NOTE: This is part of a series on athletics.covenant.edu with feature stories written by the student-athletes about their time at Covenant. The series is in conjunction with NCAA Division III Week (April 1-7), an annual event to celebrate the accomplishments on and off the field of student-athletes in the NCAA's largest division.
By Olivia Becker
(Covenant '19; Volleyball)
Before the spring of my junior year of high school, I did not know that Covenant College existed. I knew I wanted to play volleyball in college, but I had no idea where. That spring, Coach Jo (head coach Joanna Ehman) sent me an email about Covenant College and the volleyball program there. I was immediately intrigued about the school and began planning a visit for in the fall.
As I traveled to other schools before visiting Covenant, I thought they were neat schools, but I never felt as if I could spend the next four years of my life there. Once I saw Covenant in all of its beauty, I was hooked and left telling my parents that I hoped they did not mind driving nine hours one way to see me the next four years.
As high school was ending, I was growing more excited to continue my volleyball career at Covenant College and to experience a Christian education since I went to a large public high school.
My hope quickly changed though when I tore my ACL a week after committing to play volleyball at Covenant. Those few seconds created the most pivotal moment in my life and began the best and hardest years that I have experienced. My time at Covenant has been split between balancing my math homework, going to practices, and scheduling multiple doctor's appointments for my knees. During my four years of college, I had two more ACL reconstruction surgeries, another smaller surgery, and was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.
Each injury led to a story of its own and new ways in which I saw God working in my life. I battled to come back and play volleyball multiple times throughout college (and I did play a couple of times, including the conference championship my freshman year), but ultimately I had to quit playing the sport that led me to Covenant in the first place.
My time at Covenant is nothing like I thought, but looking back, I would not have changed any of it. Throughout all of it, I was continuously being pointed back to the Lord and my faith in him by my friends, professors, and especially my coaches. It is in these moments that I can truly understand God's sovereignty for our lives. I learned what it meant to trust in His plan, to be dependent on Him and the community around me (which is so hard for me to admit), and to be thankful for the simple functions that our bodies do, such as walking. Lastly, thanks to my team, I have finally understood what a gift it is to have the ability to play volleyball and simply play out of joy in the few moments I can step onto the court again.
I cannot imagine trying to go through all of my injuries and hardships at another school other than Covenant College or in a different NCAA division. I had professors that genuinely wanted to watch us succeed in our work and in life outside of the classroom. They also understood that life is difficult some days and that we simply needed grace. My coaches at Covenant understood that as well. I had never played for a coach or a team that focused more on playing out of love for each other rather than the win-loss record. I do not think it is easy to establish this philosophy in other divisions where money is a factor, but at Covenant, we are all simply playing because of our love for the team and volleyball. This mentality of the program is what ultimately made walking away from playing the hardest thing ever.
Even after all of the hurt that I have experienced through the sport, I cannot leave it. I continued to be a part of the volleyball program at Covenant this past year by stepping into a student assistant role. Next year, I will continue to coach the team when I am available as I work on my masters in teaching at Covenant College. After that, I will hopefully find a teaching position that has a coaching position available as well where I can coach girls on the technique and how to play out of love and joy for the sport and their teammates.
Volleyball has impacted my life in more ways than I could count and I am blessed that one of the ways was leading me to Covenant College four years ago.