by Avonlea Brown
On a typical afternoon, the halls of the Callan Athletic Center are filled with students. They are on the way to the gym for practice, to the weight room, or coming from the locker rooms after a team meeting. Students that pass one another offer encouraging remarks, a brief ‘hello,’ and give a friendly high-five before moving on.
There is always a faint smell of sweat, the sound of sneakers on the gym floor can be heard echoing around the building, and every once in a while you will see a soccer ball roll by followed by a student. Contrary to stereotypes, the gym atmosphere is full of friendly students who are always willing to help one another.
This community of students has a higher purpose than just performing well in their sports. This purpose is reflected in how Cedarville defines sports to its students.
The Oxford dictionary defines a sport as, “an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.” Some people add games such as Chess and esports to the list, while others scoff at the notion. There are many debates about what a sport is and the definition of sports is flexible from individual to individual.
At Cedarville University a unique component is added to the definition of sports. Sports are a way of putting the Christian worldview into practice and glorifying God.
Students at Cedarville are taught that any and all gifts they have can be used to glorify God. Athletic ability is a gift and students on sports teams are encouraged to use their time to discover how their faith can be incorporated into their sport.
The emphasis on the community between players and teams is part of Cedarville’s Christian worldview, especially humility and fellowship. Doada Sieh, a sophomore Mechanical Engineering major and a runner on the Men’s Track Team, sees this as a way to take the focus of a sport off the individual and put it more on God.
“Sports can be used to glorify God when the athlete learns that the sport is not all about them.” Sieh said. “When they remove all the attention from themselves and realize that all the skills they have and where they are is because of God, they start celebrating Him in all of their wins and losses.”
Jo Holmes is a sophomore Mechanical Engineering major and participant in an intramural sand volleyball team. She enjoys the unique understanding of sports that the campus community fosters. Particularly the team focus, taking the pressure off the individuals to compete against each other.
“I think we are hard workers but we are not aggressive players,” Holmes said. “Where a lot of other teams are player versus player, in a Christian community it is whole team versus whole team.”
While the competition between teams remains, Cedarville also encourages both teams to have community with one another. After the game, and even sometimes before, students from Cedarville and from the other team will gather and pray.
Once the end of the game is announced, players walk exhausted to the middle of the gym. The sweaty players lock their arms around each other in a circle and bow their heads. The audience falls silent as the announcer prays over the game that just took place. They might pray for safe travels for the opposing team as they head home, for the health of the players and about the rest of the season. Arms are unlocked and the players stay to talk, or they part ways to head home after a grueling game.
Students are also encouraged to cultivate individual relationships with players from other teams. They will pray, write a note or seek out a player from the other team and offer encouragement or just start a conversation with them. The amiable interactions between players are one of the ways Cedarville sets itself apart from other college sports teams.
While students are taught humility, competition is not lost on Cedarville’s sports teams. Cedarville University is a Division II in the NCAA and number 14 on the list of the top universities in that division. Its varsity sports include basketball, soccer, volleyball and more which compete with some of the top schools in the nation.
The Cedarville Athletic Department’s mission statement says, “Cedarville Athletics fosters a distinctive culture in competitive athletics that commissions student-athletes to impact the world for Christ.” And one of the visions they have in accordance with that mission statement is “to change sports culture.”
Through the unique teaching and practices that integrate a Christian worldview into their sports teams, Cedarville University is well on its way to making that vision a reality.
“Athletics is an important part of an institution, but at Cedarville, it is beyond the winning. You learn a lot by being part of a team, in some ways, you learn more about life than you ever will in a classroom,” Womack said. “Your experience with teammates teaches you to serve one another and be humble around each other. It’s a real teaching and learning experience and Cedarville is one of the best at fostering it.”
Avonlea Brown is a sophomore journalism major and editor/writer for Cedars. She enjoys watching movies, hiking in her hometown in Maine, and spending time with friends over good food.