By DAVID VANTRESS
THE GOSHEN NEWS
The college experience has many components for students.
At Goshen College, athletics enhances that experience for the hundreds of student-athletes who attend the local liberal arts college.
For athletic director Tim Demant, athletics plays into the overall development of students into citizens of the world.
“We are about developing holistic students,” Demant said. “You’ve got the academic component, but then you’ve also got the student life, the student development component.”
Being an athlete can add another key piece to a person’s development, Demant asserted.
And even for the non-athletes, athletics can add something to the puzzle.
“There’s school spirit,” Demant said. “If you’ve ever come to one of our athletic events, it’s an experience and entertainment in itself.”
But at GC, Demant said, the athletic experience is about more than putting a ball in a hoop, running a race, or putting a bat on a ball.
It’s about being part of something bigger, and to that end, athletes are integrated with the student body as much as possible. There are no athletic dorms at Goshen College.
And as far as getting out into the community — there are a myriad of ways for students to do that.
It all comes back to the mission of developing the whole person, Demant said.
“We want to get them thinking about who they want to be when they leave here,” Demant said. “And then we want them to start living like that now.”
A program called “Leaf Relief” gets athletes involved in helping out in a number of areas in the community. It’s patterned after the Mennonite Relief Sale and includes such things as canned food drives, a toy drive during the holidays and a shoe drive.
Junior men’s basketball player Jerron Jamerson, a South Bend Washington High School product who transferred to GC this year, is a communications major with an emphasis in radio. He’s acutely aware of the expectation to serve others and get involved in the community. He’s already done some of that since his arrival.
“Tavo Parral (another men’s basketball player) was doing his student teaching at Chandler Elementary,” Jamerson said. “He asked me to come one day and talk to the students about the importance of staying in school and about going to college.”
Senior Erin Helmuth, a Bethany Christian High School graduate and a track/cross country athlete at GC, enjoyed a service program that is a staple of Goshen College and allows students to go overseas, spend time in another country, learn about that country’s culture and people and do something to serve those people.
Helmuth went to Nicaragua for her term, and spent some time working at an orphanage.
An education major, Helmuth expects the experience to stay with her as she comes into her career.
The chance to be more than just a student and more than just an athlete was a part of Helmuth’s decision to attend college at Goshen, she added.
“We get,” she explained, “to be part of something bigger than ourselves.”
Similarly, Jordan Smeltzer, a cross country/track athlete from Fairfield — and elementary education major — has found continuing to compete in athletics to be an important part of his college experience. And Smeltzer also plans to take advantage of the GC overseas program.
“That will help me figure out who I want to be as a person,” Smeltzer said.
Humbled by helping
Jaime Stack, a Fairfield graduate who does double duty for the Maple Leafs as a volleyball and basketball player, said one of the chief lessons being a two-sport athlete has taught her is the importance of proper time management.
Stack, who plans to become a physical therapist specializing in sports medicine, has learned to identify injuries and ways to possibly prevent them.
As a member of the greater Goshen College student-athlete community, she’s also been humbled by her work in some of the community service projects her teams have been involved with.
“The basketball team helped build a house for a family through Habitat for Humanity,” Stack said, recalling a day of hard work with a wide smile. “Knowing that we were able to help out with something like that for a family ... that was really special.”
Goshen College president James Brenneman is especially cognizant of the role athletics can play in the college experience.
“I strongly believe that the mission of the college and the mission of our athletic programs should always seek to be in harmony with each other,” Brenneman said. “In a Christ-centered liberal arts college like ours, character development, integrity, respect, responsibility, teamwork, leadership, and spiritual formation should all happen ‘on the field’ and in the classroom.”
Brenneman also said the athletic experience has a role to play in the physical development of the student athletes at Goshen College.
“Evidence all points to the important role healthy bodies play in enhancing brain function, so it seems to me, athletic competition, training and recreation, are assets to a rigorous intellectual environment like a college. The true scholar-athlete is a wonderful model of holistic human flourishing.”