Printed on the back of the women’s soccer team’s practice jerseys is a single word: found.
Each year, Scott Marksberry, the coach of the John Brown University team, chooses a word and a Bible verse for the team to focus on. This year’s verse is Isaiah 6:8, which says, “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!’”
Along with the word of the year, the team will be discussing a twofold theme: What does it look like to be found by Christ and on what will this team be founded?
Marksberry started this tradition when he came to the University about two years ago. The coach noticed things about the culture of the team, both on and off the field, which he thought needed to be changed.
“We are a soccer team first,” Marksberry said. “We have a responsibility to be a competitive team […] but a Christ-centered soccer team.”
He explained how soccer is their form of worship. Every drill, scrimmage and game should be played with a player’s utmost skill. That skill is a gift from God.
Pre-game talks are centered on biblical themes, and have led to another new tradition for the team.
At the beginning of a game last year, Coach Marksberry had each team member write a word on her arms as a reminder throughout the game, said Laura Bradshaw, team captain.
This year, the bold ink continues to draw attention to their arms during game days. It not only reminds the girls about important ideas such as striving for perfection and being united, but also gives them a chance to witness to curious fans and possibly to players from opposing teams.
Off the field, the girls continue to strive to honor Christ.
To kick of this season, the team took a mission trip to Penitas, Texas where they partnered with a church from Dallas to run a week-long soccer camp. Between 30 and 40 high school students and 100 to 170 younger students attended.
They shared the gospel with the kids during a Bible study held at the camp called Half Time, and connected with more families at a nightly worship service.
Marksberry described the living conditions in Penitas as mind-blowing.
“There was no power, no water, and unfinished houses; all on American soil,” he said.
During a visit on the group’s first day, they had an experience that took everyone by surprise. They met a young girl, who was hearing evil voices which kept her up at night and told her to use foul language and threaten her parents. With the help of two teammates who spoke Spanish, the group prayed for the girl.
Marksberry said the incident helped burst their “safe little suburban bubbles of faith.”
At the evening worship service the girl’s family came up exclaiming, “Our daughter is back!” They saw an immediate difference. Later in the week, the same family came back saying the psychiatrist had released the child from his care and declared her cured.
“It really shook all our expectations about the trip,” the coach explained. “The Lord had plans much bigger than our little camp.”
The team is keeping up with the family through the partner church. Two players, Karen Sosa and Adrienne Kennedy, are already planning to put together and deliver Christmas boxes for kids in the area.
Both Marksberry and Bradshaw emphasized the impact this trip had on the team and its members.
Bradshaw said that as a result of the mission trip and the work the Lord did in team while in Penitas, the culture of the team has become more positive, encouraging and open.
“These girls are some of my closest friends,” Bradshaw said.