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In Coach's Words

Developing spiritual leaders on ice

By Chris Lowes, March 15, 2023

Being on mission and standing out from the world should be a goal of every Christian. As a women’s hockey team representing Liberty University, we are called to reflect the light of Christ wherever we go, even to the ends of the earth.

As exciting as it is to shine for His glory at the national championships this month,* it was even more rewarding to travel as a team for the first time to Finland over Winter Break. We were thrilled to serve as God’s ambassadors at literally the darkest time of the year there, sharing His love to people of all ages and backgrounds as we communicated the Gospel through our actions as much as our words.

We had a chance to travel as Americans and Canadians, as hockey players and coaches, as Liberty University students and staff, and, most importantly, as believers in Christ. As we worked with Operation Mobilization and a new church plant in Hämeenlinna, and we engaged with youth at church events, clinics, and a Christian school, the experience reinforced the need for world evangelism.

Liberty’s Division I women’s hockey team prays with players from the HPK 18-and-under team after one of their games in Hämeenlinna, Finland over winter break.

One of the things we talked about beforehand was just being ready, and our players did a great job of that. It didn’t matter what it was — doing dishes after a meal, cleaning a gym after a game, or leading a devotion. They didn’t need to have the words ready, they just needed to be willing to go and to serve and let God use them, and He did.

The trip was also a real applicable way for our players to look at where they are in their own journey and learn what opportunities exist out there for mission work. We did not spend much time prioritizing winning the hockey games we played there or getting better as a team. We used hockey as a relationship-builder and a platform for presenting Christ. There were so many different ways that those relationships started to flourish, first and foremost among the players and our staff. Our team now has a different level of trust and connection than we did before we left, as a family of sisters in Christ.

A theme for our team this season has been “Setting a Standard.” We are not following the old standard that the sport of hockey has set for years. We want to be different. As believers, we must be a light to others and question the way we do everything, to be certain that it is biblical. Is the way we recruit players biblical? Does the way we win or lose and conduct ourselves on the ice fall in line with biblical principles? We absolutely embrace the fact that we will receive pushback because there will be people who do not like what we are doing.

As a team that is representing Christ, how we treat each other, how we treat opponents, and how we treat referees is important in maintaining our testimony. As Dr. Jerry Falwell, Liberty’s founder, used to say, “If it’s Christian, it ought to be better.” As a team, we don’t want to do anything that embarrasses our family, our school, or our program. Everything we do, on and off the ice, we can ask ourselves, “Does this help us achieve our mission?”

We have been really fortunate to have players who are really committed to the vision, and the team strives to make its locker room a place of love and trust. I’ve always been a big believer in the idea that spiritual growth can be designed, planned, and implemented by the players. That’s always been a crucial part of that spiritual growth because it matters more when players hear it from one of their peers versus one of their coaches.

Every year I’ve been here has gotten easier because more of our players have grown from merely understanding the vision to actually leading that vision, to becoming not only successful student-athletes but also Champions for Christ.

* At press time, the team was playing in the ACHA Division I National Championships in Marlborough, Mass., near Boston, contending for its fifth consecutive crown. Follow the men’s and women’s hockey teams at Liberty.edu/Club Sports.

Chris Lowes (’02, ’21) started with Liberty’s Club Sports program as a defenseman on the ACHA Division II men’s hockey team. He spent nine seasons as Head Coach of that team before starting with the Lady Flames in 2017. Lowes has guided Liberty to four straight national titles (an ACHA DI record). He also serves as Club Sports Director of Events and Facilities, overseeing the LaHaye Ice Center, Liberty Club Sports Complex, Olympic Training Complex, and the Liberty Lacrosse Fields.

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