Intramural sports have long been a part of student life at Liberty University. Playing sports is a time for students to relax and have fun. When the whistles start blowing and feet hit the ground there is only one thing on the mind of players, the game. But one intramural team on campus has a focus that is different than most.
Teaming up with Push the Rock sport ministry based out of Pennsylvania, this group of students seeks to bring the love of Christ into the world of intramurals. Push the Rock recognizes that sports is a language that is spoken across the world, and they believe that through sports they have the ability to reach many.
Pushtherock.org describes their ministry as the common ground “where the message of Christ and excellence in athletics meet.” In Pennsylvania, this common ground involves sports camps and afterschool programs.
At Liberty, Push the Rock has flourished into various intramural sports teams. This semester, both ultimate Frisbee and basketball teams exist as well as plans for other future teams. This is the fifth semester that Push the Rock has been at Liberty.
Justin Danaher, captain of the basketball team, has been with Push the Rock since it started on campus. Danaher saw the need for a team like Push the Rock after noticing a disconnect between the actions of players during games and their actions away from the game.
“People that you would play against, you’d be like, ‘that kid has the worst attitude ever,’ but you walk into class and that guy is a religion major,” Danaher said. “And you’re like, ‘what’s going on?’ We noticed that there was a problem.”
After coming to this realization, students decided to integrate Push the Rock values and goals into an intramural team.
“We decided we’re going to look at the basketball court as our mission field and it started with just one team, our basketball team,” Danaher said. “Since then, its grown and become a big group of people on campus.”
According to Danaher, many times, players forget to keep a good attitude during the course of a game, and negative attitudes are one of the things that Push the Rock seeks to change.
Matt Guensch has also been playing with Push the Rock since the beginning, and he believes that keeping a good attitude is at the heart of what Push the Rock stands for. And although it may sound simple, this central goal is also one of the hardest to achieve.
“When it gets down to crunch time and everything’s competitive and you’re in the playoffs, you just want to win, and sometimes you lose your focus on why we’re here as a Push the Rock team,” Guensch said.
According to him, small acts such as bringing water for the other team, stopping plays when someone falls down and respecting referee calls are all ways that Push the Rock members set them selves apart from other teams.
“Its just our practical way of trying to show the love of Christ to the refs and people that aren’t playing,” Guensch said. “Be respectful of everyone that we come in contact with.”
Above all, the Push the Rock teams all have the common goal of pushing others to Christ. Stemming from a common basketball term that refers to the basketball as a rock, but the phrase is also a play on words that reminds members who they play for, The Rock.
According to the team, the goal of pushing others to Christ does not only mean pushing the other teams to Christ, but it is also pushing each other to Christ. For Aaron Cockrell, a member of the basketball team, the encouragement that comes from within the teams is the best part.
“I’ve played with some teams in the past where if you’re not playing well, they don’t want you on the court,” Cockrell said. “They want to talk smack about you, but with the guys on Push the Rock they’re just encouraging.”
Apart from a love for sports, all members of Push the Rock share a common love for ministry. Dan Tureman, captain of the ultimate frisbee team, believes that these two passions fit hand-in-hand and are displayed within Push the Rock teams.
“We don’t just pick out 15 ministry majors and put them on a team,” Tureman said. “We find people that love doing ministry and love playing sports, and (we) find the right balance, which is tough. We’ve actually had to forfeit a couple games because other guys are involved with ministry because ministry for us doesn’t stop on the court or on the field.”
Even though having a servant heart is what the team strives for, the members of Push the Rock admit that they are far from perfect.
“I don’t want anyone to ever have that misconception of our Push the Rock team … because we aren’t perfect,” Guensch said. “We’re just trying to show the love of Christ throughout the way that we play our sports.”