Students Bring Faith and Service to Varsity Sports
The scoreboard is important to any team that's practiced hard and played hard, and Pacific Union College's varsity teams (the Pioneers) have taken satisfaction in some excellent scores during current and recent seasons. But the members and coaches of these cross country, volleyball, basketball, and soccer teams say that there's a lot more to a team than winning scores.
In November, the women's basketball Pioneers traveled to Southern California for a Thanksgiving tournament. Between the four games in four days (they won two), the team took holiday spirit to a senior living facility in Rancho Cucamonga.
For more than two hours, the players and coaches mingled with the residents, playing chair volleyball and other games and singing songs. "The atmosphere was filled with energy, laughter and smiles," assistant coach Doug Wilson says. The students helped residents beat their "total hits" record in chair volleyball by over 200, and team member Vanessa Felder sang a solo to a couple celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary.
The visit ended with hugs and even tears. "It was evident the impact the basketball team made on the residents," says Wilson. The director of the home, Carol Warboys, told the team, "There was such friendliness, good-natured humor and love shown by each of your players towards our residents. It felt that we'd known you for a long time, instead of just a few short hours."
But the players benefitted, too. "I felt like we got much more out of it than what we put into it," says freshman Lacy Jaymes.
The experience also fits perfectly with the program's dedication to making a difference in the community. "It is so important to teach our student-athletes the value of giving back," says Wilson. "We hope to do much more of this."
Another team that found various forms of enrichment was the men's soccer Pioneers, who had a turnaround season and ended in second place in the conference. They started the season with several changes, including head coach Jesus Medina being joined by supporting coaches Carlos Medina and Hernan Granados; the addition of a key player, freshman Randy Castanaza, who had the most saves in PUC history; and four "vocal defenders" who led by instructing teammates from across the field. With these support structures, the team felt more confidant. "It took a lot of work, but it's been a pleasure seeing ourselves becoming what we'd hoped to be," says Medina.
But strong playing was only part of the story. The team also showed up as a group in places off the field, such as taking up the offering for a church service or praying together before practices. Team member Jonathan Groschel, looking to create a more spiritual college experience, started the practice of praying together, and he felt that these times of prayers even had an impact on sportsmanship.
Working together, the Pioneers teams hone their skills and their game — and also build school spirit (a midnight meet-the-teams event brought out 600 students), give their members opportunities for service, and build faith and community as teams pray, serve and learn together.