By Luke Fitzgerald, Staff Writer
The MacArthur Center is one of the first buildings seen by visitors of The Master’s University. A large, impressive front with glass walls and a wide fountain before it welcomes all comers. Next to it, Trophy coffee buzzes. But on the back side of the building, a different kind of excitement is stirring.
Two sets of stairs behind the building lead to the front doors of the school’s athletic department. A basketball game is scheduled to begin later in the evening. Behind the front desk, a smiling secretary works on her computer. The office is clean and orderly. Photos of students kicking balls and swinging bats line the walls. In a room to the left, a coach can be heard speaking with his assistants. Some basketball players bounce in and tower over the desk.
“Hi Donna, coach wanted to see us?”
“All right,” she looks up beaming, “he’ll be ready in just a minute.” The game is just getting started.
This scene could describe a regular day in the office of athletics at the Master’s University, but according to the school’s athletic director, Steve Waldeck, there are few normal days. Between meeting students, planning games, hosting guests, greeting coaches and cleaning everything up after the match, the athletic department is ceaselessly doing something different to run the sports at TMU. Behind the thrill of game day, a group of dedicated staff carry on that same passion through the days leading up to it.
Tim Heiduk has been the assistant athletic director at TMU for more than a year. He was hired from a similar position he held at Westmont University in Santa Barbara. He says Master’s was one of the only places he would leave Westmont for.
Heiduk loved sports during his youth. He played for the soccer team throughout his time at Westmont and loved it. He especially noticed how the coaches and athletic directors cared deeply for him and the other athletes.
“They were servants and served us in the best way possible. And so, I’ve tried to duplicate that in a way,” Heiduk says. He ensures each game is run and recorded properly, he writes the majority of online articles and runs the athletics’ social media.
Heiduk says he views sports as a microcosm of life. All the joys of success, depressions of loss and trials of injuries are mimicked in play. Thus, athletics is yet another training ground within the university, a course in the realities of life.
Life in the athletic department is real, but it’s also exciting. Donna Henderson sits in the office’s front desk. Behind her, muffled squeaks on the floor of Bross Gym sound through the walls as the volleyball team warms up.
“This is the fun side of the campus,” she says.
Aside from watching some major sports, Henderson never experienced athletic culture until she moved positions from the school’s Registrar’s office.
“I wanted to downsize on life,” says Henderson, so when the position in the athletic department opened, she pounced on it. Since then, she has loved every minute of the job. Henderson says her favorite day is when the coaches lean on her desk or sit in the waiting chairs and talk to each other about the game they just played.
“There are intricacies to every sport that as a non-athletic person you don’t realize,” she says.
Henderson also points out how the coaches at TMU are “people people.” They know how to have fun and they know how to encourage. They don’t just care about their team; they care about the whole university, and they model that in their lives.
The same passion for students drives the administrative staff. Waldeck seeks to serve the Lord in all that he does. After that, his favorite part of his job isn’t really in his job description. He works for the athletes and other students who come to see them play.
Waldeck has been involved in managing games for 28 years and started working for Master’s 11 years ago. He started his career by helping run intramurals while working on his undergrad degree. He has always cherished the close-knit community created by athletics.
“I love the fact that I get to mentor and influence students that are at a really crucial turning point in their life—those college years—and then I get to do it in the context of something I love, which is athletics,” Waldeck says.
Waldeck cares deeply for the students that he works with. He knows the passion of the athletes, and he desires to nurture that passion, placing it under Christ’s lordship. Staff and students alike admire the tone he has set for their culture.
“He deserves a lot of credit for just the overall success of the department as a whole,” Heiduk says.
Just like his boss, Heiduk seeks to bring God honor as he serves the student athletes. One of his main means of highlighting them is by writing articles. He believes they deserve to be recognized for all the hard work that they put into their sport. But he has a broader goal than merely displaying the skill of the student body.
“I know that each team has stories to share, and their stories are a way that God’s faithfulness and grace to us can be shared,” he says.
As someone who others look up to, each athlete and coach has a unique opportunity to point back to God as the one who gave them the very skill they have developed. Heiduk hopes that by displaying excellence in athletics, people outside will be drawn to come see who the students really play for.
Even in his own life, Heiduk says that he didn’t fully realize what it meant to be a Christian until he came to Westmont, and it was sports that brought him there. Now he hopes that even just one student will come to Master’s and embrace Christ because of his work and the witness of the athletes.
“I definitely see this right now as my calling to use my experiences in athletics and some of the gifts that god has given me…ultimately to use for his glory and to share what He’s been doing in the lives of the student athletes and the coaches and hopefully the future generations to come,” Heiduk says.
As the game ends, and the fans linger in the gym, the athletic department is busily working to put everything away. The athletes go back to their locker room and the staff back to their offices just above. Everyone knows the team played their best that day to worship the Master and that group is not just the guys shooting hoops.
Luke Fitzgerald can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org