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"A Passion for Being Your Best"

Five coaches share their reasons for coaching at Bethel, their goals, and what they hope student athletes learn through sports.

By Michelle Westlund '83, senior content specialist

June 21, 2019 | 3 p.m.

coaches panel

Five Bethel coaches spoke to a Grandparents Day gathering.

More than 500 students—about 25 percent of the student body—participate in Bethel University athletics. Their passion for excellence is fueled by dedicated coaches who serve as mentors and role models, committed to holistic growth and development. “At Bethel, holistic growth is real,” says Jeremy Iwaszkowiec, head men’s soccer coach. “We care about the whole person—spiritually, athletically, academically.”

This spring, a panel of coaches volunteered to talk about their reasons for coaching at Bethel, their goals, and their hopes for the student athletes in whom they invest so much energy. Panel members included Andrew Rock, head men’s and women’s track coach; Jeremy Iwaszkowiec, head men’s soccer coach; Doug Novak, head men’s basketball coach; Chris McKelvie, head men’s hockey coach; and Steve Johnson, head football coach. 

Why Bethel?

Novak: Bethel is one of the most unique athletic departments I’ve ever been associated with. The sense of community here really attracted me. We’re all building each other up. As coaches, we grow every day and the student athletes grow with us.

Johnson: Bethel is grounded in Jesus. It’s amazing what our student athletes give us—we get so much back. Our sports are really competitive, but our coaches have a deep humility.

Rock: As coaches, we impact students’ lives, but they powerfully and meaningfully impact our lives as well. The teams here are amazing. The relationships we build make the long hours and demands of the job worthwhile.

McKelvie: At Bethel, people are sold out to the mission, to making sure students leave here with a stronger faith.

What are your top goals and how do you achieve them?

Iwaszkowiec: When we talk about success, we have to define it. It’s not just wins and losses. We always want to win, but relationships are the most important.

Johnson: Some goals are so obvious, like winning the conference. But down the road, the fruit of the experience is what’s important. Our goal is that everybody we play should hate to play us because we will play so hard for so long and fight for each other because we love each other.

Novak: There’s a success road and there’s a road to success. One is simply getting to a championship. The other is the way you enjoy the day-to-day journey and process all along that road. Our team culture comes from our daily successes and failures. We talk about learning how to lose much more than winning. We care about winning, but we’re not going to be destroyed by losing because there are lessons to be learned. Knowledge can be gained but wisdom must be earned. You don’t have the same learning experience getting a C on your biology test that you get by losing a game. You get a different kind of learning experience in athletics.

Rock: Our season is long—nine months. And we have runners competing in races that last 11 seconds. If that’s all we’ve got, that end result, we’ve got nine months of training for 11 seconds of running. So we need to enjoy the process of getting there, enjoy the journey. We want our athletes to develop the gifts God gave them, to be all God created them to be. Can these skills translate to the working world? It’s not just about performance, but about a passion for being your best. And passion for being your best is something you take with you forever.

What do you hope student athletes take away from your program?

Iwaszkowiec: I hope they take away a sense of gratitude, humility, and love.

Rock: Find a way to impact those around you, to invest in your relationships. How are we as coaches modeling healthy relationships in this transition space where students are coming from their original families and moving on to adult relationships in the future?

Novak:  Disposable skills are not worthwhile, so we better be connecting what we teach to real life. At Bethel, athletics are connected to all the rest of campus life—to chapel, to the classroom.

Johnson: I tell student athletes—and their parents—that the soil here at Bethel is rich. What kind of soil do you want to plant your student in? What kind of plant do you want to become? What kind of fruit do you want to produce?

Bethel Athletics

At Bethel University, athletics are a life-changing experience. Bethel student athletes are campus leaders, shaping Bethel’s culture through their commitment, dedication, and hard work. As graduates, they use the life lessons they learned in sports to lead and serve in the world.  

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