[caption id=”attachment_12798” align=”aligncenter” width=”752”] 2015/16 OFSAA Medalists ~ Gold Medal Champions TD Christian girls and Quinte Christian boys, Silver Medalists Quinte Christian girls and Woodland Christian boys, Antique-Bronze Medalists Durham Christian boys.[/caption]
2015-2016 marked another great season for the Christian High School volleyball teams, as they dominated the competition at both the men’s and women’s OFSAA volleyball championships. For the second year in a row, Christian school teams clinched both gold medals. And, of the sixteen medals awarded for top four placements (gold, silver, bronze, and antique) in the past two years, OACS schools have earned twelve of them.
The Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations (OFSAA) is a federation of eighteen regional school athletic associations which are geographically spread across the province. Top-ranked teams from public, Catholic, and Christian high schools are invited to compete in this tournament each year. Thousands of volunteer teachers, coaches, and members of the community dedicate their time to prepare their teams for competition at the provincial level in Ontario, including several in our Christian high school communities.
One of these coaches is Eric Lammers, a teacher at Quinte Christian High School in Belleville. His boys’ team won gold medals this year, defeating last year’s champions from Woodland Christian High School in Breslau. In the past six years at the OFSAA boys’ championships, the gold medal has been taken home by a Christian school team—four of those six were won by Quinte. The girls’ team from Quinte also fared well, taking home the silver medal after losing their final match to Toronto District Christian School (TD Christian) in Woodbridge.
“Our Christian schools have had great success,” shared Mr. Lammers. “Last year the final four teams at OFSAA were all Christian schools! This year we had incredible 5-set matches with Woodland Christian School that demanded all we had.”
Judy VanSchepen, coach of the gold medal women’s team from TD Christian, attributes their success to building community as a team. “As a coach, I think team community is the key to good team play,” she states. “Each game and practice situation is an opportunity for personal and team development.”
Ms. VanSchepen describes her team as strong, because each player has gifts and talents that contribute to the team as a whole. “Our team has incredible depth. Every player knows her role on the team and plays well. The girls count on each other, and it [becomes] evident in how they play.”
Mr. Lammers agrees. “Volleyball resonates with Christians and community,” he points out. “You’re only as good as your weakest link. Each individual acts on their own on any given play, but the players act best when they have the support of their teammates, and are motivated to contribute to something much larger than themselves.”
Unity on the court is not always something that comes naturally. Players need to work at finding ways to communicate with and to trust each other as a team. Sarah VanderVeen, who has played for TD Christian School over the past two years, admits that this challenge can take time. “Team dynamics can sometimes be difficult at the start of a new season,” she shares, “but if you do your best to be encouraging to others and to respect yourself as well, things will fall into place.”
Sarah adds, “One of the most important things I took away from this season was that being helpful, encouraging, and a good teammate is more important than how you do in the standings.”
Being involved in competition also carries a certain level of expectation which, according to Mr. Lammers, can have its pros and cons. “There is a slippery slope with success. Pride in ourselves can be such a dangerous thing,” he comments. “We need to remind ourselves why we compete—for God’s glory, to be lights in this world, and to direct all praise to him.”
William Groot, principal at TD Christian School, focused on what is important when entering into competition with other teams. “The difficulty with competition in our culture is that there is a temptation for it to become idolatrous,” he shares. “Sports need to be seen as a means to honor God and to respect others, not as a way to show superiority. It’s the love of the game that’s important.”
Another important challenge for coaches is teaching their team how to deal with losing. Ms. VanSchepen shared that when her girls’ team lost a championship game earlier in the season, it took a great deal of work for her girls to remain resilient and to keep a positive attitude in order to come back and prepare for OFSAA.
Mr. Lammers points out that a loss is equally as character building as a win. “Losses are great teaching moments and provide motivation,” he shares. “There is no reason to fear losing, but we can often get caught up in results.”
Personal injuries and sickness can also create difficult challenges for teams to overcome in a season. Sarah VanderVeen shared how an ankle injury two weeks before OFSAA caused a shift in her perspective. “As I was used to being on the court for most of my season, being on the bench was hard but also a really good experience. I was able to cheer on and celebrate with my team in a way I’d never done before; it was fun to be able to actually watch my team from the sidelines and see how awesome they all are.”
According to Mr. Lammers, participating in a team sport also reveals a lot about yourself. Sometimes when you are faced with unexpected difficulties, it helps you to realize what you have inside of you if you really dig deep to look for it. “Our boys were very talented, but we had to learn to be mentally tougher to take our play to a higher level,” he described. “Our girls had an amazing season, fighting through injuries and sickness to become one of the most united teams I’ve ever seen. Their silver medal at OFSAA is the best finish of any girls’ team we’ve ever had.”
Sarah VanderVeen agrees. “The biggest thing I had to learn over the season,” she reflects, “is that when things don’t go your way, to never give up.”
“My teammates and coaches have taught me many things about volleyball techniques and skills, which are important,” Sarah related, after her team’s first place finish. “But more importantly, they taught us about teamwork and respect—which will stay with me for a lifetime. OFSAA was a great experience all around, and I would do it all over again in a heartbeat!”
Working together as a team, trusting and depending on each other on the court, encouraging each other through losses, and fighting through adversity are all elements of the game that our Christian school teams have been learning to do very well—and the results have become clearly evident at the OFSAA provincial level of competition once again this year.