Worth The Journey

“What can we do that is different?”

That’s a thought that rattles around in my head as I travel to and from work.  That’s a thought that consumes my thoughts on the stretch of Interstate 29 from Missouri Valley to Sioux City that I feel I could drive in my sleep.

“What can we do that is different and others aren’t trying?”

That’s the scary part.  Not only be different, but pushing to see where the edge is.  It’s a thought as I watch what others are doing with Twitter, Instagram, Photoshop and whatever else is ‘hot’ at the moment.

“What can we do that is different and others aren’t trying and will give useful insight and equip others with knowledge?”

OK, now it’s becoming a challenge.  I’m not into fluff.  If I’m going to take the time to write something or to read something I want something useful, and I think you do too….or at least that’s the assumption I’ve worked under for the last 18 years.

The idea of a blog that focused on first person accounts was something different and for the last year plus we’ve tried to give an inside look into Defender Athletics.  We’ve utilized viewpoints from a variety of sport and teams and individuals with different roles on those teams

We’ve had coaches write at their most vulnerable times when nerves are jangly and the national meet is right around the corner.

But we’ve never had a parent write about dropping a son or daughter off in Sioux Center and then trusting and praying that that son or daughter will be coached and taught and guided in a way that is beneficial for them—that others can be trusted to invest themselves in our sons or daughters.

Notice I said our.

I’m in this too.

Do we get it right every time? 

In a word.  No.

But we keep trying.

About four years ago a media release form came across my desk.

Casey Byker.

Now, there aren’t that many Bykers in the United States and Canada—we keep track of them pretty closely.  Most of them can be traced back to a family of brothers who immigrated in the late 1800s and early 1900s from Holland.

Some of them made it to Michigan and a few made it around Lake Michigan and to Iowa.

My point is I’ve been watching from a distance as this student grew up.and I couldn’t help but think to myself how would I handle the distance being away from my son who is the same age.

It’d be a challenge, but I wouldn’t be in it alone and I wouldn’t be the first dealing with the emotions the distance can accentuate.

I had the pleasure of meeting Casey’s mom this football season and at the end of the season I posed this question—“would you be willing to write about your experience as a parent from a distance and what it’s been like to watch your son grow up the last four years?”

Thankfully, she agreed.  Here’s the result of that question.


It is so hard to believe the season has been over for a month already. So hard for me to believe Casey’s four years of football at Dordt College are over and he is preparing to graduate in May.

My son has loved the game of football since he was little and has played the game since 3rd grade. His senior year of high school we thought it was over until someone suggested he could play for Dordt College and should check it out.

I personally had never heard of Sioux Center, Iowa or Dordt College and would never have thought my son would be attending a college so far away from home.

Casey did the college/football visit in January of 2015 with 4 of his friends from high school. I couldn’t believe I was letting my child drive 11 hours in the winter to a place I had never heard of.

While Casey was there, a snow storm came through, and they couldn’t leave until it cleared two days later. He missed the passing and funeral of his grandfather and I thought, “there is no way he is going there,” but I was so thankful to the college for taking care of my stranded son.

Casey enjoyed his visit, and, of course, was thrilled to think he could continue his football career while receiving a scholarship.

The rest is a blur, but my son was going to be a Defender, 686 miles away from home.

I was nervous and excited for him at the same time. I will confess I was thrilled I would be able to extend my time watching him play.

After Casey’s decision to attend Dordt College, I heard from others whose children had gone there; I only heard wonderful attributes from these other parents. Even some of our high school teachers from Unity Christian (Hudsonville, MI) graduated from Dordt and had encouraging words to share about the college.

Since I didn’t go with him on the college visit, my first experience with Dordt was when I brought him out there in August of 2015.

I can remember during the trip thinking, ‘what am I doing?!…’

In the short time of being on campus, I felt settled and comfortable with the decision. There is a calming and welcoming feeling of being on campus and knowing it is right.

I knew Casey would do great things and hoped he would be able to show his talent and love of the game, but he surprised even me! He was a starter all four years, was nominated captain and received some very high honors from his coaches and teammates while doing well with his studies in education.

That first year was tough; it was not even close to being a winning season, but the team stuck together and the friendships and brotherhood that developed continued to make the team strong.

When the coaching staff changed at the end of his freshman year, I was nervous about how it was all going to change, but the new coaching staff was on board with making Defender football great.

These coaches not only wanted to make it a winning football program, but they were going to be encouragers of these young men in their lives too.

I am so thankful and humbled for all the support he received and the trust he was given by the football staff. I am so thankful for them believing in Casey and giving him the opportunity to use his talents, but, more importantly, I am thankful for them encouraging him to become a man of God and to use what he has learned after college.

I am thankful for Dordt College. With my son being so far away from home, he has learned to be dependant in handling things on his own. I am thankful for the friendships he has gained and the knowledge he has learned that will carry him into his future.

Yes, it is hard to let them go, but knowing he is in a place where he can grow in the Lord and grow for his future makes the distance all worth the journey.jen_casey_byker

One thought on “Worth The Journey

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  1. Can’t thank you enough for this post. When my son announced he wanted to transfer from a college 4.5 hours away, to Dordt, which is 17 hours away, all I could muster were negative thoughts. Over the summer I prayed every day that he would change his mind. As we began the drive from Atlanta this past July, headed for Sioux Center, those prayers continued. When we arrived on campus my son seemed totally at ease, no anxiety at all. We attended a kickoff lunch with the football team, coaches and parents, where we were warmly welcomed. We even sat with the schools President!! The whole day, my only day there before flying home, was a very positive experience. My son just flew in yesterday for Christmas and now refers to Sioux Center home with many references to his Defender Family. HAPPY DAD!


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