by Vicky Kaniaru
CLEVELAND, Ga. (TMCNews) – Truett-McConnell College received the 2010-2011 Five Star Champions of Character Institution award from the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA).
"I'm thrilled that our athletic program has received the Champions of Character Award from the NAIA because of what it represents," said Chris Eppling, athletic director and vice president of student services at the Cleveland, Ga. school. "It doesn't mean that all of our athletes are perfect; but as an overall athletic program, it says a lot about what we're about and what we're trying to become."
According to the NAIA, a Champions of Character institution is committed to the spirit of competition through the following five tenets: integrity, respect, responsibility, sportsmanship, and servant leadership.
The TMC athletic program "exemplifies integrity in that we seek to teach our athletes that it's more important to be the right person than to achieve the right result," Eppling said.
"Many times, if you are the right person, the results will take care of themselves," added Eppling, noting that TMC coaches are doing "a phenomenal job" teaching student-athletes to maintain integrity.
"In the heat of competition, not everyone is going to respond perfectly every time. But the encouraging thing to me as athletic director is that a large majority of our athletes have never been ejected from a game, have never received red cards, and have never received any sort of penalty that would cast dispersions on their sportsman like conduct," Eppling said.
With athletics in full swing, Eppling said the program strives to maintain good character "so that when we face the Lord, we can have the ultimate reward of hearing him say, 'Well done, my good and faithful servants.'"
The athletic program promotes servant leadership by encourage athletes to serve locally and internationally. This past summer, the TMC soccer team traveled to Costa Rica on a mission trip. Planning to follow suit, the TMC men's basketball team is taking a mission trip to China in the upcoming year, and TMC baseball is currently involved in helping local schools.
"At Truett-McConnell, we are in a unique spot to exemplify servant leadership by serving as Christ served, and by putting the needs of others ahead of our own," Eppling said. "In a metaphorical sense but in a tangible way, laying down our lives for our friends and leading through serving is, I believe, the biblical model that Jesus represented of leadership, and I'm thrilled that we're beginning to produce servant leaders in our athletic program now."
Vicky Kaniaru is senior staff writer at Truett-McConnell College.