By Sarah Teeter
Hesston College was founded in 1909, but it wasn’t until 1920, that athletics at Hesston College became an official part of student life. Athletics had a slow start at Hesston. This was because of the Mennonite background that promoted and encouraged a christ centered community, that integrated thought, life, and faith for service to others. Sports simply just didn’t fit into that mission statement. When the faculty met for the first time in the fall of 1909, they had only 21 students. The faculty set out strict student lifestyle standards. These standards required students to attend chapel services daily, sunday services weekly, be in their rooms by 8pm, and refrain from walking heavily, talking loudly, laughing, or any unnecessary noise during class periods. When it came to the topic of sports, their expectation were much the same. They discouraged competition, as corporation was a key component of community. They believed that “sports encourage a mania which stopped the spirituality of the players”(Mennonite Board of Education). Sports were considered a form of gambling, they supported kindred evils, rivalry and fostered a “win at any cost” mentality. Sponsors of the college were so against the idea of organized sports, that they threatened to stop supporting the college if they ever created organized teams. Therefore, athletics were confined to intramural basketball, baseball and tennis. Occasionally, the public was allowed to watch these events, but for the most part, they were informal. Scrimmages were usually played outside in the mud or in the musty gym that could barely take the weather.
On December 2, of 1920, a new gym was dedicated, and two days later conferences in Iowa and Missouri brought forward the idea of adding athletics to the college. As well as the students, the athletic director at the time, Ray Kauffman, and President Roth convinced the board to bring in students, and ask their opinion on whether or not Hesston College should start an athletic program. After talking it over, they decided to allow intercollegiate basketball, but limiting the games to 5 per season. The president of the athletic association was to approve all players, but the most odd regulation of all was that there was to be no organized yelling. Once the games started up, it was obvious right away that the students loved them. They would fill the small sections of bleachers to the point where it was almost intimidating to the other teams. Soon baseball started up, with the first test game facing off against Tabor College. “The concept of sports became not ‘sports to win’, but instead ‘sports to live’” (Evan Oswald).
In the fall of 1970, the first organized women’s intercollegiate sport, softball, was introduced. That following year, basketball and volleyball were introduced as well. All of the teams were successful from the start, winning the Prairie Junior Conference Championship their first year. “The concept of sports became not ‘sports to win’, but instead ‘sports to live’” (Evan Oswald). The college found that working as a team actually helped a group accomplish more that they maybe coud on their own.
Hesston College today currently has fourteen athletic teams, and more that 150 athletes on campus. This year, the college community will be finishing up the “Be Greater” campaign, that will feature a new weight room, a Yost Center facelift, and the brand new Seiber Soccer Field was dedicated on homecoming weekend, on Saturday, September 29. Hesston College has come a long way from the beginning in 1909, when athletics was looked upon without desire. Without the athletics program, Hesston would not have the reputation or the complete sense of community that cheering on our athletes brings.