Message from the President
Athletics Offer Lessons in Life
I am the son of a coach. In 1968, I rode the team bus to watch my father’s Florence High School basketball team lose by almost 30 points to Marana, the top-ranked team in Arizona. I watched in the locker room as many of the guys cried. My father and the team talked about what they had not done well and made a commitment that the next game would be different. After seeing them lose so badly, I considered this wishful thinking.
But there was something special about this particular team. They had good players but no great players, and none would go on to play in college. What they did do was play together like no other team my dad had coached. They believed in each other, they sacrificed for each other, and no one seemed to care who received the credit.
The next time the two teams met, Marana came to Florence and the gym was packed. The faces of my father’s players are still etched in my memory – focused, attentive and resolved. I remember little about the game but the final score: Florence 69, Marana 50. Not only had my father’s team won, they reversed the first game’s outcome by nearly 50 points. The team believed it was possible, even when the coach’s son didn’t.
It’s been said, “Sports do not build character. They reveal it.” The sports page provides plenty of evidence of athletes with poor character. Individual character development comes from a coach who challenges, inspires and mentors athletes. It also comes from the modeling of good teammates who help each other face challenges.
Hundreds of our students each year find the lessons of the classroom enhanced on the fields of play as well as on the theatre stage, in student government offices and in many other extracurricular settings. At George Fox, we strive to create an environment where all of our students can honor God with their talents and reach their potential.
About 30 years after that Florence-Marana game, I was with my father when we happened upon a member of that remarkable team. The former player – now the mayor of Florence – wanted to thank my father for teaching him valuable life lessons: to never give up, to have faith in those you work with, and to remember that a group of committed people can overcome the odds if they work together.
I believe these are the lessons we continue to teach at George Fox University.
To read more from President Baker, including his experiences at the NCAA Div. III Final Four with the women’s basketball team, visit his blog at