Special to the Reporter
Student-athletes across the United States saw their routines thrown out of their natural rhythms with the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, the Northwest University (NU) volleyball team has clung to one of its valued exercises.
While most NU students have left Kirkland, where the virus claimed its first lives in the United States, the Eagles have kept their life group — a fellowship, prayer and devotional meeting — intact through Zoom meetings.
“Sarah [Howlett] and I begin the life group with a little check-in, and each individual shares her highs and lows of the week,” junior Tatiana Ensz said. “Then, we break out into a few different small groups and each group reads the devotional of the day or the verse that aligns with the devotional from the book ‘New Morning Mercies.’ Then they talk about what stood out to them in the devotional and answer a few of the follow-up questions. After the group reflects on the devotional, they talk about what everyone needs prayer for. After the small group sessions are over, we meet as a team, and one of the girls prays over our team and asks for any other prayer requests.”
Everyone on the team and all of the 2020 incoming roster are included in the life group.
“We always spend all of March, April and the beginning of May together during our spring season, so seeing them via Zoom helps deepen the team connection and build the team dynamic even when we aren’t with each other in person,” Ensz said.
Students at Northwest have long stopped meeting in classrooms and Zoom is the new normal for the academic aspect of college life at NU.
“This continued education has allowed me to view college through a new perspective,” Mady Marggraf said. “I see all the effort my professors are putting in to prepare classes and I feel so grateful. This experience has made me value my friends and teammates, who I miss dearly, and value college as a whole. Life groups have not only been something I look forward to every week but also a time that allows me to connect with my teammates. I love hearing how everyone is doing and knowing how we can pray for each other through this season of life. Life groups are just one way that our team is practicing unity off the court and I know that this will be foundational to our season.”
The meeting also gives the team’s incoming freshmen and transfers an opportunity to get to know their new teammates away from the court.
“I’ve benefited by watching the girls interact with one another and it makes me excited to get to know everyone,” incoming freshman Karste Wright said. “The group connection has meant that I have something really good to look forward to on Sunday nights. This connection has excited me further in the prospect of a team that cares about connecting on a faith and spiritual level.”
Transfer Mady Trout also has found the meetings beneficial as a newcomer, getting to know the team and bringing some stability to the times.
“I’m getting to know the team and the other recruits more,” Trout said. “We’re keeping the vision for the season coming up, even in a time like the lockdown where things feel unstructured and chaotic.”
The spiritual element has always been the focus of the group and remains essential.
“The current outbreak has pushed me to lean into my relationship with the Lord more and more and truly think about what is most important,” Eleanor Mason said.
The outbreak has been more than an inconvenience, even if college students seem less affected directly. That makes being able to connect, even at a distance, an experience met with much gratitude.
“At the end of the day, the relationships and friendships we have with others is the most important thing,” Ensz said. “I know that when we all see each other for the first time after all of this, it is going to be very special. With that being said, I think any time that we spend with one another won’t be taken for granted, and we will truly appreciate the time we spend with our teammates.”