Faith on the Court: How One Coach Uses Sports to Grow Disciples

Nolan Weinmaster graduated from the College in 2006 and the Seminary in 2017. He is currently the Sports Information Director for Briercrest Athletics. Previously, Nolan served as the Head Coach of the Briercrest Women’s Volleyball team for 16 years.  Nolan is an alumnus of the Men’s Volleyball program. He played in the 2001-02, 2003-04, 2004-05, and 2005-06 seasons and was team captain for the last three seasons.

Nolan’s love of volleyball brought him to Briercrest. He started his post-secondary education at North American Baptist College for the first two years after high school, intending to be a high school physical education teacher. He then decided to pursue Sports Ministry at Briercrest and to play volleyball at a higher level. Nolan says that “The success of the men’s volleyball program and hearing about how they were ranked #2 in Canada in the 2000-01 season drew me here in that 2001-02 season.”

The Value of Education that Disciples

For Nolan, Briercrest's mission statement, “Educating disciples who equip the church and engage the world,” shows up both on and off the court with the character training of the Briercrest athletes. He says that it is “the unrelenting focus on the most important thing: growing as disciples of Jesus – and having that happen in a community that wants the best for each person who attends and is intentional to foster that growth” that makes Briercrest different from other institutions.

Here’s what Nolan shared with us about the ways that Education that Disciples is an integral part of Briercrest Athletics:

“I love the overall mission of Briercrest and having the opportunity to be a part of a place that is delivering “Education that Disciples”!

It is a humbling opportunity—to know that we have the responsibility of helping raise up the next generation of Kingdom-Builders who will equip the church and engage the world with Jesus’ Truth and Love! That is why I have loved being a part of athletics at Briercrest—being able to work with student-athletes and co-workers who are passionate about athletics but are more passionate about making disciples of Jesus—that’s what makes working in athletics here special.

From my perspective, Briercrest Athletics has a unique and important role in the overall mission of Briercrest. I see the amazing opportunity we have for growing disciples of Jesus and leaders of character through the unique training ground we have with Briercrest Athletics. To me, there is no training ground quite like the one we have that comes from the pursuit of athletic championships and working together to build championship-calibre teams that are made up of championship-quality people (in their character and athletic abilities).

I recognize, more and more, the incredible challenge we have in carrying out our mission here, with our unique Core Focus and all the hard work and investment it takes to focus on prioritizing growing disciples of Jesus and leaders of character through the incredible training ground we have here in Briercrest Athletics! Building ACAC & CCAA Championship-caliber teams is very challenging all on its own, but our mission is different and much more than that: we are using that pursuit of championships as a unique training ground to do the most important work of growing disciples of Jesus and leaders of character, who are inspired towards graduating with their academic degrees.

It can seem like a near-impossible calling at times, but, with God, all things are possible! And we also know that we rely very much on each other in all departments here at Briercrest to carry out the whole mission of Briercrest together, and we also rely on the support and investment of our incredible Briercrest Clipper Alumni! It is exciting that, together, we can continue to "Unleash the Clipper Storm" and build God's Kingdom here on earth wherever He has us in Briercrest Clipper Nation!!”

It is a humbling opportunity to know that we have the responsibility of helping raise up the next generation of Kingdom-Builders who will equip the church and engage the world with Jesus' Truth and Love!

Our Briercrest Athletics Core Focus & Core Values guide us in making sure we are doing things on mission and that we are aligned with and working as part of the overall mission of Briercrest:

Briercrest Athletics Core Focus:

Our Passion: Transforming lives towards their God-intended purpose.

Our Niche: Using the pursuit of athletic championships in our unique Briercrest training ground to:

  • Grow disciples of Jesus
  • Form transformational leaders of character.
  • Inspire graduates.
  • Develop skills for sport and life.

Briercrest Athletics Core Values:

1. Kingdom Focused: Identity continually rooted deeper in Christ.

1) A growing understanding of the deep love of God and acting out of it. 
2) A deepening love for Jesus and a desire to be like him (evidenced by walking in the Fruit of the Spirit) 
3) An intentional pursuit of spiritual intimacy (individual and corporate) 
4) Being transformed by Christ for the sake of others: 
a. Relational - approachable, vulnerable, authentic, transparent 
b. Influencing and impacting others (fulfilling the great commission)
2. Servant Hearted: Confident in Christ to serve God and others.

1) God and others first - think of themselves less.
2) Humble (in self) and confident (in Christ) 
3) Seeing themselves as God sees them (fearfully and wonderfully made, chosen, child of the Father, forgiven, complete in Christ)
3. Learner: Choosing to be a Forever Learner 

1) Chooses a growth mindset. 
a) Pushes outside comfort zone -- willing to make mistakes in order to learn from the experience, grow new skills and develop competencies.
b) Continues to learn and grow through success -- realizes the path to mastery is full of ups and downs. 
c) Teachable and coachable -- desires feedback, becomes increasingly aware of blind spots, and works to make changes. 
2) Chooses a positive attitude --Thankful, grateful, and optimistic regardless of circumstances. 
3) Chooses Grit-- passion and perseverance to achieve a long-term objective.

4. Competitor:  Relentless, tenacious, and motivated by love.

1) Competes with Joy and without comparison.
2) Relishes the opportunity to compete - thrives on challenges. 
3) Competes with themselves to continually improve. 
4) Brings their best every day to help others improve. 
5) Models the way and pushes others to be better with their actions before words.
5. Disciplined:  Unwavering Commitment to building Championship Habits for Life

1) Being responsible and accountable for our controllables in all areas: 
a) Spiritual 
b) Academic 
c) Physical
d) Mental and Emotional
e) Relational

We asked Nolan about his experience with the education and culture of Briercrest while he was a student here:

"I felt like I have been incredibly equipped to engage our world as a disciple of Jesus through the education I received at Briercrest. I would say my education was very well-rounded, and that due to being a part of the men’s volleyball program and getting to be in a leadership role as a team captain, I had plenty of opportunity to learn in “real-life” application of what I was learning during my undergrad degree. Then, in getting the opportunity to do my Masters in Leadership and Management, while I was working as a Head Coach, I again found myself in a great situation for learning and growing, where I could continually apply what I was learning in my masters classes to my work as a coach, mentor and leader in the athletic department. It has been very challenging along the way in all of the learning roles I have had (as a student-athlete, an undergrad student, a graduate-level student, as a coach, and now as a sports information director), but I have been given lots of grace and opportunity to grow and learn through challenges, failures and some successes along the way in all of the different stages. I have been incredibly blessed by Briercrest’s investment in me! 

Probably one of the biggest takeaways for me is to keep surrendering more of the uncontrollable things in life to God and focus on giving my very best to what is in my control and build good habits (“championship habits”) in my daily life that will lead to giving Holy Spirit the space He needs to keep transforming me into who He wants me to be. As a very competitive person, who always wants to win and do whatever I can to have success, I have learned a lot through failures in my time as a student-athlete and as a head coach. I have also seen that I learn the most through those failures and that they can really be used as a “springboard” for future success if you lean into them and take the time to learn from them. I have also learned that the more I try to “control” things in athletics, the more I realize the outcomes are not in our control, but there are important habits that are in our control that we can give our best effort to, and that process leads to growth and improvement, and satisfaction in that, regardless of outcomes. This is something I have been able to apply to my life as a disciple of Jesus, and I have a long ways to go in surrendering control to Him and learning to trust Him more while I focus on giving my best to what He has for me in each day or moment, but I have seen progress in that, which is cool to see His grace at work!
Then, I would just add that my education at Briercrest has taught me to focus on the most important things in life: knowing Jesus and finding my identity in Him instead of in what I do or achieve or get recognition from others for. And having a focus on growing as His disciple, and learning to love others the way He showed us."

As a very competitive person, who always wants to win and do whatever I can to have success, I have learned a lot through failures in my time as a student-athlete and as a head coach.

"There are countless examples of how being in the coaching role here and my education at Briercrest have discipled me. I would just add that the unique training ground of Briercrest Athletics is such a great training ground for growing as a disciple of Jesus because, in the pursuit of becoming a championship team, you are continually faced with “real-life pressures and challenges” where you get to apply your faith and really wrestle with what it looks like to live out being a disciple of Jesus as a teammate and when you are facing hard things (like challenges, or failures, or relational tensions with teammates, etc.). The greatest opportunities to grow (as disciples of Jesus, leaders of character, or just in life skills) come when we face challenges, and the training ground that comes from pursuing an athletic championship is full of challenges! 

I would also add that I have found coaching to be such an incredibly challenging role, with all we are trying to do in growing disciples of Jesus, mentoring young leaders, helping others to grow as people, and helping them grow in their skills for life and sport, while also continually working to grow myself as a leader and working to recruit and build a team each year that can continually pursue and compete for championships at the ACAC & CCAA level—it can be very overwhelming, and it has taught me to rely on God so much, as I know I could not have done it for even one year, let alone 16 years, without so much reliance on His strength, wisdom and grace!

I have also had the privilege of teaching a Kinesiology course in the college for the last several years. I teach KIN261 Fundamentals of Coaching. It is a real blessing to invest in young leaders who want to pursue coaching and to help grow their passion for how coaching presents such amazing ministry opportunities and opportunities to build God’s Kingdom through investing in young lives through sport!

As part of my role as head coach over the last 16 years, I have also had the privilege to be the Director of Briercrest Summer Girls Volleyball Camps. It is a lot of hard work, but again, just an amazing opportunity to spread the love and truth of Jesus to so many who might not otherwise get to know Him if they didn’t come to our campus for a summer sports camp! It is also so awesome to see our Briercrest student-athletes and former student-athletes working as coaches at those camps and seeing their passion for using the sport to grow disciples of Jesus and to see them investing in young lives with their gifts and talents God has enabled them to develop! They are such great faith-building opportunities for our Clipper athletes as well, to get to put their “education that disciples” into action in practical ways to engage our world!"

Briercrest in a Word

And finally, we asked Nolan for one word he would use to describe the education Briercrest offers, to which he answered, “community”:

I don’t think there is another place that does this level of education (the high-quality academically accredited education with the incredible level of post-secondary sport we offer and other opportunities we offer in performing arts, etc., for a school our size) with such a unique emphasis on community and providing a place where people can come and explore and grow in their faith, be discipled, and have opportunities to live out what they are learning, in practical ways in this community.

It is evident that Briercrest College offers a unique education experience, which combines quality academic programs with post-secondary sports and performing arts opportunities. This allows students to explore their faith while being part of an intimate community environment. As Nolan mentioned, this combination creates the perfect opportunity for individuals to develop not only academically but also spiritually as they are able to put into practice what they have learned in meaningful ways. The emphasis on community at Briercrest provides a safe space for growth and development so that students can become who God has created them to be!

Thank you for sharing your story, Nolan! Your passion for using sports to grow disciples of Jesus and investing in young lives is truly inspiring. It is evident that you have an immense amount of knowledge and experience when it comes to coaching and teaching, and your enthusiasm is remarkable. We hope this interview has encouraged others to explore the educational opportunities available at Briercrest College and to take advantage of being part of such an amazing community.

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