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Sabbath-keeping Scots

Christian tennis team forgoes a Sunday championship match


The Covenant College women’s tennis team Jack Lewis

Sabbath-keeping Scots
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The women’s tennis team at Covenant College caused a stir when it forfeited an April conference championship match on a Sabbath Sunday, but not among stakeholders themselves.

The players knew what was in store. “I actually met with [players] before they left to say, when you win and make the championship game, here’s what’s going to happen. … And here’s a reminder of why,” athletics director Kyle Taylor told me.

And conversations with Covenant and the conference in which it competes revealed a relationship based on mutual respect.

Christians at all levels of organized sports treat the Sabbath in diverse ways. Christian athletes in the National Football League and Major League Baseball play almost every Sunday. In Lansing, Mich., homeschool coach and pastor Kevin Shoemaker tells his cross country athletes before Sunday races to run as their act of worship. Sprinter Eric Liddell famously refused to run on the Sabbath at the 1924 Olympics.

The Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) operates Covenant College in Lookout Mountain, Ga. Sabbath-keeping is part of an institutional culture that includes not having classes on Mondays after Easter and Thanksgiving—so students don’t have to travel on Sunday. The Scots entered the USA South Conference in 2013 as full NCAA Division III members. They also knowingly entered into existing schedules made years in advance.

“A lot of things tied to facilities and hotels … were already in place,” said USA South President Kandis Schram. Spring sports—tennis, baseball, softball, and golf—all travel to Rocky Mount, N.C., for one big tournament weekend, this year April 15-17. “Prior to Covenant coming in, [title games were] played on a Sunday to keep kids in class,” Schram told me.

The NCAA allows schools to request accommodations for national tournaments, but conferences aren’t bound to that. Covenant players knew exactly what would happen before they forfeited to Methodist University. “It’s not really a conviction if you’re going to make exceptions,” Taylor said.

While Covenant continues to lobby for future changes to spring championship dates, neither side holds hard feelings. Women’s tennis head coach John Hirte won Coach of the Year honors, finishing 15-6. And despite the forfeit, Aly Hall was the tournament MVP.

On April 22, the conference awarded Covenant its third straight league-wide Sportsmanship Trophy. And once championship dates come open again for discussion, Schram said, Covenant should be part of the conversation. “Nobody wants to put them in that situation,” she said. “It’s just something that has to play out.”

Tebow for Congress?

Republican U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw, 71, announced April 13 that he won’t seek reelection to Florida’s 4th district. The Jacksonville-area district is Tim Tebow’s stomping ground—and some want the quarterback and commentator to run.

Just two weeks before Crenshaw’s announcement, Tebow, 28, told a Fox News reporter he wouldn’t rule out politics. “If there’s a chance you can make a difference someday in something, then that would be intriguing,” he said.

The rumor mill fired up immediately. A day after Crenshaw’s announcement, millennial news site Red Alert Politics endorsed Tebow, citing his Fox comments. The Washington Examiner added to the grist, reporting that GOP strategists are reaching out to Tebow, even quietly assembling a ready-made campaign for him. The primary is on Aug. 30. —A.B.


Andrew Branch Andrew is a World Journalism Institute graduate and a former WORLD correspondent.

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