Ever since the first ball was lofted at a peach basket, or a baseball was hurled by a pitcher, college coaches have stressed how athletics builds character among the participants. And no organization has stressed that character-building among its members more than the National Association for Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA).
The NAIA calls it Champions of Character. Those three words can be seen on every page of the NAIA website, on banners seen at every NAIA sanctioned event, in fact, the Champions of Character is interwoven throughout the entire organization.
As part of that mission the NAIA recognizes institutions that exemplify what it defines as a Champion of Character. That starts with the five core values of integrity, respect, responsibility, sportsmanship and servant leadership. The highest recognition for a college is to receive the distinction of a Champions of Character Five-Star Institution.
Such was the honor recently received by the St. Catharine College athletic program for the 2010-2011 athletic year. It was the second consecutive year that the Patriots earned the award.
“We fill out a scorecard each year that lists the criteria we must meet in order to get the Champions of Character designation,” said St. Catharine athletic director Mike Doig. “Each category receives a percentage that adds up to your final score.”
Those categories are character training, conduct in competition, academic focus, character recognition and character promotion. As Doig explains, there are many elements within those categories through which a school may earn points.
“The academic focus, for instance, takes into consideration the overall grade point average of your student-athletes. If you have players ejected from a game you lose quite a few points in the conduct in competition category. The largest number of points is earned through the character training which includes community outreach activities. One of the biggest strengths of our coaching staff is their commitment to helping those around our local communities and beyond. That is why this award is so meaningful.”
The community outreach has definitely been a large component of St. Catharine athletics in recent years. Athletes visiting shut-ins and the disabled, players raising money to benefit third world countries, proceeds from athletic contests to benefit cancer research, volunteering at local festivals, schools and churches – all of which is what it means now to be a Patriot student-athlete.
It came as no surprise that the St. Catharine athletes would garner such an award. Even before the NAIA affiliation began in 2008, the Patriots were actively involved in community service. In fact, St. Catharine President Bill Huston said the Champions of Character program was a major factor in the decision to join the NAIA.
“Once I found out about the expectations of NAIA institutions it was very easy to make the decision to apply for membership,” said Huston. “Having all of our athletic teams and coaches live and practice the Champions of Character program sets our programs on a much higher plateau than other associations. The Champion of Character expectations will always be something all athletes and coaches at SCC will strive to accomplish and achieve. I am very proud and pleased what our teams and coaches have achieved during the past three years.”