Eshnaur inspires beyond the court

Von Eshnaur is affectionately called “Coach E,” “Black Hawk” and “E Train” by the ladies on the John Brown University women’s basketball team.

As the assistant coach of this team, the facilities coordinator of the Walton Lifetime Health Complex and an instructor in kinesiology, Eshnaur has an important impact on the University’s community. Of all his roles, he says his favorite role at JBU is being an assistant coach.

Eshnaur’s players were very excited to share about “Coach E.” Morgan Ankrom, a senior graphic design student, describes him as someone who “can always put a smile on your face” and said he is like her second dad.

“He just loves us,” Ankrom said. She also described him as having a contagious personality and is hilarious, witty, weird and full of jokes.

Laura Brown, a senior early childhood education major and another one of Eshnaur’s players, said he is very passionate about what he does.

“He has a huge heart,” Brown said.

One of Eshnaur’s passions has to do with mission trips. He is currently involved with organizing sports mission trips to Ireland. He said that this is “something I wanted to do,” and is not a part of any of his official JBU roles.

After his son Nicholas Eshnaur studied abroad in Ireland through JBU, he came back with two important sports contacts: Chris Grant and and Jim Martin.

Nicholas said he met Grant, a man who uses volleyball for missions, through a church in Ireland and started playing volleyball with him. Grant introduced him to Martin, who coaches basketball in Northern Ireland.

With Grant and Martin’s help, Eshnaur began planning mission trips to Ireland. Eshnaur took five ladies from his own basketball team in August of 2014, and in May of 2015 he will be taking about eight students from the JBU women’s volleyball team on a similar trip.

“Northern Ireland sees sports as a way to create peace,” Eshnaur said.

He explained that religious affiliation has created a division in Ireland based on whether one is Protestant or Catholic.

People of different religious affiliations usually don’t play together on the same team but rather form more religiously homogenous teams, said Eshanur.

Stereotypes of which religious group is better at which sport is another way that sports are religiously divided, he explained.

However, this is not the case for newer sports like volleyball and basketball.

Eshnaur said these sports have only been popular in Northern Ireland for a few decades, and therefore, it is much easier to bring both Catholics and Protestants together to play these new games.

This is one of the main objectives of Eshanur’s sports mission trips to Northern Ireland; he wants to create a way for both groups to participate in sports as a team.

Eshanur said another core objective of the mission trips is for his players to share their faith and to be an example through their actions.

Even though trips are only a week long, Eshnaur said there is “so much you can do in a week,” because social media makes it possible to stay in contact long after the trip is over.

Head Coach for the Women’s Basketball Team, Jeff Soderquist, backs up Eshnaur’s passion to use basketball for ministry, both in Ireland and at home court, saying that Eshanur “understands how we can use basketball to mentor.”