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Cornerstone University has created a successful athletic program based on its mission to excel as influencers in our world Christ. This month's stories exemplify the philosophy of serving others. 

Beach Volleyball Olympic Gold Medalist Misty May-Treanor Featured Speaker at Cornerstone University

Cornerstone University hosted a special Champions of Character Fall Pre-Season "Kick-Off" Aug. 30, 2010 in the Hansen Athletic Center on campus featuring Misty May-Treanor.

More than 2,000 freshman, junior varsity and varsity volleyball programs from participating schools of the OK-Conference were in attendance.
"When I was a young player I wish I had a program like this to teach me about character on the court," said May-Treanor, who held volleyball workshops in Grand Rapids and Grand Haven the following day through Carpe Diem, a private volleyball club.

She encouraged the athletes to think about their behavior.
"Every decision you make will have an impact on someone," she told them before holding a question and answer time. "You need to lead by example. Be the team no one complains about."

The theme for this year's "kick-off" was "Setting the Standard."
"As we continue our commitment to the OK-Conference, we believe this was an event that helped coaches set the tone for the upcoming season and promoted character development on their team," said Mike Riemersma, director of the Champions of Character program.

Through the Champions of Character program, Cornerstone University partners with the community and provides resources to work toward changing an eroding sports culture in our schools and communities.

"We have formed a partnership with the O-K Conference and all the Grand Rapids professional sports organizations (Grand Rapids Griffins and West Michigan Whitecaps," said Riemersma. "Through these partnerships it is our desire to be a resource for all coaches, athletes, parents, youth programs, booster clubs and administrators not only in the Grand Rapids area but the entire midwest."

To learn more about the NAIA, Program Center locations and events, visit www.cornerstone.edu/athletics/coc/.

To schedule a presentation or to learn more about how Champions of Character will benefit your organization, please contact Riemersma at michael_riemersma@cornerstone.edu.

Team Shows Servant's Heart

To Cornerstone University volleyball coach Ryan Campbell, there is more to coaching than a won-lost record.

"I want my players to understand that there are things happening in the world outside the university setting that they need to be concerned with," Campbell said. "Studies are important, volleyball is important. But we can't stay wrapped up in our comfort zone and not be aware of what is going on around us."

To that end, the Cornerstone volleyball team has dedicated its entire season to "having a servant's heart."

Every home game on the 2010 schedule is dedicated to a local charity, and every penny that comes through the doors will go towards that night's charity. The Sept. 14  opener, "Camouflage Night," was dedicated to Other Way Ministries.

"It is an interesting concept," Campbell said. "I don't know anybody else who is doing it. I think volleyball is a fun game to watch, so it will be good for us to have people come to these games to see us. But more important, it will help people who really need help and be part of our Christian witness."

Last year Campbell promoted the Cornerstone-Aquinas match and wound up with more than 1,000 in attendance.

"You just have to get them to come out," he said. "I've had so many people say they had a great time and will be back. Volleyball is a very marketable sport. We don't have football at Cornerstone, so we are a good opportunity for students to have a good time on campus and get involved."

Cornerstone's home season opened Sept. 21 with its "Purple" game against Davenport.

 "The funds we raised go towards cancer research at Van Andel  Institute," he said. "We are sold purple shirts for $10 and that will be the admission to the game."

The team raised more than $2,000.

On Sept. 29 Cornerstone will host Aquinas. Admission to the game will be canned goods that will be donated to Mel Trotter Ministries. A free post-match concert by Christian artist George Moss will follow.

"We got 1,000 people to come out for Aquinas last year, I hope we can do better than that this year," Campbell said.

Other charities on tap this year are the Pregnancy Resource Center, Alpha Women's Center, Guiding Light and Gilda's Club.

"In August we went to each place and spent part of a day helping out, so the players could better understand what this is about and how important it is that they are aware of others outside their sphere of friends and teammates," Campbell said.

"We play to win, but we live to serve. The fact that we can try to do both at the same time just makes it all the better."


Night of Nets Changes Lives

On Saturday, Sept. 25 Cornerstone men's soccer team will host "Night of Nets" with each player raising $60 to buy 10 mosquito nets to be sent to Zambia, Africa. All proceeds at the gate will also go to purchasing nets through World Vision.

"Malaria still kills thousands in Africa," said women's soccer coach, Randy Strawser. "It's a disease we don't even think about, but in Africa it is devastating. Yet a simple thing like a net can reduce the incidence of malaria by 50-60 percent."

Head men's soccer coach, Mark Bell is planning a summer mission trip to Zambia with Cornerstone's director of student engagement Chip Huber, who is hoping the team will be able to see the impact of their efforts.
"Night of Nets is a small way to have an impact on a huge problem," said Bell. "It is a little thing for us, but a matter of life or death for them. In the village that Chip worked last year, 32 kids died from malaria. When you put that kind of a face on the problem, it becomes pretty significant.
"For $6, you are actually changing somebody's life."

The home game doubleheader  begins at noon with the men facing Concordia and the women playing Huntington at 2:30 p.m.
"We will have a steel drum band from Trinidad," said Strawser, "a group we got to know through missions trips in 2003 and 2005. They will be here for a benefit concert after the games, but they will play during the games to keep the crowd fired up."

The women's team has already begun to give back to the community.
They opened the practice schedule by helping out at Kentwood Community Church, and later spent a day sorting donated clothes for Rays of Hope for Haiti.

"We want to make sure our kids don't just live in a Cornerstone bubble," said Strawser. "It is the philosophy of the school, something we take to heart, that they reach out to the community...both in Grand Rapids or thousands of miles away...to have an impact and witness for Christ."
While at Cornerstone both coaches have a question for the players to ask themselves.

"Are you having an impact on somebody's life?" said Bell.

Women's Soccer
Men's Soccer
Cross Country Team Bonds By Serving Elderly

In some ways, the term "loneliness of the long-distance runner" is accurate.

Those who compete at extended distances have to train at extended distances, and often they do so by themselves. Who else wants to run a quick five miles when it is still dark or, or after a hard day's work?

"These guys put in up to 1,000 miles during the summer," said Cornerstone cross country coach Rod Wortley. "And most of those are by themselves, through the woods, across the fields. It's the same sort of terrain they will compete on during the cross country season, but they need to challenge themselves."

By design, the runners aren't lonely during the Cornerstone cross country season.

"We want our athletes willing to care for their teammates, to be there for their teammates," Wortley said.

The cross country team begins each season with a week of service projects in South Haven, as part of pre-season camp.
They do projects for the South Haven School District, area churches and homes for the elderly.

"We have quite a list of elderly citizens we work with," Wortley said. "We do things that help them around the house.

"It is a way for us to come together, to model servant leadership. Our motto is 'We serve because we can,' and it carries over to our team."
Cornerstone has had top teams and runners for years.

"How we come together directly impacts how we do," Wortley said. "We don't help others in order to reach an athletic goal, it is just a by-product of that service. Track is important, but we want to equip our athletes with a willingness to serve, to be important to others, as part of their Christian testimony."

Distance runners don't compete in front of crowds. But they don't need to.
"They run for each other," Wortley said. "Before a meet we look at who the other teams have and how we have to line up against them. We have won conference championships even though we weren't the best team there.

"We just ran together better, we lifted each other better, we were more responsible to each other.

"Fans see random bodies running through the woods, but we see a team, group that has committed to each other through acts of kindness, and it pays dividends," Wortley added. "When you learn to care about and take care of others, you learn to take care of and care about yourselves. That's a bigger lesson than winning a meet or setting a record."

Women's Cross Country
Men's Cross Country