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One of the things that I love about sports is that it builds such strong connections. In many respects, these connections can last generations!
In my role as EC Boys Varsity Soccer Coach, I get to work with young men in a sport that I love. We get to talk together through team devotions around the EC Athletic Pillars. I have the privilege of being a positive male role model in their lives in a sport that they love. I don’t always overcome this challenge perfectly, but I get to strive towards the goal every day.
And I get to do all of that in a sport that I’ve been involved in for decades. But I didn’t realize just how long I had actually been around soccer. I recently ran into this picture from the 1984 EC yearbook. I knew that my dad, Brian Gesch (EC History Teacher from 1980-1984), had coached at EC years ago. But I didn’t know that he included me in the yearbook photo as a young kid! That’s him back row left- and he’s holding a 2 year old me. You’ll note that the coach of the EC Girls Varsity team (back row right) is Barry Veenstra, the winningest coach in EC history- and among the winningest coaches in Passaic County history.
This year, as a father of a newborn, and as boys varsity soccer coach, I decided to include our new son Arlo into the team yearbook photo as well. And guess who’s still at EC and still actively involved in athletics? Athletic Director Barry Veenstra. Barry was a good sport and jumped in to recreate the now 35 year old yearbook photo.
This whole photo recreation was surreal. It inspired me to think about the following:
Think of everything that has changed since 1984. But some things stay the same. God’s faithfulness to Eastern Christian School. Eastern Christian School’s Athletic Pillars of striving for excellence, glorifying God, and “running the race in such a way as to win” are in the DNA of our programs. These two pictures are of different generations and different gender teams. But the God that we serve and the sport we love are the same.
“The crucible of competition” connects people in an almost familial way. We look back fondly on teams, teammates, challenges, victories, and even failures. Anyone who has been committed to athletics as an athlete or a coach knows what I’m talking about. If that’s you, you’re thinking about some of your high school or college teammates right now! That’s why I included the names of the team members from the 1984 Girls Varsity Team. I can’t wait to see how this blog post connects EC athletes from that era. Somebody from the 1984 team tell me some stories about my dad or Coach Veenstra! 🙂
Who among us knows where the EC soccer program will be in another 35 years? Maybe Coach Arlo Gesch will be holding my grandchild in the 2054 EC yearbook! I can’t speak for Barry Veenstra at that point, but if anyone can do it, the living legend can! While both of those scenarios are unlikely, here’s what we do know: by God’s grace, the EC athletic department will continue to develop athletic skill, competitive drive, and Christian character in future generations of EC athletes.
Another similarity between the 1984 and 2019 yearbook photos is that both were taken on the same field. The same literal patch of grass that’s been a part of outdoor EC athletics for as long as EC athletics have existed. That’s about the change. Thanks to the generosity of the EC community, we’ll break ground on our brand-spanking new turf field (with appropriate borough approval, etc.) in the spring of 2020. Additionally, under Mr. Veenstra’s Athletic Direction, EC athletics are moving into a very intriguing era- one of change. We are in conversations with the entire NJIC about very interesting league re-alignment that could be a total game-changer for HS sports in North Jersey. Both of these changes are very good and will lead to improved expectations and accomplishments for EC Athletics.
Being part of a team is being a part of something bigger than yourself. Being a part of a Christian School community is being part of something bigger than yourself. Being a Christ-follower is, by definition, being part of something bigger than yourself. I’m so thankful for Soccer. I’m so thankful for EC. And obviously I’m most thankful for our Lord. It’s my hope that all EC athletes- past, present, and future- will be able to experience that same sense of gratitude for God’s goodness to us yesterday, today, and forever!
Thanks for taking this photo journey with me! If you’d like to see today’s Eagles in action, we play at rival Hawthorne Christian Academy on Saturday (at HCA, 2:30 PM). It’s the second round of the Passaic County Tournament. Hope to see you there!