Two bookends of the dramatic major shift in college sports collided in Los Angeles this summer: the high of sportsmanship with the low of win-at-all-costs.
At UCLA the legendary basketball coach John Wooden was heralded not only for moving college basketball onto the front page, but also for the values for success in basketball and in life which he instilled in his players.
Down the street at USC, Reggie Bush’s 2005 Heisman trophy was returned, and pictures of the football star were removed from the campus because of improper benefits given during his college career.
What a stark contrast of how far college sports have fallen in just one generation!
Unfortunately, big-time college sports are too often no longer about teamwork, education, and school spirit. Today, they’re about television coverage, coaches’ exorbitant salaries, and professional contracts.
Hardly a week goes by where we don’t see another college athletic scandal caused by the money and the egos having become too big, while the stakes are so high that it is hard for greed not to weave its way through college sports.
Turn back the clock a generation: Do you remember those black-and-white photographs of Coach John Wooden infusing into his players ideals that made them reach far beyond themselves? (And for his first three years at UCLA, he did it in a gymnasium that was smaller than Belhaven’s.)
That picture, in vivid color, is Belhaven Athletics today.
Our coaches are incredibly influential teachers because they are men and women who see coaching as a calling, not just a profession. They are building into our players the skills needed to be competitive, while teaching and modeling a God-honoring spirit in athletics and life.
Most of us watch what Belhaven coaches do on the court or field, but if you could see what they are teaching all year long – about faith, values, priorities, self-discipline, courage, stamina, and character – you’d know that they win no matter the final score of a competition.
In this issue of the Tartan, you’ll read about us bringing home the trophies of success without ever compromising our character. Across the board, this has been our most winning athletic season in history.
But our winning on the field and court also means winning in the classroom. I thought it was interesting that during our spring honors convocation, the time when each academic department honors its top seniors, five of those awards went to student-athletes.
And to make our athletic program even stronger, we are moving to the Southern States Athletic Conference this fall. This new conference will strengthen our athletic program by giving us quality competition in all of our sports, rather than many of our teams needing to compete for national championship invitations as an independent school. These are like-minded schools sharing our values in college sports – from character development, to moderate scholarships and coaches’ salaries, to not competing on Sunday.
The athletic teams of Belhaven have never been stronger, both in their win-loss records and in the quality of experience for our student-athletes.
So while you cheer for our teams during competition, be sure to thank the coaches who are life-changing, faithful mentors to our student-athletes. Belhaven coaches are driven by what Coach Wooden articulated a generation ago, “What you are as a person is far more important that what you are as a basketball player.”