Sports in Adventist Schools
by Debbonnaire Kovacs
In the fall of 2012, the Redlands, CA, newspaper, “The Patch,” ran a story about a flag football tournament at Loma Linda Academy. Twelve boys’ teams and ten girls’ teams from “across California’s Seventh-day Adventist schools” competed, and the article made specific mention of the fact that games would finish before sundown Friday and resume Sunday morning.
Around that same time, the Walla Walla, WA, Union-Bulletin published a quite extensive story about the Walla Walla Valley Academy Knights basketball team. The Knights had won the Southeast 2B regular season at 9-1 and, according to their coach, Scott Schafer, they were pretty excited about their league championship. He called it “the big jewel in the crown,” which sounds, at least to Adventist ears, like a fairly biblical reference. The team went on to the Pioneer Invitational held at Pacific Union College and won three out of four games but, according to the Union-Bulletin, “the Pioneer Invite will be their only postseason due to games in the district and state tournaments conflicting with their observance of the Sabbath.”
The team was still hoping to win when they went up against the team they’d lost to, El Dorado Adventist School, but I haven’t been able to find out who did win. At https://watersjournalismassignment.blogspot.com/2012/10/this-weekend-eas-lady-eagles-volleyball.html, you can read a girl’s blog entry about the El Dorado Girls’ Volleyball Team, the Lady Eagles, winning their part of what seems to be the same tournament.
Once upon a time, it was generally believed among Adventists, at least the more conservative ones, that sports in school were, at best, questionable. During the past decades, this has been changing. First we had only intramural sports, those played “within the walls” (the literal meaning) between two different teams in one school. This was somehow seen as safer than extramural (often mistakenly called “intermural”) sports, between the teams of different schools. The point, mostly, was to discourage the sort of obsessive fandom too often seen in public schools—mostly, it seems, among parents, more than students. Fans have done everything from calling rival fans names to doing violence, either against the rivals or against the stadium. Some fans have even destroyed their own stadia, in their excess of glee over a victory.
In recent years, Adventist schools have begun to come out on the side of extramural sports, at least among other Adventist schools. It is much easier to compete with other institutions who also don’t play on Sabbath. The rationale behind the athletics programs in these Adventist schools may be exemplified by a combing of their websites. Here are two specific examples:
Skagit (Alaska) Academy: “It is the goal of the athletic department as well as the school that each student who participates in athletics will develop a strong Christian character, good sportsmanship, and an overall positive attitude.” https://skagit22.adventistschoolconnect.org/site/1/Matt%20Lee/Timberwolves%20Athletic%20Handbook.pdf
“Walla Walla Valley Academy operates an instructional competitive program for students where the effort to win is emphasized, but the eventual outcome is not. The goal of this program is to help students succeed in all that they do, as they develop into confident and mature Christian young men and women.” https://docs.google.com/folder/d/0B0fsM48IbFq-OGJjZTc4YmQtODEwNi00NmZkLWEzYTctMDhhMWVhMWU1ZWFh/edit?hl=en_US&docId=1MqcNYpn9xvmtIl-mi3FL–7ClYNH5iBMJE0MRIxE-gc
Other academy websites post stories such as the one at https://www.gnyacademy.org/news/2005-09-30-01.php, in which Greater New York Academy writer A. Vergel says, “While winning or losing were motivators at the different competitions, students seem to have been more focused on having fun and developing friendships through team work” and proceeds to give several examples.
In this magazine, we have published stories of inspirational results of Christian coaching and athleticism. In late summer, 2012, we ran “Eleven-year-old plans to be first Black Female Seventh-day Adventist Olympic Gymnast,” about young Zerahiah Joseph. And in January of this year, we posted “Basketball as Mission: A Discussion with Tony McGinnis,” Oakwood basketball coach who is also the Executive Director of the Harris Home for Children in Huntsville, AL, and believes that his coaching experience is a huge asset to his ministry for children and youth.
Loma Linda University has gone further than simply providing an athletics program for its students. According to a press release from the media department, https://us.vocuspr.com/Newsroom/Query.aspx?SiteName=LLUNewsroom&Entity=PRAsset&SF_PRAsset_PRAssetID_EQ=80354&XSL=PressRelease&Cache=True, “For the fifth straight season, Loma Linda University Drayson Center will host the Los Angeles Clippers Youth Hoops Program and The National Basketball Academy (TNBA) for a five-day basketball camp.” The camp is happening this week and is for boys and girls from 6 to 17 years old. LLU sees this as an opportunity to reach out to kids and their families, offering not only training and games, but discussions on health, nutrition, and other ways to live a whole life.
Once upon a time, Adventists simply forbade—movies, cards, dance, sports. Today, more Adventists prefer to educate themselves and their youth on making wise choices in all those areas and more, and doing all to the glory of God.