Walking Into the Fire

by Laurel Frederickson ’21

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

by Grace Bubin ’19

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

by Steve Binnig ’19

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

 

Body and Soul: The Haley Fischman Story

by Eva Dean Folkert

Fischman in the discus circle, competing on spring break in March.

There inside an eight-foot, concrete circle with a discus white-knuckle-gripped in her right hand, it was not readily apparent that Hope College’s Haley Fischman ’18 was coping with cancer. The senior student-athlete struck the pose of a skilled thrower ready to propel two pounds of wood and metal and carbon fiber ridiculously far through the air and seemed much the same as she had hundreds, maybe thousands, of throws before. Well, maybe there was one exception, one new item added to her usual orange-and-blue Hope uniform that betrayed her new reality: this time, on the first day of the 2018 Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association Track and Field Championships in early May, Fischman wore an unassuming cream-colored bandana over thinning brunette hair.

Finally, Fischman inhaled deeply, began to twirl as discus throwers do, and then, by power and faith, rendered a ferocious heave and let both go ­­— the disc in her hand, that breath from her chest. Discus and exhalation, they flew and flew.

After the first was fully and forcefully ejected, it landed 124-feet, 6-inches away with a solid thud on new May grass. When the second was equally expelled, it made an adament noise, too, the sound of effort and relief penetrating the crisp spring air. It all was a feat that few, except those on the Hope team and in her family, understood as inspiring and even miraculous.

And not just at that moment but also a day later. Fischman’s all-out effort and that fourth-place-resulting discus throw accounted for five points, just enough for the Hope women’s track team to defeat Calvin College by four and a half points (179 – 174.5) over the course of the two-day meet and thus win the MIAA championship.

Here’s the added kicker (as if knowing she has cancer isn’t a gut-punch enough): Haley Fischman was not even supposed to be there. Two surgeries and chemotherapy initially, understandably discouraged her from going.

Here’s the added kicker (as if knowing she has cancer isn’t a gut-punch enough): Haley Fischman was not even supposed to be there. Two surgeries and chemotherapy initially, understandably discouraged her from going. But go she did, pulling off a championship-difference-maker after her third infusion of sickening and weakening chemo nine days prior. Fischman has been receiving a hopefully-curative-but-potent concoction for Hodgkin’s lymphoma every other week since late March. She also has a chemo port on the left side of her chest. But what she mostly has is an indomitable spirit and a deep Christian faith, and her fortitude and charismatic, infectious smile signals a young woman at peace in the fight of her life.

“I was raised in a faithful Catholic home by amazing parents (Renee and Paul). Just loving God and knowing Jesus and just having that strong foundation,” Fischman begins. “But when I was first faced with this, I was terrified. When I had that first lymph node diagnosed (as cancerous), I spent an hour in my room just crying. But then I was like, ‘Haley, this is God’s plan.’ And I think I just slowly started to kind of realize, ‘Hey, there is suffering in the world, but God is in control. He’s going to give you all of this love. This is temporary. This is temporary.’ And so that’s what I keep reminding myself.”

Cancer’s timing and presence are always an inconvenient truth. Fischman was diagnosed with the hateful disease in February, just after the indoor track season, one week before outdoor season and two-and-a-half months from graduation. The driven and goal-oriented 22-year-old had plans, and plenty of them: to win the MIAA in discus during the outdoor season, to qualify for the NCAA championships, to travel to Zambia and serve as a missionary with Pōětĭce International for the summer of 2018, and then to enroll in graduate school in genetic counseling in the fall.

Lymphoma bullied its way into those plans. Fischman was able to delay her chemotherapy for just a bit so she could travel on spring break with the track and field team and compete for what she believed would be one last time. After that, she hunkered down every other week at home in Grand Ledge, Michigan, for her treatments at Sparrow Cancer Center in Lansing. She would return to Hope’s campus on her off-chemo weeks to do what she first had only strength enough to do: finish her classes. “Chemo really knocks it out of you,” she says. “I am hurting a lot (during treatment weeks).”

“When she sets her mind after a goal, it’s ‘damn the torpedoes full speed ahead.’ You gotta love it.”

But Fischman just could not forget or give up on her first dream of the season — to win a MIAA championship in discus. The thought of literally throwing one early success in cancer’s face was a huge motivator for a young woman who has an uncanny knack for exhibiting confident moxie and compassion all at the same time.

“When she sets her mind after a goal,” says her father, Paul, “it’s ‘Damn the torpedoes full speed ahead.’ You gotta love it.” But first, she had to get clearance from her doctors to blast her own personal torpedo.

“My oncologist is actually from Bosnia, and he’s hilarious. A very straightforward guy,” Fischman chuckles at the recollection of the conversation. “I was like, ‘Hey, I throw discus,’ and he says, ‘Oh, I know discus.’ I was like, ‘Yeah, I kinda want to do this in our conference meet. This is my goal.’ He just looked at me and said, ‘If you think you can do it and you can throw it far, go right ahead.’”

The matter-of-fact conversation was all the green light Fischman needed. Practicing only 20 throws just three days before the MIAA Championships held at Adrian College, she suited up with that new and needed bandana, buoyed by being back with the team but weighed down by anxiety.

The Flying Dutch and Dutchmen dubbed themselves Team Haley on spring break.

“Honestly, I was nervous. I’ve been having a lot of trouble with panic attacks, just really bad anxiety and that week was actually an all-time high,” Fischman confides. “And I think it was just because it’s my last week of college, I’m graduating, it’s conference. I had all kinds of crazy things going on so my anxiety was really rough. I was obviously trying not to go into (the league meet) with expectations, but I’m a very competitive person and I was like, ‘Hey, I want to win. I want to do well because that’s been my goal.’ I knew I was not going to be that good, but I still really wanted to do well and not be a weak link. Not just for myself but for my team because we were so close to winning.”

Fischman’s presence did not weaken the team; in fact, it helped make them champions.

Indeed, the Flying Dutch won the 2018 title in one of the closest meets in MIAA history. It could be argued that, out of all the points the Hope women’s team accumulated, the five points that Fischman secured from her first-day, discus performance (she also finished 10th and scoreless in both shot put and javelin on the second day “and I was not too happy about that!”) were the jolt the Flying Dutch needed to claim the league crown. Her presence did not weaken the team; it helped make them champions.

“Having Haley there meant more than the points she scored,” says teammate Alison Rich ’18. “It really boosted our morale. Seeing her give her all fires you up to do the same. She was just a huge inspiration for us all season long.”

Fischman, left center, holds the MIAA trophy with teammate Alison Rich, right center.

The feeling was mutual. Her team uplifted Fischman, too. Throws coach Paul Markel texted weekly; her teammates constantly sent cards, flowers and called. When it came time to be back among them, Fischman continued feeling the love.

“When you get back in a competitive situation, you just do it because you love everyone you’re competing with,” Fischman explains. “(The team) has been a huge support the entire time and just having them there next to me, cheering me, just meant so much. And it felt good to feel normal again.”

Fischman hopes to finish chemotherapy soon, with radiation to come, and in that as well she’ll continue to embrace the mantra she adopted early in her cancer journey: “to be faithful, not fearful” taken from Isaiah 41:10. Many in the Hope community also have that tenet wrapped around their wrists. On the April night of the annual HOPEYs Awards that honor outstanding and inspiring performances by Hope teams and student-athletes, Fischman received the Karen Page Courage Award given in honor of Hope’s long-time women’s tennis coach who ended her brave, five-year battle with breast cancer in the summer of 2009. In a gesture of solidarity, 400 orange-and-blue “Faithful Not Fearful” wristbands were offered to those in attendance. Every single one was taken; more had to be ordered to satisfy demand.

“Having so many people supporting me has been amazing,” she says. “It would be so hard to do this without them.”

Like a trip to the NCAA championships, Fischman’s summer excursion to Africa will not occur either, but the funds she raised for her summer experience are now helping to support three local Zambian interns instead. Even in her absence, more faithful expressions are moving the kingdom of God a continent away.

One last Fischman goal will not be sidelined, however. The self-proclaimed biology nerd who graduated with honors (and a 3.68 GPA) has every intention of enrolling at University of North Carolina-Greensboro this fall for a master’s degree in genetic counseling. Her doctor has again cleared the way and Fischman again is ready to go.

If Haley Fischman has taught us anything, it is this: Always admire the visible and invisible. Appreciate the strength and faith found in both body and soul.

“A genetic counselor is to a geneticist as a nurse practitioner is to your primary-care doctor,” she explains. “We talk about how your genetics and the history of your family’s diseases are affected by genes. The area I want to go into, ironically enough, is cancer genetics, but I had made up my mind about that way before this happened. Now I guess it makes sense.”

So, the next time you marvel at athletes’ physical talents, consider too the state of their spirits. If Haley Fischman has taught us anything, it is this: Always admire the visible and invisible. Appreciate the strength and faith found in both body and soul.

 

Translative Lessons From Athletics to Career: The Alexis Thompson Story

By Eva Dean Folkert

Alexis Thompson ‘17 would not quit. It was not even a consideration. Sure, her interview process was arduous — 11 interviews in all for Stryker Corporation, a leader in medical and surgical equipment and supplies — but she was used to hard work, to tenacity, to playing until the final whistle. Those were lessons, Thompson says, she learned well after four years earning her degree and playing a varsity sport at Hope College.

Alexis Thompson, former Hope volleyball player and recent graduate

So for three months of interviews that ranged from the traditional sit-down question-and-answer sessions with potential bosses, to meetings in hospitals with potential clients, to taking a Gallup® StrengthsQuest test, to writing an essay about perseverance, to delivering a mock sales call, Thompson never gave up. And because she did, she is now a trauma sales associate for Stryker — named on Fortune magazine’s Top 100 Best Places to Work at #16 — and her sales territory is the east side of the state of Michigan.

Sports, it’s often been said, build character. But they do even more than that.

“Stryker is very adamant about maintaining a high-performing culture,” says Austin Brancheau ’12, also a Hope graduate and Thompson’s direct report. “I don’t think it’s a secret that our interview process is very selective and lengthy. It’s about finding the right people to fit in on the right team.

“That said, Alexis showed a lot of grit when she interviewed and grit is something that I think stems from her athletics experience playing volleyball at Hope. Whereas I think a lot of other people may have thrown in the towel after maybe the fifth step, Alexis went the extra mile to continue to pursue the next follow-up interview. She clearly demonstrated the tenacity to keep on pursuing this position with passion. And I think playing volleyball for Hope had a lot to do with that.”

Sports, it’s often been said, build character. But they do even more than that. Playing a sport, especially at the college level, builds a strong and dogged work ethic for those who wish to pursue excellence. While Thompson may have come to Hope with some understanding of that work ethic, she believes it was clarified and embodied further in Hope volleyball.

“Playing on a nationally ranked volleyball team for all four years, I knew I was playing with the best of the best,” explains Thompson, who was the Flying Dutch’s libero. “With Coach (Becky) Schmidt, you never settle. It’s always go, go, go. I knew if I didn’t come in (to practice) early or stay late to get extra reps, I wasn’t going get any better. Quitting was never an option. Having that engraved in my head all four years in volleyball and in my classes, I think, transferred into my mindset for my career. So I study hard for my cases. I prepare hard for my sales calls. I know I can’t wing it and hope it goes well.”

As a trauma sales associate, Thompson not only makes sales calls to introduce surgeons and medical staff to the latest medical device innovations offered by Stryker to better treat patients, she also supports those medical personnel who use Stryker products when they are in the operating room. As surgeons repair broken bones or replace hips and knees, Thompson is with them in surgery to provide technical support. If there are any questions regarding Stryker instrumentation, she provides operating-room-ready solutions during surgeries that can be as short as 40 minutes or as long as six hours.

“I study hard for my cases. I prepare hard for my sales calls. I know I can’t wing it and hope it goes well.”

Though she first came to Hope to be a nursing major, Thompson changed her mind as a sophomore and majored in business instead. Her goal from then on was to work in a business in a health-related field. And that is why she persisted to become a Stryker employee. The former volleyball player felt it was the best place to use all of her Hope-taught talents and skills.

“The variety of classes I was able to take at Hope made me well-rounded for this job,” Thompson says. “I might not have had the anatomy knowledge but through business classes and communication classes, I was able to be a better communicator. Hope is a challenging place, both academically and athletically. I think when you’re surrounded by so many people who are succeeding and want to do well in life, that pushes you to be better, too. Being surrounded by that in my Hope classes, in Hope athletics definitely prepared me for this job at Stryker.”

And, no doubt, in life.

 

Life Lessons on Base

By Eva Dean Folkert

As their bus pulled into Grissom Air Force Base, through the fence barrier and approved at the guard post, members of the Hope College baseball team could not help but feel a sense of real wonder. Before them, upon acres and acres of practical Midwest land, stood an operational military base with miles of runways and dozens of no-frills buildings. Airmen saluted and marked military vehicles whizzed by. Large aircraft stood in august readiness in the distance.

If it wasn’t blatantly clear to 31 Hope baseball players on board that bus prior to entering the base, it was now: This was not a typical team trip.

Hope baseball at Grissom Air Force Base, with a KC-135 Stratotanker

The stopover at Grissom was unique, yes, but not unexpected. It was an excursion arranged weeks earlier by Hope Coach Stu Fritz and Hope alum, Lieutenant Colonel Matt Garvelink ‘96. The Flying Dutchmen were on their way to play Hanover College on the second Saturday of March, and Grissom AFB is on the way, right off US31 in Peru, Indiana. For the past two years, Garvelink has invited the Hope team to stop in and visit the place where he’s been stationed since 2015. Together with Garvelink and other military personnel on base, the baseball players eat a meal in the dining hall, then sit a spell and learn how a national team practices tenacity, commitment, accountability, trust, loyalty, and leadership for the sake of others.

Is there a better place to hear about large-scale dedication to tenacity, commitment, accountability, trust, loyalty, and leadership?

Is there a better place to hear about large-scale dedication to those values? With each visit the Hope baseball team has made to Grissom, transformational lessons unfold into a transformational experience.

“For me, being on base reminds me that a lot of times in life, there are things so much bigger than baseball,” says senior captain Danny Carrasco, a business major from Grandville, Michigan (Calvin Christian HS). “Right now, I think the biggest thing in a lot of our lives is baseball, and we have this commitment to it and we all work really hard at it. But then we see what Lieutenant Colonel Garvelink does, what his team does, and how they are committed to a bigger, greater cause. I would say that we can translate that idea to playing baseball, but better than that, we can translate that into our lives in general.”

Like Carrasco, senior captain Landon Brower of Holland, Michigan (Holland Christian HS), has learned Grissom lessons for baseball and life. A biochemistry/molecular chemistry major, Brower has plans to enter dental school after graduation. He admits his life trajectory has been singularly focused; he’s never considered any other educational or career path. “But then I hear Lieutenant Colonel Garvelink’s story and I’m impacted by being with people who take different pathways and have so much success in different life experiences,” Brower reflects.

Lieutenant Colonel Matt Garvelink ’96 in St. Mere, France, for the 70th anniversary of D-Day

Garvelink’s story is a compelling one, a tale of following a calling to a military career only after obtaining a bachelor’s degree from Hope in biology with secondary education certification. Garvelink, who grew up in Holland, Michigan, taught for a year as a substitute teacher after graduation, but he felt a new nudge toward a totally different direction. So he enrolled in and graduated from Grand Valley State University with a degree in criminal justice and then entered Air Force Officer Training School in 2002, graduating as a second lieutenant. Airborne School came next at Fort Benning in Columbus, Georgia. Since then, Garvelink has trained with the Royal Air Force (RAF) in Great Britain, worked contingency response ops out of Germany, been deployed to Iraq five times since 2004, and served in every country in NATO.

“If you had asked me when I was at Hope if I was going to end up in the Air Force, I would have told you it was not even on my radar,” he says without a hint of irony directed at his metaphorical language. “It has been a fulfilling career.”

“Coach Fritz was an early example for me of a leader who really cared for his people. He treated me as an equal part of the team.”

Garvelink and Fritz’s longtime friendship started during the head coach’s first two seasons and the alum’s last two springs at Hope. The-now lieutenant colonel served as the student manager for Hope baseball team, and the coach and officer have remained in contact ever since, as much as they could anyway when Garvelink was off serving overseas. When he returned closer to home at Grissom, “Stu and I connected and talked about the team stopping by the base,” Garvelink explains. “My two years with the team are highlights of my time at Hope. Coach Fritz was an early example for me of a leader who really cared for his people. He treated me as an equal part of the team.”

Garvelink’s leadership style is one for interpersonal priorities, too. “You aren’t a good leader,” he says, “if you can’t tell if your team members have, or have not, brushed their teeth.” He doesn’t mean that he gets all up in their business, though; he means that good leadership happens face-to-face and with relational intention. As he oversees a squadron of 150 full-time and reservist airmen and women as the commander of the base’s defense unit, he stands by the credo that good teams must consist equally of good leaders and good followers. “I’ve seen it ultimately save lives,” he reasons.

“Being able to see the people on that base has been really great, and it’s open my eyes to a dedication to something bigger.”

Lt. Col. Garvelink, center, shows Jack Sojka, right, and Cal Barrett, left, pneumatic-powered weapons training simulators.

Garvelink passes on this and other pieces of their leadership philosophy to the Hope baseball team every time they stop by Grissom. He’s happy to take the time to not only impart his hard-earned thoughts on leadership but also to show the team  technologies of the modern military. It’s a way of giving back and moving forward.

“I think it’s important for our kids to see leadership in a different environment and to see trust and loyalty and love and cohesiveness there,” says Fritz, now in his 25th season coaching at Hope. “One of the things I tell our guys all the time is that being a student-athlete is a privilege, not a right. And those privileges that they have are given to them because people are willing to do what Matt Garvelink does.”

“Across Division III, there cannot be very many college athletes who get to see an Air Force base in real life,” Brower relates. “When we’re in Holland, Michigan, we don’t really think about who’s out there making careers out of protecting our freedoms and keeping us safe. Being able to see the people on that base has been really great, and it’s opened my eyes to a dedication to something bigger. I’m definitely more appreciative because of it.”

Family First: The Dennis Towns Story

By Eva Dean Folkert

A team is a family. The phrase has been used so often in the sports world lexicon that it’s prone to sounding trite or cliché. A team is a family. Is it predictable? Maybe. Overused? Possibly. But clichés are also this: they are true.

To say A team is a family is to recognize that athletes and coaches bond together for relational reasons as strong and real as blood relatives do for genetic ones.  And at Hope, to say A team is a family is to also know that those familial feelings extend far beyond one team to encompass an entire athletic program, from administrators to support staff to parents to even spectators… for the sake of all and for the sake of one.

Just ask Hope junior basketball player Dennis Towns.

Late in a game during his freshmen year at Hope, Towns was flying. A gravity-defying leap for a rebound — a Towns’ trademark lifted high a hundred times before in DeVos Fieldhouse — looked so superhuman that his hang-time bordered on the surreal. Well, at least it did until he landed. Reality hit when Towns came down to earth.

Here, let him tell you.

“There was about 30 seconds left in the game and we were on defense and the other team missed about five layups in a row.  So, I kept jumping for the rebound and eventually on the last one, my foot was kind of turned inward a little bit.  So, when I came down, the outside of my foot landed on top of someone else’s foot. And I was coming down from a high jump, too.  Anyway, my ankle rolled almost completely over and dislocated and slid right out of place.  I didn’t feel anything break, but when I sat down and looked at my foot, it was like, ‘oh, my goodness.’  I had never been injured previously up until that point. Like never!  I had never missed a game in high school or college.  Just seeing that was mind blowing.”

The “that” that Towns saw — as well as most in attendance in DeVos — was a foot pointing in a direction that no human foot is meant to point. It was turned out in an almost perpendicular manner to the side of his leg, a wrong-way right angle.

“The support that everyone in the building showed my mom that night was very touching, and I knew that it was very genuine.”

Towns grabbed at his ankle in panic and pain. Gasps went up and then silence came over the crowd. Hope’s athletic trainers sprang into action while the faces of teammates and coaches expressed immediate concern. And in the stands, Towns’ mother, Carol, was distraught.

“When she saw that, she was just very flustered. The support that everyone in the building showed my mom that night was very touching, and I knew that it was very genuine,” says Towns, a native of Flint, Michigan, and graduate of Flint Powers Catholic. “That’s one thing I am very grateful to the Hope community for because my mom was hysterical. She had never seen me hurt before.   Everyone was offering to help — the athletic trainers, basketball parents and even spectators. And of course, Coach was there for me and her too.”

After x-rays confirmed no break but a severe dislocation and after Carol Towns realized her son would be well cared for and play again at Hope, Dennis Towns went about the arduous work of rehab, hours of physical pushing and, of course, patience. And the support for the Townses kept rolling in. A get-well card was sent to Dennis from Hope basketball fans in attendance at a H-Club luncheon; athletic trainer Tim Koberna and jayvee coach Chad Carlson attended his first doctor’s appointment along with Carol; and, text and email messages of concern and well wishes dinged notifications of concern and encouragement to both of their phones.

“I mean, people I didn’t even know from Hope were checking in and asking me how things were going for Dennis,” offers Carol. “The support we received from the whole Hope community was phenomenal.”

By his sophomore year, Towns was ready to play again; his ankle healed, he became an integral cog off the bench during Hope’s 2016-17 MIAA championship season. This year, the computer science major, who also dabbles in piano and speaks Japanese, is projected to be a starting forward.

“Dennis can shoot that mid-range baseline jumper, which is kind of a no man’s land shot, but he loves it,” says Mitchell, now in his fourth year as Hope’s head coach. “Every day with Dennis seems like this explosion of potential and just a kind of joy for the game. He has an energy that reverberates.”

“I feel I can always go to him for anything. I think that will remain even after I graduate.”

Those are words Towns appreciates though they’re not totally new to his ears. Mitchell has not only been a coach but a mentor to Towns, a voice of encouragement and direction.

“Coach has been confident in me from the beginning,” Towns says.  “That’s one thing I can definitely say about our relationship.  I’ve always felt like he believed in me as a player and a person.  I’m glad that is a quality that he has because last year, being a sophomore on varsity with all the upperclassmen, it was like you can fall into a funk, wondering if you’re going to play.  But, Coach always was there to encourage me to work hard.  When I’m on the court, I’ve always been someone to give it all I have.  He sees that and encourages that. I feel I can always go to him for anything. I think that will remain even after I graduate.”

“That’s who we all are at Hope. Maybe a lot of folks don’t realize that from the tri-fold brochure, but I think once they are here, they quickly see that Hope is a place that cares deeply about players and students.”

A team is a family. And not just for one season but beyond. For Mitchell, coaching basketball is as much about loving people as loving the game… and in that order.

“I’m not looking for a pat on the back. I just think that’s the best part of coaching,” Mitchell explains. “It isn’t practice; it’s the relationships. It’s seeing Dennis’ mom getting emotional about the love she received that night (of his injury) and how everybody just kind of helped her decompress and assured her that everything was going to be okay. As she’s walking from the arena to the training room and then heading to the hospital, it was really hard for her. And so I think the support of Hope and our coaching staff and our team was reassuring.”

“But that’s what Hope is,” he continues. “That’s who we all are at Hope. Maybe a lot of folks don’t realize that from the tri-fold brochure, but I think once they are here, they quickly see that Hope is a place that cares deeply about players and students…. I would much rather get invited to a player’s wedding than have him score 20 points. Lifelong relationships are what this is all about.”

Then Mitchell pauses and smiles and adds,

“But if I’m being completely honest, the 20 points is good too.”

Author’s Notes:

Learn a bit more about Dennis Towns here.

Gaining a Global Perspective Through Sport

By Joey Williams ’18

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

by Anders Northuis ’19

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.