Students, parents, and alumni filled the MacArthur Center bleachers. The cheering and stomping of feet shook the floor as TMU’s women’s volleyball team practiced on the court. After the buzzer signaled the start of the game, the crowd quieted in suspense and respect for the pregame ceremony–prayer and the national anthem.
While holding hands with their fellow teammates, the athletes pressed together as they bowed their heads to pray.
Competing for TMU’s Athletic Program has a multileveled purpose to give its students the opportunity to both become a better athlete and to grow spiritually.
“We want to win for sure. We want to represent Christ well in everything we do,” said Kelvin Starr, Director of Athletics and Head Coach of Men’s Basketball. “And I think all of our coaches agree that our goal, beyond winning, is mentoring young people; especially spirituality.”
Emphasizing this common goal, coaches structure their teams in a way where the athletes pour into each other and hold one another accountable for their testimonies. Whether there is official team leaders or just other teammates, players are coached to come alongside and support one another.
This attitude extends beyond basketball. Madi Fay, a sophomore volleyball player, had this to say about her head coach Alan Vince.
“He… does a very good job at making sure it’s not just relationships on the court. He wants it to be outside of the court too,” said Madi Fay, TMU sophomore and volleyball player. “He is really big on making sure there is unity on and off of the court. He is concerned with you spiritually and mentally. I have never had a coach that has been so involved in the lives of his athletes.”
The efforts of these coaches have gained a status that attracts future players. For first-year TMU athletes, it is the reputation of each individual coach that prompts potential student-athletes to look into the Athletic Program.
“As a freshman, it makes it a lot easier to go into a team that loves Christ,” said Chandler Smith, TMU freshman and baseball player. “It is just really different from any team I have been on before. Not so much competitively, but everyone knows that we are held accountable whether in baseball or in life.”
Having the option to play for various sports camps and training allows both incoming and returning athletes to be prepared for the coming season.
“Some sports come back early and do their team prep and team building,” Starr said. “They’re rolling before the school even starts.”
Outside of pushing themselves physically during the summer months, athletes are given opportunities to reach out to other communities outside of their team.
“Both basketball programs do camps during the summer and we have kids work them,” Starr said. “The camps, for us, are a PR thing for the community and a fundraiser for our program. We do that as a service for the kids in the summer.”
When given the opportunity, the teams engage in outreach events on a global scale.
“The goal for each program every two years is to do some form of a mission opportunity with the teams individually,” Starr said.
These purposeful efforts that the administration, coaches, and team members make in order to set themselves apart from typical sports teams is what causes TMU Athletics to have such strong bonds with one another.
Whether during the school year or offseason, the athletes are encouraged to train both spiritually and physically. Because, at the end of it all, these athletes have more in common with one another than just sports.
“Coach Vince doesn’t just want everyone’s focus to just be an athlete,” Fay said. “This is so much more than just sports. There is so much you can get out of it. He does a good job balancing it. He makes it all a priority.”
And even for those that are unfamiliar or new to the Athletics Program, it is clear that TMU has a higher goal than just competing. Of course, winning takes a high priority, it is what they train to do, but there is a greater call that the Athletics program is instituting.
“There really is something to the whole culture at TMU,” Smith said. “ It’s not just about sports. It’s not just a team. The culture is not an accident. The people really try to make it like that.”