Sports Column: Someone get Jack his dinosaur oatmeal


Upon graduating high school, I was under the naive impression that I would enjoy athletics at a collegiate level. And certainly I do; Division III athletics has lent me a confidence and an on-court ability I simply didnt before possess. This is only to say that were I ever to claim the moments of steep, on-court competition as the outright highlight of my career, youd be able to call me out as the worlds greatest liar.

The communal aspect of sports itself easily rivals on-court performance. Crowded van rides provide athletes with one of the worlds easiest avenues for laughter and for growth. Im convinced that the only way one can enjoy late-night conversations without Judys warm cafeteria introduction is having your entire team sprawled out in a hotel room. Bonus points go to anyone who cant name the city you’re staying in.

On the court, Im learning how to take the ball on the rise. Off the court, Im learning to do the same with my life. A tennis team proves as effective a catalyst as any for discovering the intricacies of authentic masculinity.

Welcome to one of the premiere avenues for social interaction, networking, even evangelization, courtesy of a brotherhood (or sisterhood) united by common practice.

Jarek likes the hotel room freezing cold. Connor orders his sour cream on the side. And Im convinced that Jacks ideal world has him consuming ever-increasing quantities of Quaker Dinosaur Eggs Oatmeal.

But my proximity to authentic men over the course of the past four years has taught me more than Walters clothing preference (sweatpants), Jakes football preference (San Francisco) or Aidens entree preference (wings hotter than the rest of humanity can stand). Ive found myself to be the willing student of a living curriculum; when you start out studying the game of tennis, sooner or later, you find yourself taking notes on life itself.

I am reminded of the definition of real sacrifice when I witness a coach and father of eight consistently leave his family to further the athletic and spiritual development of 12 twenty-somethings. And thanks to his sacrifice, though we couldnt possibly understand what it means to leave a family, we know exactly how it feels to belong to one.

Ive learned how to tolerate othersopinions, how to speak my mind respectfully and how to express my gratitude as much through my actions as through my words. Ive learned how to laugh, not only at the countless hysterical contributions from teammates, but at myself.

Ive learned how to introduce Christ into a conversation in the 20 seconds it takes me and my opponent-to-be to walk from one court to another. Ive learned that determination off the court looks a lot like determination on the court. The same applies to the concept of courage. Ive learned to represent my faith with a racket in my hand without FRANCISCANacross my jersey.

Nothing against the crosscourt backhand Ive fallen in love with over the course of the past four years, but I play for a coach and for a God who understands athletics not as an end, but as an avenue for authentic masculinity. Above all, Ive been taught a single, identifying precept, by definition a determining characteristic for on-court performance and off-court ministry. I must never forget the team for which I play.