Coach Brandon Rosenthal knows how to serve. In fact, he’s an expert. As Lipscomb Volleyball’s head coach, he’s trained his many players over the years to serve the ball over the net, and with four NCAA Tournament appearances, four Atlantic Sun tournament championships and a 46-game conference unbeaten streak, more often than not his Lady Bisons serve up defeat to whatever team they find themselves against.
But in May 2013, Lipscomb’s University Volleyball team (LUV) is serving others in a different way altogether, in a place they’ve never been before - Brazil. The team is headed to Rio De Janiero, Brazil, in May to work with a small church in an under-served community, helping out by doing outreach ministry through sports in the local neighborhoods, or favelas.
“In Brazil, Volleyball is really popular as a competitive sport, almost like football or basketball in the United States”, says Matt Rehbein, former missionary to Brazil and one of three co-leaders of the trip. “People really get passionate about it, and there’ll be a lot of interest in a team coming to visit and serve from the United States”. Through the local church, the team will be doing sports camps, community service, school mentoring and tutoring, which will help the local church make connections they might not otherwise make. “We’re really excited to get to spend some time with the church’s youth group”, says Sophomore Lauren Ford, “We’re excited to encourage them in whatever way that we can, and I’m sure we’ll come away encouraged, as well”. In addition to the church work, the team will also get the opportunity to serve with another local sports ministry through the area’s active Rotary club, called “Spreading Sports and Culture”.
Invented in 1895 by William G. Morgan (a friend and co-worker of James Naismith, inventor of basketball), it’s not suprising that volleyball is useful for ministry. Originally called “Mintonette”, and created through the YMCA program towards the goal of advancing the physical and spiritual development of young people, it was intented to be a softer, more accessible sport than Naismith’s basketball. But the collegiate and professional competitive versions of the sport, as anyone who has seen the Lady Bisons play can attest, has evolved into an exciting, intense, hard-hitting, strategic team-oriented game.
“We are a volleyball team, but truthfully, this is such a cool chance to serve together in a way that’s not just all about volleyball. I want our team to learn about themselves, our team, and about life - about all the opportunities they have to use their talents and gifts. People in Brazil may be interested in us initially because of the sport, but we really hope to go deeper and show people we are there out of love, and not just LUV”, says Coach Rosenthal. “I always say that as a team, whether we win or lose, the one thing I ask is that we give maximum effort. Whatever we do, I want our team to go further than they have ever gone on a daily basis”.
Anyone who knows the girls that make up LUV’s Lady Bisons knows that’s something they will surely do; on the court, and in the lives of the Brazillian youth they travel to serve.