Lipscomb Athletics: A Distinct Mission
by Hailey Bryant, Journalist Intern
Most NCAA Divison-1 schools across the country make their priority on wins, championships, records and recruits. Although still a focus at Lipscomb University, the “win-at-all-cost” mentality is taking a backseat as a unique collaboration between Athletics and Missions is having a transformational impact across campus and literally in communities, churches and villages around the world. “Two years ago when we had just one of our teams going on a mission trip, we announced an ambitious goal of providing every athlete who wanted to go an opportunity to take at least one mission trip at some time during his or her four years here at Lipscomb,” Philip Hutcheson, Director of Athletics explains, “In order to do that, it was going to take a team effort on the part of our staff, our coaches, our players and of course, our missions program.” Everyone’s hard work is paying off as Lipscomb has increased the number of athletic mission trips from just one trip in 2011, to five trips in 2013, with anticipation of up to eight trips on the horizon in 2014.
Assistant women’s soccer coach Chris Klotz shares his experience with leading his team to El Salvador over spring break as “amazing, powerful, and life changing.” He explains how the teammates not only discovered how deep their love was for the community they served but also for one another, “The girls were reminded of the two greatest commandments of loving God and loving people.” Traveling to such a far away place with little in common with the locals could cause quite the divide amongst a group, but the coach says quite the opposite occurs, “A soccer ball, volleyball, tennis racket, basketball, any form of athletics becomes a bridge to instantly connect two foreign cultures, and what God does from there can only be thought up from the Lord Himself.” Team after team, Lipscomb athletes seem to have only the most strengthening and positive experiences. Head track and cross country coach Bill Taylor shares how much of an impact these trips have on the team, “Missions helps our athletes grow in their faith, allows them to use their gifts to impact and serve others, which is an incredible thing, and changes their view of the world.” It is no secret that athletes must have intense focus on their sport and perfecting those abilities, but Taylor stresses the ways in which taking these trips allows the team to see “what is really important.” What does the coach hope for when it comes to the future of the partnership with missions? “That all athletes will go on at least one mission trip during their time here,” he says.
An integral player in the growth of athletic trips is Missions Coordinator TJ McCloud, who has been tasked with being the primary liaison between Athletics and Missions. "When I came on staff with Lipscomb Missions, it was really exciting to have a role in helping promote and coordinate missions among our student athletes,” he shares. McCloud also realized the potential for a learning experience when it came to working with athletic teams and their dynamics, as he says, “There's a lot that athletics can teach us about unity, cooperation, goal-setting and self-sacrifice. I hope that our partnership with Athletics is starting to positively influence the way that we form all our mission teams."
Someone who has experienced the progress of athletic missions firsthand is former student leader Jenny Randolph. Now leading trips as an alumna, she is amazed by the increased opportunity, saying, “I have enjoyed seeing more and more trips coming together in athletics as a whole. Just in the last year, track and cross country went to Haiti twice in five months, volleyball to Brazil, women's soccer to El Salvador, softball to Honduras and a team of various athletes to Honduras over winter break.” Randolph wishes for future progress as well, “My hope is that the partnership between athletics and missions will continue to grow, that mission trips will become the norm in athletics, that Godly men and women will step up to make trip possibilities a reality, and that God will continue to work in us and through us."