Calvin University's official student newspaper since 1907

Calvin University Chimes

Since 1907
Calvin University's official student newspaper since 1907

Calvin University Chimes

Calvin University's official student newspaper since 1907

Calvin University Chimes

Spring break trips support success on and off the field

Photo from @calvin_golf Instagram
The golf team at Longleaf Golf and Family Club in North Carolina.

A casual glance at Patrick Gillen quickly revealed he spent his spring break in the sun. His tanned forearms contrasted with pale wrists, and he laughed as he pointed out the clear tan line created by the UV rays and his tape. 

Gillen, a member of Calvin’s baseball team who just was named NCAA Division III hitter of the Week by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers’ Association (NCBWA), is one of many students on Calvin’s sports teams — including baseball, softball, men’s and women’s tennis and men’s and women’s golf  — who traveled down south during spring break. 

According to both players and coaches, the purpose of these trips is twofold: to get some outdoor playing experience against good competition, and to grow together as a team. 

Our focus is just getting a great start to the week to build momentum going forward,” softball coach Becky Hilgert told Chimes in an email. After practicing for five weeks, “the players are itching to play, so getting to go down south is a nice reward for enduring the Michigan winter,” Hilgert said. 

The warmth is double-edged, though. Alison Schultz, a senior on the softball team, said the most challenging part of the week was playing long games in hot humid weather after living in the colder Michigan climate. 

Our focus is just getting a great start to the week to build momentum going forward.

Gillen and Connor Venohr, another member of the baseball team, expressed a similar sentiment: playing two games a day in the heat was grueling. But in “the last couple days, we’re all pushing each other,” Gillen said. The team’s practice of encouragement and mental persistence, according to Gillen, will “definitely help us in the long run, to get to where we want to go.” 

Neither team faltered despite the heat; softball won nine of their first ten games — out of a 40-game season — in the single week they spent in Orlando, Florida, while baseball won seven out of nine varsity games.  

The softball team’s success has established them as a significant competitor in their field, according to Hilgert. “Our 9-1 start also gave us some recognition nationally, so other teams and programs are watching us closer now. So we need to understand going forward that we are going to get everyone’s best, and we have to be ready for that each time we compete,” she said. 

For the men’s golf team, who participated in — and won — a tournament the Monday and Tuesday after spring break, their time playing outside on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, was instrumental in their success. “We live in Michigan, where you practice inside every day…it’s not the same as playing an actual golf course,” Jackson Glanzer, a senior on the golf team, told Chimes

In their first matchups, “We play teams that have played — if not year-round — have already played on grass for two months,” he said. Because playing on grass is different from playing on an indoor simulator. The week of spring break — when Calvin’s team has a chance to play on grass down south before most outdoor golf courses in Grand Rapids open — is “really important for us to be competitive.”  

Women’s golf went down to Orlando as well and played their first competition of the spring season against John Carroll University, which they won 328-367. 

Competition was not the only aspect of the spring breaks – baseball coach Kevin Van Duyn said “First and foremost, spring break is kind of a time for us to bond together.” Baseball team members echoed that sentiment. 

“It’s a good chance to get outside…play some games against some really good competition, and just kind of enjoy each other’s company, and learn a lot more about each other — as players, but also teammates as well,” Gillen told Chimes

Venohr remembered team dinners at Buffalo Wild Wings fondly. While eating, talking and watching sports together, “you get to keep building on those [relationships] and become closer to your teammates,” he said. 

For Schultz, spring break added a “relational aspect” to the team’s growth. Living together for a week, rather than just seeing each other for two hours at practice every day allowed her and her teammates to “see that different side of the team, which helps you get to know them as a person better, which helps on the field.” 

Women’s golf team member Chandler Sjoerdsma appreciated the time for rest and connection their coach scheduled into the break, “which was much needed for many of us with busy academic schedules,” she said. The team went to church together, went to Universal Studios one day and visited the pool “several times” during the week, according to Sjoerdsma.

Ultimately, these trips are valuable experiences for students. “What’s really unique with the Florida trip is when these guys become seniors, and they’re writing what their favorite moment is at Calvin baseball over the last four years,” Van Duyn said. “99% of them say the Florida trip.”

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