Philosophy of Athletics

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Covenant College values the positive contributions that athletics make to the mission and educational purpose of the institution. The College endorses the study of athletics in its academic curriculum and promotes cocurricular opportunities for athletic competition among its students to forward their progress toward achieving a maturing identity in Christ, acquiring a biblical frame of reference for all aspects of creation and human endeavors, and encouraging Christ-like service to edify its principal constituencies and the wider culture.

Within the curriculum, Covenant College supports a Physical Education Department to study the subject of athletics as an academic discipline. Sports and athletic competition are featured prominently in the Department’s course offerings as its faculty members examine the role of sports in the broader culture, teach the theory and practice of holistic wellness, explore the social and ethical aspects of athletic competition, provide foundational instruction for students pursuing callings in coaching or sport ministry, and promote the benefits of lifelong participation in individual and group recreational sports from a Reformed perspective.

The College also provides its students with opportunities to participate in athletic competition on campus through three co-curricular programs: intercollegiate sports, club sports, and intramurals. Each of these programs has its own objectives, yet shares a common goal to contribute positively to the overall educational purpose of the institution. Although subordinate to the priorities of academics, competitive athletic experiences funded by the College do complement and reinforce the academic enterprise when properly designed, administered, and assessed. Contrary to widely held cultural assumptions, Covenant does not believe that competitive athletics automatically produce positive character development among its participants. Athletics is part of fallen creation, and like all expressive human activities, can influence participants either positively or negatively. The College expects players, coaches, administrators, and spectators to critically evaluate athletics using a biblical frame of reference in order to reclaim it for the service of Christ and the edification of others. As a school subscribing to the Westminster Confession of Faith, Covenant views competitive athletics as a practical means of

  • glorifying God
  • enjoying His physical gifts with gratitude
  • increasing opportunities for service to others, and
  • participating in God’s global gospel mission

such that “being united to one another in love, they have communion in each other’s gifts and graces, and are obliged to the performance of such duties, public and private, as do conduce to their mutual good, both in the inward and outward man” (Chap. XXVI, 1).

Intercollegiate sports offer students the highest level of athletic competition at the College. Under the direction of qualified coaches and administrators, this cocurricular program emphasizes that participants are students first, but recognizes the enormous potential for developing leadership skills, cultivating ethical and responsible action, and encouraging the pursuit of excellence to honor the gospel of Jesus Christ. Coaches are valued members in the academic fellowship of the College, fulfilling roles as educators and mentors. They are expected to understand the mission and values of the College, to articulate its priorities to recruits, and to promote the pursuit of godly academic achievement to all students who participate in intercollegiate athletics. As a highly visible ambassador representing the College and the Presbyterian Church in America to external audiences, the intercollegiate athletics program plays a significant role in advancing the reputation of the Covenant community.

Covenant College subscribes to the philosophy statement of the NCAA Division III, particularly as it relates to fair play and amateur athletics competition, and provides the opportunities for educating and developing the whole person. Opportunities, whether academic, athletic, or for personal development, are provided fairly and equitably to all teams and student athletes at Covenant irrespective of gender.

Club and intramural sports provide students with competitive athletic experiences in a less structured environment than that required for intercollegiate sports. Volunteer coaches or advisors may furnish club teams with instruction and guidance, but the value of this program resides in the initiative and commitment of students who function not only as players, but as managers and even administrators for individual teams. Intramural sports are provided by the College to facilitate student, faculty, and staff opportunities to participate together in athletic competition. As cocurricular activities, intramural and club sports support the educational philosophy of the school and contain objectives consistent with those articulated in the academic program.

Regardless of the level of athletic competition, Covenant College promotes particular principles to guide participants (players, coaches, administrators, and spectators) in their quest to express faithfully the preeminence of Christ in all things. Athletic events are viewed as opportunities to engage in a joyful celebration of God’s physical gifts that incorporate

  • a biblically-based understanding of their significance among larger priorities
  • the importance of disciplined, conscientious preparation
  • the value of intense effort, and
  • a genuine appreciation for all participants as image-bearers of God.

The College believes that in striving for excellence to the glory of God, teams and individuals have an obligation to compete to win honorably, while understanding that success in athletics is not measured solely by the outcome of the contest. Covenant expects all of its athletic participants to experience winning and losing with appropriate demonstrations of humility and grace. Verbal or physical abuse of opponents or officials is never tolerated. Good sportsmanship and ethical behavior is expected to be displayed by all involved whatever the circumstances. The field or the arena are not venues for self-aggrandizing actions, but occasions to exhibit counter-cultural Christian virtues of self-control, kindness, gentleness, patience, joy, faithfulness, and love. Using this biblical frame of reference, athletic contests function as a tool to speak the truth of the gospel to a watching world.

Therefore, athletics at Covenant College operate legitimately and advantageously within the mission of the institution as a field of study and as cocurricular activities allowing members of this Christian academic community to practice their extraordinary callings in ordinary places.