat tightens up and your lungs feel as if they are bound to collapse, trying to gasp for air between the cries and wanting to feel something as the tears roll down your cheeks.

I successfully squeaked my way through freshman year without admitting my internal struggles to anyone and managing to avoid having a complete mental breakdown. It wasn’t until that summer I was finally able to admit to myself and my family that I was not doing okay. My anxiety and my depression had gotten so bad that I was physically sick. I had such bad migraines that I would throw up; my thoughts would lead me in such bad places that I would get sick to my stomach. When I opened up to my mother about everything, she handled it with such grace. She got me an appointment with our family doctor who knew our entire family very well and gave me a space me to further talk about my feelings. Talking to the doctor about everything felt so good and it all came out, surprisingly, very easily. After our appointment, I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression in which I would take a pill daily to help balance my mind and body.

Finally, I felt like I could breathe again.

Going back to school as a sophomore, I was dedicated to carry back a new trait with me – vulnerability. I wanted to tell my team, my sorority, my fellow nursing majors, and everyone in my life. I wanted to share my struggles, both past and present, and I wanted people to share theirs with me as well. Why should I hide something that is such a big part of my life when those closest to me could be struggling with the same exact things but are just too scared, like I once was, to share it? I started by opening up to my coaches. Leigh Sears, my soccer coach, asked if I would be willing to share my story with the team, and I instantly said yes, not just for my sake but for theirs too. I hoped I would spark a flame inside their soul and get them to speak up, and be vulnerable too. I shared my testimony with the team and not a dry eye left the room. Finally, I felt like I could breathe again.

Now in my senior year, I still value vulnerability. Nearly everyone who knows me knows my story. They know of my struggle with depression and anxiety. They know of my brother’s death. Yet, the most used attribute my friends and family have used to describe me is “strong”.  Strong because I now face my struggles head on, living life fully and abundantly. I have now learned to love wholeheartedly, speaking my truths and listening with an open ear to others.

My depression is and will always be my worst enemy, but my closest companion. No matter what I do or where I go, it follows me. However, no longer do I let it take over and I do not give up. I now know how hard depression can be to deal with but I now also know how amazing the moments feel when it is absent. The moments when I don’t feel that heaviness on my shoulders or inside of my chest is the reason why I don’t stop fighting. I am grateful that my depression influences me to appreciate the good days so much more. I’ve learned to ground myself in those moments while reminding myself that there are so many more to come.

So now, I encourage you to fight the stigma of mental health with me. Be strong, be vulnerable, be brave, and keep the faith.

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: Steve Binnig

My name is Steve Binnig. I am a senior from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and am a member of the Men’s Soccer team at Hope College. Here is a piece of my story.

On Tuesday January 8th, 2018, the second day of classes of my second semester of junior year, I woke up in a panic attack.

Up until that moment, I had never experienced a panic attack before. Frankly, I had never really had anxiety before.  For the first time in my life, I did not think I was going to be able to bring myself to get out of bed. For the rest of the semester, everyday tasks like going to class, grabbing lunch with my closest buddies, and hitting the weight room suddenly felt impossible to accomplish. My brain felt like it was running at a million miles an hour. I could not make sense of my thoughts, feelings, or emotions. Again, this entire experience was new to me, and for all intents in purposes, made no sense.

Let me back track a bit. I come from a great family. I have a set of parents who love God, love each other, and love my sisters and me more than anything in the world. I have a lot of friends. I have an awesome girlfriend. I do well in school. I have a bright future… so why in the world did I have any reason to panic?

While I don’t know exactly what the root of this initial panic and anxiety was, what I can tell you is that the days since January 8th of this year have been hard. Some days have been downright terrible. I have had to do some things that were, at first, really uncomfortable. It started with a conversation that same Tuesday between me and two of my closest friends, Hayden Smith and Tucker Marty. I told them what I was experiencing, and that I had no idea how to stop it. Hayden and Tucker are two understanding and compassionate people, but it is still incredibly difficult to open yourself up like that to others. Luckily, they encouraged me to reach out to my family, my girlfriend Holly, and a few others I consider my closest friends. To set the record straight, I have never had a hard time articulating my thoughts and feelings. I am a verbal processor, and I enjoy working through the thoughts in my head with others. But, attempting to make sense of my brain on that Tuesday felt undoable. That being said, I could not be happier that Hayden and Tucker encouraged me to speak up.

Consequently, for most of this calendar year, I have been going to regular therapy sessions and been prescribed different medications to treat General Anxiety Disorder and Panic Disorder. I have seen my support system rally around me in ways that I did not think were possible. Bottom line, I got, and am continuing to receive, the help that I need.

Now, enough about me. What does this mean for you? Allow me to clear the air: this is not a pity party. I am not asking for your sympathy. Save it. What I am asking is for you to consider your current and past perspectives on mental health.

Prior to this happening in my own life, when trying to understand someone dealing with mental illness, I would think things like, “Why can’t you just turn it off?”, or “Just get over it already.” Maybe I am just a cold-hearted individual, but my intuition tells me that a friend, family-member, or complete stranger has led you to think these things at least one time or another. Maybe, it’s been thoughts about yourself in your own head that have led you to feel this way.

As an athlete, I get it. For as long as I can remember, I have had coaches, teammates, parents, mentors, etc. teaching me what it means to be, “tough.” Tough, in this case, means that to show even a glimpse of weakness would make one a failure. Athletes are conditioned to be tough. From the way we train, to the way we play, even in the way that we relate to others… the best athletes are the toughest ones.

Fear not, I am not about to dismantle the idea of athletics. I have learned many of my most valuable life lessons on the soccer field. I believe that through sport, we gain invaluable skills that carry over into our day-to-day lives. But do not miss this.

I also believe that in our culture, specifically in the sports world, we have created an environment where athletes are discouraged to speak up about their internal battles.  That needs to change.

If I have learned anything from battling mental illness it is this: Tough does not internalize. Instead, tough works through the messiest parts of life and faces its hardest trials head on. Tough asks for help when help is required. And most importantly, tough never, even when it seems absolutely impossible to keep moving forward, gives up.

All things considered, we attend a school that offers both a safe and welcoming campus. Speaking from my own experience, staff and faculty at Hope actually want to know their students. They care about us, and that is not the case at a lot of institutions. However, I understand that fact does not necessarily make it any easier to seek out the help you need. If I’m honest, one of my biggest fears in this whole thing was that my family, friends, and mentors would consider me a “bad Christian” because I was dealing with anxiety, panic and depression. In my head, I was convinced that no “good Christian” would struggle the way that I was struggling. Hear these words that I have had to tell myself repeatedly over the last several months: that is a lie straight from the pit of hell. There is no such thing as a perfect person, let alone Christian. We live in an imperfect world, full of sin, sickness, hardship, poverty… the list goes on. We, as people are inherently fallen and sinful. As a result, things like anxiety and depression exist. My point is that one of the first steps in confronting mental illness is recognizing that struggling with anxious thoughts, panic, depression, thoughts of suicide, self-harm or whatever is not abnormal. It is simply another negative byproduct of our fallen world. As Kevin Love recently stated in his article by the same name, “everyone is dealing with something.” Remember, no man is an Island.

My goal is to get people talking. Friends talking with friends, students with professors, departments with other departments, athletes with non-athletes, Sibs with Delphis, baseball players with football players, community members with Hope students. You get the point.

The people of Hope are too valuable to struggle on their own. We are blessed with too strong of a community to allow one another to fight our demons independently.

No, I don’t have the answer. But, I do know there needs to be change. If nothing else, I am here to tell you that mental illness is very real. I am ashamed to say that I would not have said that a few months ago. It is no secret that there is a negative stigma that surrounds mental health in our country, and I have been guilty of contributing to that stigma in the past. The important piece moving forward is that we can debunk the idea that the person inflicted with mental illness is weak, incapable, crazy and/or a failure.

Speak up. Whether for yourself or for someone you love. Speak up. I can’t promise it will be easy, but I can promise it will be good.

 

 

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

 

Gaining a Global Perspective Through Sport

I play lacrosse for Hope, and it’s my absolute joy to wear the orange-and-blue jersey. I also play for another team, and it gives me great pride and pleasure, too. I play team handball for Team USA, and I recently got the opportunity to do so in Croatia. Although my trip was not part of my official curriculum as a history and economics double major, it was an unique educational experience and could not have happened without the support of the Hope College community.

I grew up playing lacrosse in the Detroit area but in the summer of 2012, I came upon team handball while watching the London Olympics.  I really liked how fast paced the sport was, and it seemed like something that would help keep me in shape for lacrosse.  I did a little bit of research and discovered that the only handball club near me was located all the way in Chicago. Luckily, my family took a vacation to Chicago later that summer, and I found a way to practice with the club. That was my first time playing the sport, and I was hooked! I later formed a de facto club at my high school, Detroit Catholic Central, and continued to play casually with my friends.

In the fall of 2014 I heard about an open tryout for the US U21 national handball team in Chicago, naturally I signed up to attend. After a few fun but grueling days, I was put on the reserve team, which is a fancy way of saying I didn’t make the cut. A few months later though, the coach of that team emailed me asking if I’d be willing to play in a tournament in Sweden. Since then, I’ve practiced with that original team in Chicago every few months, and have practiced with another team in Chicago (which is coached by the U21 national team) about once a month, in addition to training with the Olympic team a couple of times.

In fact, for most of my coaches and fellow campers, I was the first American handball player they had ever seen.

Playing a modified version of tag with my buddies Niclas (Finland), Youssef (Egypt), and Rasmus (Denmark).

This summer, an opportunity to play in Croatia came about and there was no way I could turn it down. I attended the International Handball Goalkeeper Camp, an annual weeklong training camp in the coastal resort town of Omis. The camp’s reputation has attracted some of the best handball goalkeepers and coaches in the world. To draw a comparison with football, it would be like attending a quarterback camp with Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and Matthew Stafford in the Bahamas. I was lucky enough to have been accepted to the camp last summer, which made me the first American ever attended. In fact, for most of my coaches and fellow campers, I was the first American handball player they had ever seen.

Working on a reflex exercise at camp.

Over 90 goalkeepers attended the camp, and about 26 countries were represented. There were two training sessions a day, one in the morning and one in the evening. Each session was led by a coach and player, and would emphasize a different aspect of goalkeeping. Not only were the coaches and players world class, they were also very down to earth and willing to help. Borko Ristovski, the goalkeeper for Macedonia’s national team and Barcelona, would stay after every session and shoot penalty shots with younger goalies. Roland Mikler, the national team goalkeeper for Hungary and one of my favorite pro goalies, was at nearly every training session and gave specific feedback to the athletes. My training partner one day might be a professional goalkeeper from Egypt or a nearly 7 foot tall athlete from Finland.

Hearing these different viewpoints gave me a more nuanced understanding of how the U.S. is perceived by different people and gave me the chance to represent the United States to these people in a personal way.

Walking around town with my friend Eske, from Denmark, and Dan, from Spain.

I may not have many things in common with someone from Denmark or Croatia, but on the handball court, we were able to start a dialogue that carries into mealtime and rest time (luckily, almost everyone spoke fluent English). Most of the conversations would take place in the hotel’s pizza shop. I was amazed at how naturally a conversation about handball could transition into a profound dialogue about topics like the refugee crisis. Perspectives from Sweden, Spain, Germany, Denmark, Egypt, the Netherlands, and the United States would each be presented in these conversations, which were always civil and sometimes light-hearted. Hearing these different viewpoints gave me a more nuanced understanding of how the U.S. is perceived by different people and gave me the chance to represent the United States to these people in a personal way. While the technical aspects of the International Handball Goalkeeper Camp were immeasurably valuable, the opportunity to make friends from all over the world is what I cherish  about time in Croatia.

Hope College has provided me with both the support and education that allows me to get the most out of my experiences playing handball abroad. In the athletic department, I have found tremendous support as both a varsity lacrosse player and an aspiring handball player. Hope’s Head Lacrosse Coach Michael Schanhals has been particularly supportive of me both as an athlete and person. At great cost to the lacrosse team, he allowed me to travel to Paraguay during spring break (when our lacrosse team was in-season) so that I could compete for Team USA in the Pan-American Championships. He has also been one of my biggest advocates and biggest role models.

My unusual hobby has been a unique educational tool. Thanks to my education at Hope College, I am better able to reflect on world-wise experiences because of a world-wide sport.

Other coaches, like Becky Schmidt, Chad Carlson, and Melinda Larson, have been incredible mentors and have helped anchor me as both an athlete and a Christian. Academically, I have been blessed with very patient and helpful advisors in both the History and Economics Departments. Professors Marc Baer and Gloria Tseng have helped me improve as a historian and have fostered my love of history and writing. Professors Todd Steen and Stacy Jackson of the Economics Department have also been extremely accommodating and supportive of me, which I have always appreciated considering that I’m not the most talented economics student in the department. However, with their help, I have been able to refine my knowledge of economics so that I can view the world through an added lense.  Finally, I’ve had a tremendous amount of support from my fellow members of the Fraternal Society.

My unusual hobby has been a unique educational tool. Thanks to my education at Hope College, I am better able to reflect on world-wise experiences because of a world-wide sport.

Faith and Sports in Action in India and Japan

 

It’s safe to say the kids and I had a fun time at camp in Udalguri!

This summer I had the great opportunity to travel to both India and Japan, with the support of the Hope College’s athletic and kinesiology departments, to not only share my faith in Jesus Christ but also be immersed in new cultures through sports. In Udalguri, India, I helped run a sports camp for children. In Tokyo, I taught soccer. In each place, my fellow Hope College travelers and I were fortunate to meet a multitude of kind-hearted people with eye-opening and educational worldviews.

In each place, my fellow Hope College travelers and I were fortunate to meet a multitude of kind-hearted people with eye-opening and educational worldviews.

Pastor Samuel and me

In India, we worked alongside Pastor Samuel, who travels around the state of Assam preaching at various Christian churches and making in-home visits to their members. Throughout our time in Udalguri with the Boro people, he showed me what true passion for serving the Lord and seeking first His kingdom looks like. Pastor Samuel prayed with so much passion and energy. It was clear that he truly loved the Lord. Another aspect of Pastor Samuel that I admire is his desire to build up leaders from the community to serve others as the hands and feet of God. We met two of the many men and women whom he is mentoring as leaders across northern India. Bichan and Monoroma travelled with Pastor Samuel to be a part of his Gospel-spreading work in Udalguri that week. Because both of them speak English well, they struggle with deciding whether they should move to a big city to get a good paying job with a telemarketer company or staying in northern India with Pastor Samuel to spread the good news of Jesus Christ.

Together at the Great Buddha in Kamakura, Japan

In Japan, we toured Tokyo for two weeks as well as helped out at a local soccer camp run by Inter Milan and Technos College. This trip gave us the opportunity to see various temples and shrines, which are still culturally significant throughout Japan. Shun, a student from Technos, provided us a good deal of insight into the history and meaning behind everything we saw. His grandfather is the priest at the temple in his hometown. Buddhist traditions have been a part of his family’s life for generations.

The kindness of a complete stranger is something we can all learn from and strive to improve in our own everyday lives here in the America.

Everyone we met or encountered in Tokyo was extremely kind to us. Whether we were asking for directions, joking loudly on the trains, or taking random selfies with people by the Shibuya Crossing (the busiest crosswalk in the world), the Japanese people offered authentic hospitality constantly. So many people were willing to walk two miles with us even if we only needed him or her to walk one. The kindness of a complete stranger is something we can all learn from and strive to improve in our own everyday lives here in the America.

I bring these lessons back with me to Hope thankful that I was able to experience God in new ways this summer. I am majoring in social work and would like to find a job overseas after I graduate. These trips have reaffirmed my desire to work with a faith-based organization in another country in the future. I thank Hope College for these two unforgettable trips that allowed me to experience new cultures, see places I never imagined I would see, meet kind people I’m glad I met, and to become a more global citizen in the process.

More to Sweden than Ikea

 

Swedish ponies like selfies too!

Looking for the best summer of your life? Look no further, because Hope College Geology summer research is where you will find it. Ponies, Swedish farmers, ROCKS. What could be better? But before I get too far ahead of my story, let me explain.

Outcrop jackpot!

I am a geology major at Hope and also a member of the women’s soccer team (FIRE UP DUTCH!).  This summer, I was given the privileged opportunity to travel to Sweden to conduct research with Dr. Edward Hansen, professor of geological and environmental sciences and department chair, and fellow geology student, Max Huffman. This experience was unforgettable and formative too.

We traipsed through pebble and shrub-filled fields and many dense forests in search of square-meter-sized boulders. Often, we only found moss and lichen-covered hillsides. But that’s what makes being a geology researcher fun; each day is a chance for a new discovery.

In Sweden, we were investigating a particular type of rock that once made up a large mountain range formed during a tectonic event, the Sveconorwegian orogen that occurred roughly 1.14-0.9 billion years ago. During this event, tremendous amounts of pressure made portions of the rock melt. Our goal in Sweden was to find outcroppings of these rocks (now very eroded) to observe the portions we hypothesize were part of this melt.  So, a very large portion of our time was spent doing reconnaissance work, locating these outcroppings wherever they were scattered. This fieldwork was extraordinary but also very challenging. We traipsed through pebble and shrub-filled fields and many dense forests in search of square-meter-sized boulders. Often, we only found moss and lichen-covered hillsides. But that’s what makes being a geology researcher fun; each day is a chance for a new discovery. And on one of the best days, we discovered friendship with a farmer and his wife in their home.

On this particular day, we needed to use a rock drill to sample a low-lying outcrop in a farmer’s pasture. The day before, our Swedish colleague called ahead to make sure the owner was willing to let us sample (and cause quite a bit of noise pollution). With approval, the next day we started drilling. A couple hours into the drilling process, the farmer’s neighbor came over to ask us about our project. He spoke English very well and wanted to tell his non-English-speaking neighbor (the farm owner) a little bit about the geology we were investigating. After briefing him on our project and showing him how to use the rock drill, the farmer invited us to come into his house for “fica” (the Swedish version of teatime). Five energetic farm dogs and his wife — who had prepared coffee, tea, and pastries — greeted us at the door. She even had fresh milk from the cows who had been watching us drill.

It’s amazing that the experiences you never expect to have and the people you never expect to meet are the memories you know you’ll never forget.

For about an hour, we sat with the farmer and his family, and his neighbors’ family too, in their home, learning a few Swedish words and talking about geology, dogs, movies, and horse racing (the farmer’s daughter was a professional horse trainer). It turned out to be the best day of field work, ever. It’s amazing that the experiences you never expect to have and the people you never expect to meet are the memories you know you’ll never forget. Plus, I returned to the United States with a new favorite Swedish tradition – fica, a time of restful communion.

Rocks rock wherever you find them.

These highly educational experiences are not rare at Hope. The geology program here focuses heavily on hands-on learning so we often take trips afield. In my three years as a geology major, I have traveled to the Upper Peninsula, Colorado, northern Kentucky, the Smokies, Arizona, and California to study various terrains and rock types. But being abroad this summer was most amazing of all, affording me an opportunity that most undergraduate geology students don’t usually get. Each opportunity gave me invaluable lessons and memories about something I love: the Earth.

I’m not limited to one passion at Hope. I play soccer — a game I’ve loved since I was little — at a high level here, and I learn at a high level  here too.

So, what does all of this have to do with soccer at Hope? If there is one favorite thing I’ve learned through all of my Hope experiences, it is this: I’m not limited to one passion. I play soccer — a game I’ve loved since I was little — at a high level here, and I learn at a high level too. And, I am just one of many student-athletes who have been able to pursue their academic goals with gumption and not be limited by the demands of their sport. I have met so many other student-athletes who have been able to travel abroad for class work and/or research. In fact, my coach, Leigh Sears, wants us to take part academic  adventures like these as much as possible and encourages our team to do so.

Every place I’ve traveled to as a geology student and every game I’ve played as a soccer athlete has vividly shown me that Hope College and the Hope women’s soccer program are designed to create future leaders of tomorrow, not just talented students and soccer players of today. That’s a combination that’s made my Hope experience rock solid!