Most of the middle school girls at Guam Adventist Academy (GAA) had never played volleyball before deciding to form the school’s first team. During their PE and lunch periods, the girls often enjoyed hitting the ball over the net, even though they didn’t know much about the technique or the rules of the game. Their enjoyment overcame their inexperience when the girls organized an official team.
With Selencia Saladier as their head coach, the newest GAA Angels approached Guam’s Interscholastic Sports Association, determined to join the league and play against other island schools. They were celebrating and looking forward to representing their academy. Then the schedule came out. Their games were scheduled for Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays. The girls were devastated! They were excited to start and now they couldn’t because of a conflict with Sabbath.
I knew that it wasn’t God’s will for them to pour themselves into their studies without something fun and motivational to get them to move their bodies, so I went to the league and asked if we could reschedule the Saturday games. The answer was “No,” but they asked if we still wanted to join. I believed it would be a good lesson for our girls and the other teams if we still entered the league but refused to play on Sabbaths, so I agreed to join. We would forfeit the Saturday games and give up any chance of winning the league. Winning wasn’t my goal, I just wanted to give the girls an opportunity to learn how to play.
The season was ready to begin, and the league coaches met together. During the meeting, one of the other league coaches approached Selencia and suggested that GAA should be allowed to play their Saturday games on Thursdays. The league president had already denied our request, but the other coaches thought it was a great idea and they themselves approached the league president together. This time, she agreed!
Engaging in sports is such a great way for our kids to glorify God through their bodies, as God has called us to do. The apostle Paul says in Romans 12:1, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” Thinking of this text, Sister Ellen White says: “The time spent in physical exercise is not lost. The student who is constantly pouring over his books, while he takes but little exercise in the open air, does himself an injury. A proportionate exercise of the various organs and faculties of the body is essential to the best work of each.” (Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students, p.295)
The GAA Angels had an amazing volleyball season and ended up winning the league 14-2, fair and square. These athletes also learned some important lessons along the way:
1. Hard work: The girls spent many hours after school practicing serves, hits, sets, and spikes. They even sacrificed time during their Christmas vacation to learn how to play volleyball. Their hard work paid off with all the wins they brought home. Being involved in a sport also helped motivate them to keep their grades up.
2. Teamwork: This is not only important in volleyball but is crucial in whatever field they may enter later in life. In volleyball and in life, it is important to trust your teammates and learn to cheer them on, even from the bench.
3. Sportsmanship: When they won, they gave a loud cheer to the other team which helped them to be humble in their wins. Though they had an amazing season with lots of wins, it didn’t make the losses easy. They had to exercise self-control, both to calm their emotions after a loss and to stay humble after a win. They learned how to win and lose gracefully.
Most importantly, the girls were rewarded because they chose to honor God’s Sabbath. By refusing to play on Saturdays, they were able to be a witness to their teammates who are not Adventist, as well as to the other league teams. The other teams were also blessed by having the Sabbath off each week they were scheduled against GAA.
The Christian athlete is called to a higher standard. He or she is not to demean or abuse opposing teams but should constantly be a witness and behave as Jesus would whether winning or losing. I am so thankful that our middle school girls were able to learn these and other valuable lessons and honor God in the process.