BJU Bruins Weigh In on National Student-Athlete Values

by   |   kallweil@bju.edu   |  
student-athletes

Appropriately, National Student-Athlete Day falls during the NCAA college basketball tournament. According to the NCAA, “The day recognizes the accomplishments of student-athletes who excel in the classroom, on the playing fields and who give back to their community through service projects.”

To be on a collegiate team, student-athletes must maintain a 2.0 GPA and an appropriate level of physical fitness. And as a Christian university, BJU sends the athletic teams out to minister locally and globally using sports as a way to connect with people who need the Gospel. Bruins student-athletes become adept at balancing academics, athletics and outreach.

Balance

“​Being involved in athletics at the college level challenges student-athletes to become efficient with their time. As coaches, we are expecting them to do well in several aspects of college life, so they need to be able to prioritize what is important and what areas they need to focus on in order to excel.” — Cross country and track coach Landon Bright

“Our student-athletes spend countless hours in both practice and games. It takes an incredible amount of time and effort to be able to excel in both the sport and the classroom. Time management skills as well as communication skills . . . are encouraged as students juggle school and sport responsibilities.” — Volleyball coach Vickie Denny

Balancing college life can be hard enough, but for a Bruin, the balancing act is trickier during their sport season, though their off-season might not be as much of a juggling act. Some of our student-athletes are in programs that demand a lot of time such as nursing or middle school education. Others are involved in ROTC and campus student organizations.

We asked some Bruins how they got everything accomplished. Their responses:

Tyler Smith, golf: “I balance sport and studies with many late nights and coffee as well as dedicated study times where I put everything away and accomplish one task.”

Kate Matthews, golf: “To balance golf and study, I plan out each day for each week according to my schedule. Right after I finish my classes, I head to the golf course or range and practice for a couple hours. After I’m done, I come back to do homework for a few hours. If it’s a really busy day and I have school and work, I’ll fit in practice time by going to the range for an hour or two after supper or between classes.”

Caleb Davis, cross country/track: “Honestly, ROTC is harder to balance due to the early mornings and the long hours spent at Furman. It helps that I have a coach who is flexible and is willing to work around my Army responsibilities.”

Sarah-Paige Guerrant, cross country/track: “I am thankful to have had a teammate who was also in the same nursing classes as me.  During our 6 a.m. practices, we would be on runs asking each other questions about our lectures and going through what we learned before our test at 8 a.m. It wasn’t always easy though. I had to set time aside to study and also set time aside for being with friends because I didn’t want to burn out from being in my books so long. However, I did have to learn to say ‘no’ to people when I really needed to study. But running has always helped to alleviate stress and I have definitely taken my fair share of naps.”

Jayson Barnhart, basketball: “Balancing homework with basketball is difficult. We start basketball first day back at school in August and we do not finish until the second week of March. Most nights after practice and games I have had to do homework until 1 a.m. or later. My weekends are usually taken up by homework as well. When we travel to games doing most of the work before we leave is wise. If not, I have to do the assignments in the hotel or on the bus.”

Isaac Landry, soccer: “As a Bruin my schedule is often incredibly busy, but this has helped me learn to better manage my time. Even with good time management, I sometimes must be creative to finish assignments on game nights or while the team travels.”

Angelina Martin, soccer: “Trying to balance sports and academics has always been a struggle for me since I am one to throw myself into something 100%. I’ve relied on my teammates to give me the energy to do my History of Civ. reading and Gen. Bio. concept maps. We all push each other to keep the team GPA up.”

Brooke Beaver, volleyball: “As a student-athlete, it is almost impossible to excel in nursing school, do well in sports, and have a social life. A way that I have found to balance these is being willing to give one of these areas up. As a student-athlete, you have committed your time first to your schooling and secondly to your team. A social life is not a guarantee as a student-athlete, and many times my social life is nonexistent because of the requirements of school and volleyball. Although being a student-athlete is a difficult task, I enjoy every second of the ride, and I thank the Lord for the abilities that he has given me to serve Him with my future profession and current volleyball career.”

See Also: How to Juggle Exercise and Studies Like an Olympian

Outreach

“Our Bruins student-athletes have been involved in community outreach in a number of ways.  These range from visiting in hospitals and nursing homes to holding free youth sports clinics and helping with community youth sports programs . . .. Our teams have also traveled to foreign countries on mission trips to share the Gospel and encourage missionaries. This has been done by opening doors and breaking down barriers through conducting youth sport clinics and competing in exhibition matches or games. Sport is a universal language as well as a ‘non-threatening way’ to enter into and to build long-lasting relationships with others. This eventually provides opportunities for gospel conversations.” — Golf coach Dennis Scott

The Bruins are involved in outreaches both in the Greenville community and around the world. The American Red Cross, Piedmont Women’s Center, Miracle Hill and Shepherd’s Care all see student-athlete volunteers throughout the school year. Several teams hold sport clinics during the school year and are involved with summer camps. Also, during the summer, teams will often go on mission trips together. This year, the volleyball team will minister in Costa Rica and the women’s soccer team will be in the Dominican Republic. Both teams will hold sport clinics and use their sport as a gateway to sharing the Gospel.

Current Bruins shared some of their favorite outreaches:

Tyler Smith, golf: “My favorite outreach as a Bruin was the golf team mission trip to Ireland. Just being able to dive into a culture that was centered around golf and being able to use golf as a platform to share the Gospel.”

Kate Matthews, golf: “My favorite community service opportunity was helping out with the Blood Drive at school. It was really neat getting to help set up, sign people in, and get people to donate blood.”

Caleb Davis, cross country/track: “Urban Evangelism has really impacted my life and has motivated me to know what I believe and why I believe it.”

Sarah-Paige Guerrant, cross country/track: “I went on a medical mission trip to Morogoro, Tanzania with one of my teammates. We helped set up a free clinic for those in the community to come and get basic medical needs met and hear about the Gospel. The culture, food, living style, and language were all so amazing. To keep up with our cross country training we woke up early and met with a group to run at 5:30 every morning.”

Jayson Barnhart, basketball: “My favorite outreach by far was drawing placemats for the children’s hospital. We took some time last year during nationals and got to write some encouraging words to the kids there and draw some cool pictures on placemats.”

Isaac Landry, soccer: “It is very difficult to choose a favorite outreach or community service opportunity as a Bruin. I love working with kids and we have had some great opportunities for service in youth ministry. The free soccer clinics we have organized as a team have certainly been a highlight. Using our platform of soccer to reach out to kids from all over the Greenville community and teach them the game and the Gospel brings me a lot of joy.”

Angelina Martin, soccer: “My favorite outreach with the team was going to a nursing home during preseason and fellowshipping with the elderly there. They have incredible stories!”

Brooke Beaver, volleyball: “One of my favorite outreaches that I have done would be co-supporting a child from El Salvador with my brother. Supporting a child through Compassion International includes: medical care, food, educational assistance, health and hygiene training, and most importantly the child will hear about Jesus Christ.”

Leadership

“We challenge our Bruins student-athletes to reflect Jesus Christ in the actions, and probably more importantly, their reactions in the midst of competition. There are always unfair things that happen. There are always disappointments that occur. Responding with grace and not with a vengeful or retaliatory spirit is how they are challenged. No one is perfect in every response, but being put in those situations more often, will help us to respond more consistently in ways that would honor Christ. I always say, our opponent is either a brother or sister in Christ or someone who needs to come to know Christ, so how can we act in un-Christlike ways and defend it by saying that we just ‘hate to lose.’ We must understand the platform we have. People are always watching. We must learn to respond, not react. Responding has to do with preparation for dealing with unfairness and disappointment and consideration of others. Reacting has to do with a focus on self often manifested in anger, bitterness, revenge, or just having a pity party.” — Golf coach Dennis Scott

“Probably no other venue creates the type of challenge to remain Christ-like in our actions and attitudes than athletic competition. We attempt to model and encourage Christ-likeness on all of our athletic teams. While we are not perfect, when we do struggle with the right response, others are there to help guide the concept of “what would Christ do” Whether it is correctly responding to a coach or referee, helping a teammate, or even interacting with opponents, our goal is always to BE LIKE CHRIST.” — Volleyball coach Vickie Denny

Being a part of collegiate sports also teaches leadership. Here’s what some of our student-athletes said:

Tyler Smith, golf: “Being a Bruin and more specifically a captain on a Bruins team taught me responsibility. It showed me how to compose myself and deal with decision making on the team whether that be conflict or just scheduling.”

Kate Matthews, golf: “Being a Bruin has taught me that you must be responsible and a hard worker to be a leader. There’s always going to be people watching how you act on and off the course, and it makes me think before I say and do things to make sure that whatever I’m doing, that I’m glorifying God. Being a Bruin has also taught me that I need to be kind and always think of others before my needs. I may be having a bad round or a rough day at school, but I need to be kind and respectful and think to myself what would Jesus do.”

Caleb Davis, cross country/track: “It has taught me that my needs should not come first; the needs of others should always come first.”

Sarah-Paige Guerrant, cross country/track: “It is important to reflect God’s love on others through leading and serving. Being a Bruin means that you’re part of a team, which means that it’s not just about my own achievements; it’s about the whole group I am with and how I can help them improve too. Being a captain on the team is a good leadership role because I am put in a position where I am looked on as consistent, encouraging, strong and motivating although I may feel the complete opposite at times. I have to realize that God gives me the strength I need and the words to say and that I need to be a good example of Christ-like service.”

Jayson Barnhart, basketball: “Being a Bruin has taught me to be a servant leader. To not ask someone to do something that I am not willing to do. It has also taught me to cooperate with others and realize I am not any better than the rest of the team or the student body. We are all Bruins in one way or another.”

Isaac Landry, soccer: “Perhaps the greatest lesson in leadership I am learning in my time as a Bruin is my own inadequacy. In my own strength, I have never found success. I always end up grasping for status, power, recognition, or praise. God is teaching me that rather than looking for prestige, effective leaders look to build genuine relationships with others to best love them through service.”

Angelina Martin, soccer: “Being a Bruin has taught me a different type of leadership than I’ve . . . known before. As a Bruin, there is a need for not only a leader on the field but off the field as well. As a freshman, I’ve learned to adapt what I thought I knew about leadership to what will better . . . help my team. I’ve learned that the term leadership means to go beyond for your teammates on or off the field.”

Brooke Beaver, volleyball: “Coming in as a freshman this year, I had many teammates to look up to regarding the role leadership. The team’s senior captain took me under her wing, and showed me what leadership should look like on and off the court.”

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Krystal Allweil

Krystal Allweil is the content marketing specialist for BJU’s marketing department and is the managing editor for BJUtoday.