Role Reversal

It was supposed to be the other way around. I should have been the one doing the teaching. However, the act of learning fell squarely on my shoulders. Let me explain.

Our team consisted of eight student-athletes and three faculty/staff members. We were a rag-tag collection of God’s children who were prompted, prodded, encouraged and coerced into joining together to serve God in Uganda, Africa as part of the Hope College SEED program (Sport Evangelism to Equip Disciples). This program is offered through generous support of Sawyer Products and at its core is undertaken to teach student-athletes the power of sport as a way to engage in ministry. It is an opportunity for students to come alongside campus and ministry leaders to learn more about God and themselves, as well as, acquiring skills related to cultural competence and living into their faith both at home and in the global church.

Team Uganda consisted of friends and strangers with mixed genders, race, backgrounds, sport participation, ages, and experiences. It was a group that God had magnificently put together and orchestrated for purposes known only to Him. We partnered with the ministry of Sports Outreach to serve God and the global church via sport and personal interactions as part of an ongoing ministry in the slums of Kampala, the capital city of Uganda and rural villages near Gulu in the war torn northern region of the country.

The mission statement of Sports Outreach is to “restore hope and transform lives” and through the grace and power of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, I would say mission accomplished. We saw firsthand the power and impact of the Sports Outreach staff as they engaged individuals participating in their ministry in life changing conversations and service centered around the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Throughout our time serving with Sports Outreach in Uganda, we had significant time to spend and learn with each other. During trip planning we were unaware of why God had put us ALL together or why He had formed this exact group, but we trusted in the fact that since each person felt called to be part of this trip, God had something in store for us. Over time, some reasons have become clear, some are actively being revealed, while others are yet to be discovered. However, what we do know is that God met each of us in places and ways that demonstrate His love for us, while teaching us lessons to facilitate further growth and understanding of our calling and vocation.  

As a faculty member and “elder statesman” of the group, I thought my experiences and time spent in the church or classroom would be called upon often during our time together. I believed that teaching or imparting whatever wisdom someone might think I possess was something I would be expected to do. I thought that was a role that I was to fill. However, God had other plans and it became quickly apparent that His plans were not for me to teach but for me to learn. My world and expectations were turned upside down. The teacher became the student as God used those whom I considered pupils to educate me on how to be vulnerable, present, engaged, compassionate, and fervent in faith formation.

Through the students, I saw God in their ability to accept circumstances and each other for what and who they are. I was shown how to enthusiastically embrace the fact that life is a journey and it is more important to keep moving than feeling sorry for ourselves or getting stuck and dwelling on the failures or disappointments.

Lessons on challenging ourselves, stepping out in faith, and being comfortable with the uncomfortable were on the syllabus. Modules about importance of prayer, Bible reading, journaling, and being humble enough to ask questions of each other and God were lab activities that were explored. And classroom demonstrations about how to engage and live out the Fruits of the Spirit withstood the test of time and served as the answer key for how we all should live in our broken world.

So, from an educator who received an education, I thank Erica, Olivia, Daniel, Hayden, Colleen, Alli, Noah and Maddie for being willing to serve God through your life and actions. You are wonderful students but even better teachers.

 

 

About the writer:  Kirk Brumels is the department chair of the kinesiology department.  Click here to read his bio.

 

Hope Athletes’ Journal

Entry #1
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

 

Alumni Update: Building Upon my Hope College Foundation

By Emily Smith (’15)

During the first year of graduate school, when the material is the most overwhelming and free time is a myth, you find yourself building strong bonds with your colleagues as you commiserate about the journey ahead of you and reminisce about all the different paths that brought you together. At the University of Montana, my physical therapy class consisted of previous school teachers, construction workers, massage therapists, horse breeders, collegiate athletes, and freshly minted college graduates. Regardless of where we had come from, we all had the common grit and determination that comes with working hard to achieve high goals. Unanimously, we knew that was how we would survive graduate school too—pressing on with no intention of stopping now.

As we conquered physical therapy school together, I gave thanks on more than one occasion for how well prepared I felt by my Hope College undergraduate degrees (Exercise Science and Spanish). Any statistic can speak to the small class sizes at Hope College, which for me created a safe environment to foster my intellectual curiosity and integrity. But what statistics can’t show you is how exceptional the professors are—all of whom learned my name, even in the “larger” lecture halls. Having this personal connection with the professors encouraged me to succeed. I was not just another face in the crowd. From these relationships came powerful role models, lofty expectations, and personalized letters of recommendation that defied the generic mold. I’m sure these further enabled my success. It’s no wonder all the places Hope students have gone.

More than that, though, I felt Hope College prepared me for the pace and rigor that grad school tosses at its students. That first year of grad school is still the most difficult challenge that I have taken on to date, but I discovered that I had the foundation of solid knowledge and the study skills to do more than just memorize material. Suddenly, we have practical examinations that need us to demonstrate not only academic mastery, but the ability to perform under pressure with confidence and social competence. Suddenly, everything matters more than grades. I am dealing with real pain and human lives now. Some of my grad school peers really struggled under that pressure. I felt that the small lab class sizes in Hope College’s kinesiology department, with hands-on application, had provided the perfect stepping stone for success for me.

By talking with my PT classmates, I also realized just how much the Hope College pre-health professional advisor had done for me. This service is nearly non-existent at other schools, which baffles me considering how overwhelming the whole process is—even with help. At Hope, the pre-health professional advisor met one-on-one with each of her students applying to grad schools to review resumes, revise essays, and double check that credit requirements had all been met. She was both challenging and reassuring—letting us know that we were setting our sights high, but at the same time, that is exactly what Hope College had prepared us for.

Emily is seen here competing for the Flying Dutch track and field team.

My kinesiology department academic advisor, Dr. Maureen Dunn, also deserves huge thanks. She knew me by name. She knew which sport I played, which degree my younger sister was also pursuing at Hope (now a proud, successful nursing graduate!), and where I wanted my bachelor’s degrees to take me. She encouraged me and helped me reason through different career paths until I decided on physical therapy. I also was able to interact with her as my professor. She is one who recognizes a student’s potential and isn’t afraid to push them to get there. The challenge presented by her classes lead to deeper retention in subject areas that I continue to use as I further my career and education.

With the intimacy that Hope College’s education provided, I was guided to become a confident and capable student who went on to become the president of my graduate school class for the Physical Therapy Student Association. I was awarded a variety of scholarships and awards for leadership, patient and peer relationships, and academic achievement from both my faculty and my classmates, culminating with the Vince Wilson Outstanding Achievement Award, which they tout as their “highest honor” awarded to only one student in the entire school. I feel so blessed by the successes I have found with this phase of my life. All of my future patients and I owe many thanks to the kinesiology faculty at Hope for the exceptional experience and opportunities they provided to succeed.

My plans, now that I have graduated with my doctorate and passed boards with a license to practice, are to attend the University of Utah’s Orthopedic Residency program to become a specialist in the field of orthopedics. This will consist of a personal patient caseload, as well as, research, mentoring, volunteering, and teaching at the University of Utah. I hope to continue to pay forward the model of caring, compassionate instruction that I received from Hope College professors to foster my own students’ successes someday.

Gaining the Advantage: The Cadaver Lab

As individuals, our preferred way of learning can be as varied as the methods we use. But simply learning is not always enough. Success in a class, and more importantly in a professional career, is related to our ability to apply what we learn.

As faculty in the Department of Kinesiology, we strongly believe in experiential learning opportunities as a way to either make or strengthen the connections between coursework and professional application. That’s why we include internships, research, and laboratory expectations as part of our curriculum in the exercise science major.

One such experiential learning opportunity is the cadaver lab as part of our Human Anatomy course. Frequently institutions combine the study of human function (physiology) and structure (anatomy) into one large course. At Hope, we have chosen to split these courses into separate classes in an attempt to thoroughly explore each topic in more depth and breadth. The idea of the Human Anatomy Cadaver Lab was initiated to meet this goal and to that end an agreement was struck with the Michigan State Willed Body Program to provide whole body cadavers for educational study.

The Schaap Science Center is home to the Cadaver Lab.

Serving students in exercise science, nursing, and other pre-health programs, the cadaver lab is run by kinesiology professors Drs. Kirk Brumels and Kevin Cole. Along with selected students who help prepare and facilitate study with the cadavers, Brumels and Cole experience first hand the benefits of such a program and love to hear from students about their experience.

Sutton Williams, a 2014 graduate with a major in exercise science and current doctoral candidate in Human Anatomy at the University of Mississippi, believes that his career choice was directly influenced by the opportunity to study cadavers at Hope. Sutton writes:

“The cadaver laboratory at Hope was certainly a major highlight of my undergraduate education; being able to work so closely with faculty members during my time in the lab was an incredible experience. It not only fostered my fascination for the human body, it also provided me with an unparalleled educational experience for the learning of human anatomy. Without the cadaver lab I definitely would not be in the position I am today.

The cadaver lab is one of the most incredible and important educational experiences a pre-health related professional student can have. After working with health related professional students over the past four years during my doctoral work at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, I can say with certainty that exposure to a cadaver laboratory before entering medical school (or any other health related professional school) offers students a great advantage going forward in their professional studies.”

Sutton’s experience is not unique. Many graduates write back to share the benefit of the opportunities afforded them at Hope and especially in the cadaver lab. Working with and studying from cadavers definitely sets the standards high for our students and allows them to succeed in their chosen career or graduate programs. Rachael Rebhan ‘14 graduated with a major in exercise science and is currently a student in the Doctorate of Physical Therapy program at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Rachel shares the following related to the privilege and advantage of her experiential learning experience with cadavers while at Hope:

“While working to earn my DPT at Mayo Clinic, I found myself – more often than not – thinking back and being so thankful for the academic privileges Hope College had offered to me in the preceding years. Hope College set me up for success in a way I did not know or appreciate at the time. I didn’t realize just how many opportunities I came across due to the generous and giving community/alumni, and how those would come to fruition until I was faced with the hardest academic rigor in my professional career while working for my doctorate. In particular, the Cadaver Lab allowed for a skill level that most undergraduate colleges only dream to be able to provide – it put me ahead by almost an entire semester and gave me a knowledge base that my graduate professors and fellow classmates recognized. I thank Hope College for that.”

Like Rachel and Sutton, we too thank Hope College for supporting this program as we explore the “fearfully and wonderfully made” human body through lecture and lab experiences. We hope that you come join us. See you in the lab!

 

Did you take Human Anatomy?  Tell us about your experience, we’d love to hear how it has impacted your studies and/or career path!

 

 

 

Alumni Feature – Hannah Raycraft

by Hannah Johnsen ’16 Raycraft

It is funny now as I look back on my 18 year-old self about to start college. I was under the impression, as most soon-to-be college students are, that I had to know what I was going to study for the next four years as soon as I stepped foot on campus. Then after graduation, I was supposed get a job in that field and work at it for the rest of my life. I mean, who can blame me, or most college freshmen, for thinking this way? Every adult I encountered, after all, was asking, “So, what are you going to study?” This really means, “So, have you figured out what you are going to do for the rest of your life?” At least, it felt that way to me. I was supposed to be able to make this important decision before I even took a college class, right?

Well, no, of course not. My 23-year-old self knows that my 18-year-old self didn’t have to feel this way. But even though I fell victim to the overwhelming pressure of having to figure my professional life out back then, there were a few things I knew to be true about myself. I have always been creative, stubborn and independent. I am passionate about health and wellness, and I am curious about anatomy and nutrition. But, if I am being completely honest, a lot of these passions stemmed from insecurities I had. Like many young girls, I struggled with body image and lacked self-esteem. So when I had to pick a major, I chose exercise science because I figured that would help me understand how I could control my body better, and then when I graduated, I could help other people too.

That was the plan. I wasn’t sure how to make it happen, but I was going to stick with that plan, God willing.

So, I majored in exercise science, as I said, and enjoyed my classes very much, but I struggled with what I wanted to do when I graduated. I was in a constant battle between trusting God and His plan for me and my own fears and insecurities about my life. In the deepest part of my heart, I always knew that I was going to do something great, and that God was going to open doors at the right time. But how would I know when and where to find them?

The summer before my senior year, I went on Hope’s Vienna May and June terms. Before I returned to the U.S, I decided to extend my trip and went to visit my father’s cousin who lives in Germany. It was here that I discovered the tiger nut. This common food item to my distant family was completely foreign to me, but I fell in love with it so I brought some home for my family to try. Everyone loved it. The tiger nut breakfast porridge I had in Germany turned into a channel for my passion and dreams. You see, the tiger nut isn’t actually a nut; it is a small root vegetable that is high in iron, magnesium, and potassium. A powerhouse food, to say the least. But I had a problem when I got back home to Michigan. The tiger nut is not readily available in America.

Fast forward two years and I am now a small business owner at age 23, an unexpected and unordinary outcome of my exercise science degree which obviously did not include classes on how to run a business. But this is the beauty of a degree from liberal arts college. I discovered one goal of a Hope College education is to expose me to more than just my major; Hope allows me, encourages me even, to acquire knowledge and skills in other disciplines too.

It was during the second half of my Hope College career, I started taking a few leadership classes. Ultimately these additional courses helped lead me to where I am today: as the proud owner of Spera Foods. (Spera, as you may know, means hope!) I gained my passion for the human body and my understanding of the importance of nutrition for human function during my exercise science studies. However, it was my time in Hope’s Leadership program and HEI (Hope Entrepreneurial Institute) where I gained knowledge and confidence to create a small business.

Without one or the other academic experience, my journey may have looked significantly different, but thanks to the depth and breadth of coursework at Hope, I am here today looking at my past with a smile and a sigh of relief that I couldn’t have taken when I first started school. I am so glad I had the opportunity to study abroad and discover the tiger nut. It was a missing piece to the puzzle I started to solve my junior year.  My schedule had more flexibility then and I started taking classes outside of the kinesiology department. My senior self strategized and found a class that fit in my schedule, that I heard was fun and interesting. That class was Leadership 231: Leading the Startup Process.

Senior year came with the perfect combination of peace and fear. I had no idea what I was going to do when I graduated, but I also knew God had a plan. During my time in my leadership class, I started to use my creativity to solve a problem: how to find access to tiger nut products and turn that access into a business. All the pieces started to fall into place when I created Spera Foods. What started a college major, and then as a class project due to a liberal arts education, has now turned into my career.  And it is the perfect channel for my passion.

 

Interested in learning more about Spera Foods?  Visit their website or follow on Instagram or Facebook.

 

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.

Taking SHAPE

One of our favorite prolate spheroids.

As physical educators and coaches, we love SHAPES. From the rectangles, squares, and circles of our courts and fields to the spheres, cylinders, and prolate spheroids used in the sports and activities that we teach, SHAPES are important to us. However, in the Hope College Kinesiology Department we recently celebrated a different type of SHAPE. In the past, you have been able to read regularly about the success of Hope athletes using the aforementioned “shapes,” but we would like to tell you how a group of students excelled in another SHAPE.

On October 27, Hope College’s Physical Education faculty members traveled with eleven students to the SHAPE conference in Lansing, Michigan.  SHAPE stands for Society of Health and Physical Educators and every year this professional association holds a conference where students and professionals come together to attend sessions on trends in physical education and health. This annual meeting allows professionals to learn, discuss and examine current best practices as it relates to curricular design and teaching methodology. After the day long conference was completed, an awards dinner took place and that is where our story starts to take on a new form as several Hope College students took home prestigious SHAPE awards and scholarships. At this ceremony, each individual institution is allowed to select and honor its Major of the Year.

Michael Barnett and Mandy Traversa

The Hope College SHAPE Major of the Year award winners were Amanda (Mandy) Traversa and Michael Barnett.  Hope College faculty in the Physical Education and Health program evaluate candidates for their academic standing, passion for the profession, and potential in teaching.

Mandy (‘16) is currently teaching full-time in Brandon, Michigan.  Her current teaching assignment is in the freshman physical education and health program at Brandon High School.  As a student at Hope, Mandy worked hard to develop skills for teaching others what she is passionate about. Her growth over the course of her time at Hope was remarkable and the faculty is so proud of the teacher she has become.

Michael Barnett (anticipated graduation in May, 2018) will student teach during the Spring of 2018 at West Ottawa Public Schools.  Michael excels in the classroom. It makes no difference if he is the student or teacher.  He is a very motivated and energetic teacher who thrives in the physical education setting. His care for students is deep, his energy is infectious and students are drawn to him as a role model and mentor.  This past summer Michael was able to show his love for education and kids as he worked at Kids Rock Summer Camp in Zeeland. He planned activities for and impacted the lives of a new group of campers each week.  Michael has a gift for teaching and Hope’s faculty is happy to acknowledge his great work with this award.

Left to Right: Michael Barnett, Michael Stephen, and Katrina Ellis

In addition to the awards selected and presented by Hope faculty, we also had three students win $1000 SHAPE scholarships.  With only six scholarships awarded state-wide, this is a testament to the quality of teachers educated at Hope College. The scholarship winners were Michael Barnett, mentioned above, Michael Stephen, and Katrina Ellis.  Michael Stephen, a fifth year senior, is currently student teaching at Holland Christian and will graduate in December.  In addition to his student teaching responsibilities, Michael is also on the Hope College Football coaching staff, as an assistant offensive line coach.  Based on past experience, we are confident that his positive impact on the lives of students will continue throughout his career as a teacher and coach. Katrina Ellis is currently student teaching in Hamilton where she works with middle school students. This is a perfect fit for Katrina as she is one of those unique and special teachers who are able to match the energy and enthusiasm of students in this age group. Like the other award winners, we are proud of Katrina who demonstrated hard work and commitment to her profession by excelling in the classroom while also balancing time as a student-athlete.

Thanks for letting us share how shapes and SHAPE are important to us and our students. This year’s conference was a visible example of the quality of students and student-athletes that we get to interact with on a daily basis.  We are so proud and grateful to play a role in the professional development of these amazing students. They represent themselves, their chosen profession, and Hope College in an extremely positive manner. We are proud of these young professionals and know that they are just starting to make a difference in the lives of students. Years in the future if students of these educators are asked to use a shape to describe their feelings toward them, it is our belief that they will think of a heart. They are truly special. Well done Ms. Traversa, Mr. Barnett, Ms. Ellis, and Mr. Stephen…..well done.

Health Dynamics: Going Strong!

 

Health Dynamics students get to enjoy a variety of activities during their activity sessions.

This fall, Hope College enters the 39th year of its KIN 140 – Health Dynamics program. This required course, often taken during a student’s freshman year, focuses on various wellness principles, such as exercise, proper diet, and stress management. The two credit course is a staple of Hope’s general education curriculum and involves one hour of lecture and two hours of exercise per week. The type of exercise varies between aerobic (running, walking, swimming), resistance (weight training), flexibility (stretching), and game/recreation-type activities.

 

Dr. Richard Peterson, the first Health Dynamics program director, stated that the goal of the course was not simply to educate students, but to instill in them an “intrinsic” motivation towards exercise. Nearly forty years later this remains the primary goal of Health Dynamics.

Health Dynamics began in the 1970s in an effort to cultivate a positive attitude towards health and fitness among Hope students. Dr. Richard Peterson, the first Health Dynamics program director, stated that the goal of the course was not simply to educate students, but to instill in them an “intrinsic” motivation towards exercise. Nearly forty years later this remains the primary goal of Health Dynamics.

Health research continues to illustrate the important role exercise plays in the prevention of many chronic diseases. Despite this growing body of research the physical activity (PA) levels of Americans have declined sharply in recent years. Currently, only 20% of Americans are meeting the national PA recommendations. This decline in PA coincides with more and more colleges dropping their physical education requirements. In fact, according to a 2013 study from Oregon State, only 40% of colleges still require a physical education course as part of their degree programs. At Hope, it’s understood that promoting and instilling strong PA habits during these transformative years is critical.

Students celebrating during a volleyball game in class.

“As educators at a liberal arts college, we recognize the unique ability we have to influence our students’ lives. As such, we believe that Health Dynamics has the capability to increase not just our students’ knowledge, but also their enjoyment of exercise. This is critically important, as both knowledge and enjoyment of exercise are strong predictors of future PA behaviors and adherence.” says Dr. Brian Rider, current director of the health dynamics program at Hope.

In addition, Hope is a Christian college and strongly values its role of educating students within the context of the historic Christian faith. Physical and spiritual wellness, though maybe not demonstrably so, are closely related to one another. Dr. Peterson acknowledged this relationship when he launched the Health Dynamics program thirty-nine years ago:

“I feel one of a Christian’s responsibilities is to be a good steward of what’s been given. The body, the temple of the Holy Spirit, is as much a gift as the life that goes on in it. We’re responsible for the stewardship of that gift.”

According to Dr. Rider, the Health Dynamics program is utilizing new technology and undergoing some exciting changes.

  1. “We are in the process of creating a stronger online presence. Specifically, we are examining ways that we can transfer our current textbook online and create an interactive space where students are able to better engage with the material. Having our course content accessible online means that we can update materials on a regular basis to keep up with emerging research on nutrition and exercise.”
  2. Another exciting change is the use of technology to develop a better understanding of the students’ activity habits outside of class. For example, this fall, students from two Health Dynamics classes are wearing pedometers throughout the semester. Pedometers are devices traditionally used for measuring distance traveled via the number of steps an individual takes in a day. “Steps” are a metric used to assess how physically active an individual is and also to prescribe exercise. For example, aiming to hit “10,000 steps/day” is a popular recommendation and equates to traveling roughly 5 miles in a day (2000-2500 steps are in a mile). According to Dr. Rider, the pedometer data will be used in two ways: “One, students will review the activity data to better understand their own PA habits. Then, as a class, they’ll brainstorm possible strategies for increasing their daily PA (e.g. walking to class instead of driving, reducing the time spent indoors watching Netflix, etc.) Second, instructors will have an improved understanding of how our students’ PA changes over time. Ideally, we would like to see students’ PA increase during the semester. However, if this isn’t the case, then we as educators can strategize ways to improve our students’ overall enjoyment of PA in an effort to improve their daily PA.”
  3. Lastly, says Dr. Rider, “an exciting change we’re enacting this spring, is focusing some of our classes’ activity sessions around a sport and/or activity. Specifically, two Health Dynamics classes will have “theme” activity sessions. One will focus primarily on training for a 5k-road race and another will focus on training for an “adventure-style” race. While each class will continue to cover all core concepts of fitness (strength, cardio, flexibility) the activity sessions will be tailored towards these specific races. This will give students who might be more interested in training for a race or who prefer to run, the opportunity to choose a class that will focus more on their area of PA interest.”

Hope’s steadfast commitment to its students’ well-being is as strong today as it was when the college was founded.

This window located on the south west corner of Dimnent Chapel indicates the college’s long standing commitment to the development of the Body, Mind, Spirit. It was a gift from the Class of 1907.

Hope’s steadfast commitment to its students’ well-being is as strong today as it was when the college was founded.  It is our desire that every student sees the value in what they’ve learned both inside and outside of the Health Dynamics’ classroom and that this course helps them continue on (or in many cases begin) their own personal journey towards health, wellness, and positive life-long fitness habits. Health Dynamics has been, and will remain, a key component of Hope’s mission of challenging the mind, body and spirit.The kinesiology department and all of the Health Dynamic instructors understand the importance of such a class to Hope College and support / encourage good stewardship of our physical bodies.