Trinity Western University: Home of the Spartan Spirit
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Trinity Western University: Home of the Spartan Spirit

According to ancient history, the Spartan army was one of the most fearsome military forces in the Greek world, and it was commonly believed that “one Spartan was worth several men.”

At Trinity Western University (TWU), sports teams embody that formidable Spartan spirit. With men’s and women’s teams in basketball, cross country, soccer, volleyball, track and field as well as a men’s ice hockey team, TWU has an impressive presence in collegiate sports in the province of British Columbia and throughout Canada.

The TWU teams – known collectively as the Trinity Western Spartans – are members of Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS), and compete in the Canada West Universities Athletics Association.

Since joining Canada West and the CIS in 1999, the Spartans have clinched 10 CIS and 19 Canada West team championships. The Spartan women’s soccer team has won five CIS national championships, while the men’s volleyball team has earned four national titles and their female counterparts have captured one.

In terms of medal count, the men’s volleyball team leads the pack with nine CIS medals, followed by the women’s soccer team (7), the men’s soccer team (4), the women’s volleyball team (4), the women’s track and field team (2), the women’s cross country team (2) and the men’s basketball team (1).

Josiah Allison. Pic: Trinity Western University

The Spartans hockey team plays in the British Columbia Intercollegiate Hockey League and has advanced to the championship series once, in 2014, since coming under the TWU umbrella.

These exceptional accomplishments would not have been possible without the hard work and determination of each individual athlete, in addition to the teamwork and camaraderie of the teams.

Breaking stereotypes

For as long as there have been school sports, there has been the persistent stereotype depicting the athletically gifted as poor academic performers; of brawn versus brain, where students can be either strong or smart, but not both. At TWU, however, students are held to a higher standard – one that recognizes it’s possible to excel both academically and athletically, even though it may be a challenge to juggle classes and assignments with practice, games and meets.

In fact, studies have shown that athletes tend to perform better in school than those who are not into sports. A 2014 study showed a correlation between participation in interscholastic athletics and better educational outcomes. After analyzing the academic performance of athletes and non-athletes in high school, the study found that athletes recorded a higher percentage when it came to attendance, graduation rates and test assessment scores, as well as lower dropout rates compared to non-athletes.

Women’s volleyball team. Pic: Trinity Western University

Most schools and universities require athletes to maintain good grades in order to participate in their sport of choice, so most sportspeople are motivated to persist and do well in their studies. Professor Angela Lumpkin, one of the study’s researchers, said: “I think our evidence suggests that having such a policy shows the student they need to take their studies seriously if they want to compete.”

Lumpkin added that when taking part in sports, athletes picked up many useful life skills, while also improving their athletic capabilities.

“What we are saying is participation is important. Whether it’s learning time management or handling expectations from someone in their life like coaches, teammates or family members, athletes are learning discipline,” said Lumpkin.

The study concludes that sports participation helps provide students with a positive outlet through which they can productively spend their time, preventing their involvement in antisocial activities.

Another study on the link between athletic achievement and academic merit, which was published in The International Journal of the History of Sport in 2013, found that pursuing both was not only mutually compatible, but mutually complementary too, giving credence to the old adage, “healthy body, healthy mind.”

Sophie Carpentier. Pic: Trinity Western University

Besides contributing to a student’s holistic development, an active career in sports also tends to lead to a successful future career, as participation in university sport can boost a graduate’s employability. A report published by the British Universities & Colleges Sport (BUCS) said that employers tend to view student athletes in a positive light, believing they possess various skills and characteristics that make them great employees.

Speaking to The Guardian, Alex Taylor, a university head of performance sport said: “Employers have said that sporting students have the traits they’re looking for, particularly an ability to balance their academic and other commitments, like training for competitions, plus teamwork and decision-making.”

The “Complete Champion Approach”

TWU prides itself in helping students hone their God-given talent. In order to ensure their students flourish in mind, body, and spirit, the university implements a model known as the “Complete Champion Approach” (CCA).

TWU asserts that while it is committed to winning, it’s also equally concerned about the development of student-athletes to become champions in all areas of their lives. Most important of all is the cornerstone of spiritual development, which it views as the foundation for success and triumph.

Women’s soccer team. Pic: Trinity Western University

The five key components of the CCA are academic development, athletic development, leadership development, personal development and spiritual development.

Under the academic development component, student-athletes are offered academic support through the duration of their studies at TWU. Students are expected to strive for the top of their sport, as well as the top of their class. To encourage this, the university has implemented several academic services, such as academic advisors, special academic resources for athletes, and dedicated study halls and collegiums where students can focus on their studies in a conducive work environment.

Another part of the CCA is the athletic development component, in which student-athletes are able to improve their abilities in a dynamic setting and urged to reach their full potential. The university aims to foster excellence not only at the individual level, but also at the team level, where student-athletes learn to build trust and cooperation as they strive for victory. The university also provides the best athletic services for its student-athletes, which includes athletic therapy, massage therapy, chiropractic care, coaching and technical skill development, nutrition education and counselling, mental skills training, and the services of strength and conditioning specialists.

When it comes to leadership capability, taking part in sports helps instill the valuable skills all leaders need to rise to the very top. TWU’s strong commitment to leadership development encourages student athletes to become accomplished leaders in everything they do, and to have a positive impact on their communities as well as their teams and sports. The university provides many opportunities for students to enhance their leadership skills, such as coaching programs, community service, cross-cultural missions and leadership roles.

Nikki Cornwall & Katie Devaney. Pic: Trinity Western University

As for personal development, Trinity Western prepares students for life after graduation, supporting the development of a well-balanced lifestyle, including spiritual growth, emotional well-being, decision-making skills and constructive experiences to inform their future goals. Some of the personal development resources available at the university are: career planning guidance, counselling, mentorship, seminars and talks.

Underpinning all the components mentioned above is spiritual development. Spartans are encouraged to see their athletic advantage as an expression of their natural talent. In order to further guide them along the right path, students can choose to take up opportunities like the Athletes in Action (AIA) Summer National Training Camp, campus and community service projects, chapels run by fellow student athletes, and sports ministry programs.

For students who are passionate about sports, it’s important to choose a university that not only cares about whether you win on the court, field or ice rink, but also that you graduate with an instilled champion spirit.


Trinity Western University is a Christian university legislated by British Columbia to serve the public. Recognized for its quality education, TWU is consistently ranked among the top two universities in Canada for Educational Experience by the National Survey of Student Engagement, and has received seven consecutive A+ rankings for Quality of Teaching and Learning – it is the only university to hold this distinction. Excelling in both academia and sports, TWU holds three Canada Research Chairs and wins national championships at the interuniversity level. TWU believes in changing lives through its whole-person, Christ-centered approach to education. With a wide array of undergraduate, graduate, and adult degree-completion programs, TWU equips leaders of character and competence to make a positive impact in the lives of others.

Feature image: Fiona Benson, 2015 CIS Championships. Pic: Trinity Western University.

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