Sports Aren’t Everything, But They’re Something–Kendra Broekhuis (Potgeter)

I don’t know when it happened.  It must have been a few years ago.

My wife asked me if I knew Kendra Broekhuis had a blog site.

“No, I didn’t,” was my reply.

“She’s a really gifted writer,” said my wife.  “Some people just have it.”

So I started following Kendra’s writings.  Yup, I’m a closet reader even though her target audience is probably about 20 years my junior and female.  You can find more of her work here  http://www.kendrabroekhuis.com/

What do I remember about Kendra Broekhuis (then Potgeter)?

Extremely gifted.

Quiet.

Thoughtful.

All things she now incorporates into her writing.  I also see her now as someone who continues to find her voice and is using that voice in a way to challenge us to be the hands and feet of Christ.

And I enjoy her off-beat, sometimes sarcastic sense of humor.  Something I didn’t see much of when she was a student.

Anyway, I asked her to reflect on her life in athletics and athletics at Dordt and what all that means for a young mom moving her way through life. To my great delight she obliged.

Here’s what she said…..

mbyk

 

Sports Aren’t Everything, But They’re Something

A BRIEF AUTOBIOGRAPHY

I knew nothing about the recruiting process when coaches started leaving messages on my parent’s answering machine during my junior year of high school. I just knew that some guy with a straight-cropped haircut drove all the way from Iowa to Michigan to watch my high school volleyball tournament, and he wanted to talk.

That guy, who turned out to be former head coach Tom Van Den Bosch, convinced me to tour Dordt’s campus and attend an open gym with the team, and that visit reeled me in hard. The nice players, the gorgeous campus, the former volleyball stud Tara Boer willing to eat lunch with me – Of course I will commit the next four years of my life to this school.

During my time at Dordt, our team rode the ups and downs of being an average squad in a historically above-average program. We won games we weren’t supposed to win, which got us to Nationals in Sioux City when I was a sophomore; and we lost games we weren’t supposed to lose, including the play-in game to Nationals my senior year.

During my time at Dordt, our team rode the ups and downs of being an average squad in a historically above-average program. We won games we weren’t supposed to win, which got us to Nationals in Sioux City when I was a sophomore; and we lost games we weren’t supposed to lose, including the play-in game to Nationals my senior year.

And I never once tired of playing. Volleyball wasn’t just an avenue to make college more affordable; it was the highlight of my time at Dordt.

BUT THEN I BECAME AN ALUMNA

I graduated in the spring of 2011, and that fall I kept tabs on the volleyball team’s season – checking their overall record and live streaming a couple games. I still knew most of the women on the team, but there were plenty of names and numbers Mike Byker was announcing for the first time.

It was incredibly difficult to watch without feeling jealous – I wanted my former teammates to succeed, but I selfishly wanted them to miss me playing next to them on the court too. Not only that, but athletics had been a high priority in my life for the past ten years, and I had a bit of an identity crisis when I left my kneepads and ankle braces behind.

If I was no longer “Kendra Potgeter with a kill,” then who was I?

SPORTS AREN’T EVERYTHING

I wasn’t raised to seek my identity in what I do. My parents were no doubt my biggest fans, yet they never made me feel like my value as their child was found in playing sports or in winning.

I wasn’t raised to seek my identity in what I do. My parents were no doubt my biggest fans, yet they never made me feel like my value as their child was found in playing sports or in winning. However, intensely investing myself in one activity over a long period of time had a way of making that line fuzzy for me. As my last season of Dordt volleyball came to a close, I wondered how I would be able to redirect my passion into something different.

Coach VanDenBosch assured me that I would. He reminded me that new things would fill my time, and they would be just as important as the time I’d spent in a gymnasium over the past four years – if not more so. If the man, the myth, and the legend about to retire from head coaching for umpteen years believed that – I guessed I could too.

He knew playing volleyball wasn’t about his record as a coach, nor my success as a player. It was about a much bigger picture – it was about glorifying God with our minds and our bodies. (And beating Northwestern whenever we could. Actually, just kidding, but only because that didn’t happen very often during my career.)

While he continually encouraged me to develop my skills as a middle hitter, he never fostered a craving for personal accolades. He made it clear that while there is nothing wrong with honoring individuals, the success of the entire team was what mattered most.

And if I happened to win an all-tournament team trophy at anytime during the season? That he’d hand me in his office a couple of weeks after the fact like a “by the way” side note.

But Sports Are Something

In the era of specializing in a single sport before college, of never taking an off-season, of club sports being an expectation rather than an opportunity – it’s easy to see how athletics can become over-prioritized. It’s easy to see where even Christian players can lose themselves when they try to find their identity in a jersey, a number, and a game that they deeply love.

But that doesn’t mean there is nothing to learn from the game – that athletics are just another evil to be avoided at all costs.

But that doesn’t mean there is nothing to learn from the game – that athletics are just another evil to be avoided at all costs. And I thought about that again last year when Dordt made it to the national championship game – the first team in school history to ever do so. I found myself genuinely cheering on this team that I personally knew no names or jersey numbers. I found myself yelling at my computer screen.

And I found myself reminiscing in this slightly edited Facebook post about all the good that came from spending hours and hours in a gymnasium:

Sports taught me how to set early alarms, and the beauty of a good sweat. They taught me that when you set high goals, you better set your expectations just as high for how hard you will work to reach those goals. Sports taught me the skills to prioritize my time to fulfill my various responsibilities as an athlete, student, and everything else. They taught me the power of positive role models – the importance of having people in your life who are willing to tell you what you are doing well and how you can improve.

Sports taught me that being called “Coach” means a million more things than deciding which play to call next. They taught me that having a coach who understands that sports is not the only important thing in your life, is absolutely priceless.

Sports taught me that putting on the same jersey as a bunch of other people is one of the fastest ways to melt away your differences, and that the best kind of team is the kind that becomes like family. They taught me that you can’t put a ball in a hoop or over a net without other people passing it to you first, and that while it feels good to be given individual awards for achievement, earning a big W or working through a hard loss as a team is much more fulfilling.

Sports taught me the importance of having fans who will drive no matter where you play, cheer no matter how badly you lose, and help you keep your head on straight no matter how well you win.

Sports taught me to work hard, to work as a team, and to work for goals bigger than myself.

All of that I learned in the DeWitt Gymnasium on Dordt’s campus in Sioux Center, Iowa.

Go Defenders.

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