Lipscomb track and cross country burst onto the scene in a big way these past few years both regionally and nationally. The women are 5-peat conference champions and the men are 3-peat champs. Simultaneously, both teams have ranked among the top in the nation academically. What is it, though, that really sets this program apart from other NCAA D1 programs?
Assistant coaches Tim Muller and Jenny Randolph made it clear that the success of the program runs much deeper than the national polls that the teams are quickly climbing. Both Tim and Jenny (also alumni of the Lipscomb track and cross country program) are in the middle of their first year as assistant coaches and attribute the job opening to nothing less than an opportunity for ministry and a door opened by the Lord.
Jenny Randolph describes her coaching experience as a ministry.
“Any career is your ministry. One of my favorite parts of coaching is seeing the group of freshmen come in, all on different ends of the spectrum in their faith, and to watch them grow in their spiritual walks. It is so encouraging to see them stronger in their faith when they graduate. To me, that’s a job well done. Coaching here not only allows me to be intentional in pouring into our students’ spiritual lives, it encourages it.”
Tim Muller, similarly, sees the job as an opportunity presented to him by God to give him an opportunity to pour into the men in the program the same way that he was poured into as a student-athlete. When the coaching position was presented to him, he was working at the Nissan plant as a quality engineer.
“It was like God opening a door out of nowhere. I was very content and happy with what I was doing. Then, God opened this door and it was a true test of trust and comfort. My gut-reaction was to say no because I was happy. I was using my degree and making good money. Then, I had to think about the product of what I was doing. Lipscomb invested so much in my life that, for me, it was just a tangible way to give back and turn around and invest in these guys. It was like letting go of a sense of security. Most people would criticize the salary reduction I took. Most people would frown upon taking that big of a hit. For me, it’s just knowing where the guys are in their lives. Being a college coach puts me in a place where I can connect with guys and understand what they’re dealing with. My faith was so radically grown here at Lipscomb and I feel like being a good role model and mentor in this time of their lives is so important.”
Both coaches also hold similar beliefs on the importance of spiritual growth during an athlete’s time at Lipscomb. This is one of the most special aspects that sets Lipscomb Cross Country apart from other programs in the nation. While striving to be an elite team, athletically speaking, these coaches also stress the importance of working for a higher purpose and seeking an unshakeable identity in Christ.
Jenny commented, “Many times, college athletes have a hard time moving on after their sport. The only identity that will not fail you is ‘child of God’. If you actually believe that then you will be able to move from D1 runner to businessman to wife/mom without any disappointment or loss of self worth.”
“Yeah,” said Tim, “I think athletes have a very unique motivation for success and a unique interaction with their own self worth and pride. Competition builds this enlarged sense of self and pride in athletes. Dealing with athletes, you see that they desire purpose. Being a Christian coach gives us the chance to encourage the athletic pursuits but to instill a bigger purpose in their lives and point them to a higher calling and self worth rooted in the Lord that continues even after sports end.”
After talking to Jenny and Tim, it is both encouraging and inspiring to hear their perspectives on the job. No matter where you work or what you are doing, are you viewing your job as a form of ministry? Is your identity and self worth rooted solely in the unshakeable kingdom that we are given as children of God?
“And whatever you do whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” –Colossians 3:17
Written by Alex Newby, Spiritual Formation Graduate Assistant