The Mark of Champions

by Don Meyer, Ph.D. | Mar 21, 2009

"Sometimes champions win the trophy; sometimes champions come in second." 
Don Meyer

2008-2009 will always be remembered as the best year the VFCC Men's Basketball Team has ever had. Not only did they have their best record ever (26-7) and win the National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA) Division II Regional Championship for the second year in a row, they were seeded for number two (2) in the nation for the final 8 National Tournament in Springfield, MO.

The NCCAA includes more than 100 institutions with over 13,500 student-athletes. This marked VFCC's eighth appearance in the national tournament with their best finishes as runners-up in 1979 and 1988. 

Jon Mack, VFCC Athletic Director and Men's Basketball Coach, is a leader among leaders. During his college years he set the all-time individual scoring record for the VFCC Patriots by scoring 3,494 points. I remember watching him play. He had such a soft touch and could aggressively move to the hoop in ways that made scoring as easy as breathing. 

But Coach Mack's gifts go far beyond his basketball acumen. He profoundly cares for the holistic development of his team, not just their ability to score points or get rebounds. Over these years I have heard the stories of appreciation from the parents of our student-athletes as well as from them that Coach Mack has invested his very life in them. That investment will go on long after the buzzer is silent. 

VFCC's first game was on Thursday night against Wesley. And it was a nail- biter. My friends, Bob Cook, Charlie Arsenault and Peter Englert were texting me the updates as they unfolded. Although we were ahead by seven (7) points at half-time we won by just one (1) point. 

The second game was on Friday. Earlier that day I sent a text to Coach Mack informing him that I would come to the final game should they win. Again, my friends shared the drama as it took place and, when the final buzzer sounded, we had won by four (4) points. 

I quickly made my plane reservations and early Saturday morning I was on my way to the final game in Springfield, MO. How good it was to reconnect with the team before the game. At tip off I had my cell phone ready to text Evie of the progress. 

The tension kept building as the score see-sawed back and forth with each team trading leads. VFCC was behind Grace Bible College, the number one (1) seeded team in the nation, by seven (7) points with five (5) minutes left in the game. But our men kept battling back. With six (6) seconds left VFCC had the ball, down by 74-72. There was one chance to tie or win. The pressure was enormous. We held our breath. The seconds flew by but when the buzzer sounded the score was still 74-72. We had lost the game. 

The VFCC fans could hardly believe it was over. Current and former students, family members, and friends from over the years realized VFCC had come so close to winning the National Championship. 

But how does one describe winning? Is a win only measured by the number of banners on the wall or the trophies in the case? Does winning only mean the fans yelling "We're number 1"? What about the discipline and hard work and commitment to excellence now engrained in those young men? What about the camaraderie between them which will always be a bond never to be broken? And what about the character development which is now taking place through difficulty and loss? Is the score the ultimate measure of a win? We all know it is not. 

Sometimes champions win the trophy; sometimes champions come in second. Coach Mack and the 2008-2009 Men's Basketball Team, you truly have the mark of champions and we congratulate you for an incredible season. 

Think about it.

Dr. Don Meyer is President of 
Valley Forge Christian College, Phoenixville, PA 
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