(The following is Mr. Dunham’s message given at our first-ever Fall Season JV and Varsity Athletic Dinner on Friday, October 27. Team portraits by Ashley Dawn Photography.)
You may not realize it, but Socrates was a sports fan. After all, it was he who said, “No citizen has the right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training. It is a shame for a man to grow old without seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable.” As we seek to train you to be upstanding citizens, we do so mindful of the bodily benefits Socrates mentions as part of the mix. Not only do we see the benefits of physical training, we have known the joy of you seeing the beauty and strength of which you are capable, which does our hearts good as parents.
In addition to your accomplishments on the court and the field these past months, I hope you have recognized that in some ways your effort has been and will be its own reward. You have been pushed by caring coaches and you have pushed yourselves and each other not just physically, but emotionally, intellectually, and even spiritually. This is proper and good, for as Socrates said, it’s a shame for us to grow old without experiencing any of this, lest we replace true competition with only its digital counterparts. (Thankfully, once you have played the games – of soccer, of volleyball – there’s no comparison to their video versions.)
Each of you accomplished much this season. I say this because each of your teams accomplished much this season. In this, our inaugural soccer season and under the leadership of Coaches Ashley and Wilmington, we not only showed up and competed, we won – 10 of 13 games! – by way of play that was beyond expectations for a first-year, co-ed, broad age combination of student-athletes. You learned your roles and played them well, deferring to strengths and protecting weaknesses, which is what a true team – in sport or otherwise – does. You were both surprising and inspiring, not to mention a whole lot of fun to watch, and we honor you for your efforts.
Our junior varsity volleyball team rose to the occasion this year as well, going 7-3 and improving almost every game. As you know, junior varsity players, JV in any sport requires flexibility, as in addition to practicing as a team, you never know when you’re going to be on the receiving end of the practice serves and spikes from the varsity. You rarely get as much glory or time on JV, and yet because of your attitudes this year, you became better as you worked hard and earned your place in our program. Along the way, you went 7-3 and earned the respect of those you played, as well as those varsity players you played against.
And now to our varsity volleyball team, a team that has won my respect for the way you have worked to improve, play together, and play for one another. When I first met you, few overhand serves were flying (let alone getting past the net), but together and with Coach Iversen working with you in new and strange ways – wall sitting, running with basketballs over your heads, and serving and spiking at you until you didn’t know to do anything different but bump, set, and spike it back – we as parents saw you blossom into a capable and fun volleyball team to watch. You came close – oh, so close! – to a .500 season, going 6-8, but more significantly you recorded our first varsity volleyball wins ever – and six of them to boot, one for every year that you, our seniors, went without.
All of our student-athletes have benefited from the physical training this season’s sports required, because as Paul reminds us in his words to Timothy, physical training is of some value! You’re better physically than you would have been otherwise, and you’ve tested your resolve, because sports don’t build character; they test it.
You have gotten better at ordering your loves and handling your responsibilities because you’ve had to – there are only so many hours in the day! You have learned how to handle pressure on and off the court and field. You have learned how to win humbly and how to lose graciously, how to lift one another up and how to repent from dragging one another down. You have learned how to humble yourself to take instruction, and you have learned that when you don’t, the game often does it for you. These are all important lessons – not just for soccer and volleyball – but for life, and I hope you see just how much they are and can be of great value.
Take what you have learned this fall – these years at Petra for some – and continue to train yourself to be godly, for as Paul writes, “godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” Be disciplined, be humble, be hopeful, and persevere as you pursue living out the beauty and strength of which we have seen you are capable, by His grace and for His glory.
Non nobis Domine, Domine (Not unto us, O Lord, O Lord)
Non nobis Do-mi-ne (Not unto us, O Lord)
Sed nomini, sed nomini (But to Your name, but to Your name)
Tu o da gloria (May all the glory be)