The Gustavian Weekly

Rev. Joanne Sanders speaks on meaning in Sports | The Gustavian Weekly

By Alexis Sienczak - Staff Writer | May 13, 2016 | News

Student athletes can find it hard balancing college life between practice and class. Gustavus has a special sort of student athletes because they have no other incentive to play collegiately other than for passion of the game.

For some, it’s the passion and the challenges that keep the love of the game alive. Sometimes, the passion diminishes and you are left to question why you’re still playing. On Monday May 9th, the Rev. Joanne Sanders, talked about what it means to keep playing the game without losing the joy it brings.

The collegiate level for sports may only last four years, but for its athletes its impact lasts a lifetime. Before she started working at Stanford, Sanders was a student athlete herself. Even before that time, Sanders was a child that always wanted to play.

“[It’s a] critical part of being human-the affinity to play.” Sanders said.

Her eagerness to play transferred to the collegiate level when she played tennis.  For Sanders, the identity of a student athlete is more than participating in athletics. Athletics contributed to her physical, mental, and emotional well being in college and throughout her life. She believes that playing leads to a well-rounded and purposeful life .

Sanders continues her love of playing by coaching a tennis team in California. She has even started a doctoral research project about Stanford athletes. Today, Sanders is an associate dean of religion and helps interact with students in various ways.

One way she is involved with Stanford sports is the organization of Stanford RHED (Resilience, Health, and Emotional Development).  It’s a place where students can voice their inner anxieties about athletics and anything else that affects them.

Along with her involvement at Stanford, Sanders is an Episcopal pastor, written various books about sports and their purpose, and a 2002  Winter Olympic Chaplin.

Gustavus athletes can be seen not just in their respective sports, they are all over the place. The Gustavus Athletic community integrates with the rest of the Gustavus communities. Countless athletes are part of the arts, student government, Greek life, and other niches.

Being an athlete doesn’t exhaust your definition of yourself but adds deeper meaning to what it means to be part of a community. One student athlete, Maddie Kinney, commented on how being a student athlete affects her,

“I am a student athlete because I absolutely thrive off the team atmosphere here at Gustavus and am grateful for the all people that surround me on the swim team. It truly makes my college experience all the more sweeter!” Kinney said.

Sanders talked about how the lessons learned from being an athlete doesn’t stop on the field. It teaches you to be patient, vulnerable, empathetic, and how to be part of a team., these qualities transfers to other areas of life.

Sometimes, athletes get injured and are unable to experience the thrill of participating.  While they are on the sidelines, they are able to see their team in a different light as a collective unit that overcome goals together. Injuries happen in life and sometimes we have to hit pause on our dreams and achievements. Hope isn’t lost to continue these goals but it can be lost when we lose our reason to play the game.

Sanders tries to overcome this feeling by reminding us why we started to play as kids and how we got up after losses. We shouldn’t lose our childish eagerness to play the game because something bad happened to us.

Collegiate athletes have been playing the game for years driven by some passion that they have for their sport. Sanders was influenced by her love of play and that has driven her to speak to other athletes about why they play.

“I am a student athlete because I absolutely thrive off the team atmosphere here at Gustavus and am grateful for the all people that surround me on the swim team. It truly makes my college experience all the more sweeter!” Sophomore Maddie Kinney said.

She believes that the human necessity for play leads to a newfound passion for the sports. Sanders is also involved with other various activities within and outside of Stanford. For those that are collegiate athletes, remember the reason why you are playing.