In a precedent setting move, the university’s program initiative has been endorsed by the Ottawa-Kent Athletic Association. This association represents some 50 schools and about 50,000 students.
Character breakdowns are now a major problem in competitive athletics. Not a week goes by without some new revelation of sports figures involved in some questionable or even nefarious activity that undermines the purity and joy of competition governed by fair play. Cheating, doping, sports wagering, poor sportsmanship by athletes, coaches, and even fans, and even violence all threaten the very integrity of the game.
Even as I write this piece national sports news coverage has focused upon the details of a possible sports gambling ring surrounding hockey great Wayne Gretzky and his wife. Gretzky has not at this point been directly implicated, and I hope he is not involved. But the story is young. Either way, another sports character scandal is now in the news.
In part because of this growing breakdown of character in sport, some 70% of student athletes quit competitive sports forever by the time they are 14 years of age. Young student athletes say that what they dislike most about playing sports is “the car ride home”—which points to the negative influence parents and guardians often have upon young people’s understanding of the purpose and potential joys of competitive athletics. Something must be done.
The NAIA’s Champions of Character program is part of the answer. The program teaches students five core values: Respect, Responsibility, Integrity, Sportsmanship, and Servant Leadership. These values may be taught using as much biblical theology as one cares to offer, or they may be taught based upon the broad public moral consensus shared by most individuals, regardless of their religious persuasion. Cornerstone University is a NAIA Champions of Character Program Center and is among the NAIA’s leaders (among some 300 schools) in supporting this character building program.
Cornerstone University’s Champions of Character program is being taught through the Athletic Department to all university student athletes. CU’s Athletic Director Dave Grube and Champions of Character Program Director Mike Riemersma lead the university’s athletic character initiative. Champions of Character seminars will be offered free of charge to area public schools, thus not adding to school district financial burdens while developing a quality experience that can literally transform students’ lives.
The goal of CU’s partnership with the O.K. Association is to help students learn to be not simply better athletes but better human beings.
I could not be more pleased with this development. Teaching character principles is a direct extension of the university’s biblical worldview. It engages us in a current cultural problem, and it allows us to help provide a solution. This program has enormous potential, so we are hoping CU will be able to expand this program throughout the State of Michigan.
© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006
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