It was the 2012–13 academic year that saw the young Bruins soccer and basketball teams play their first games. This year, 10 Bruin athletes who started that year will graduate as the first Bruins who played all four years of intercollegiate sports.
Over the span of those four years, the graduating Bruins—Ray Holden, Kyle Turner, Julia Wright, Kendra Jeffcott, Travis Woodham, Ryan McCarty, Daniel Herr, Spencer Martin, Jenn Wise and Tessie Estrella—have experienced everything from injury and defeat to heart-pounding comebacks and milestone victories. But it all started in the summer of 2012, when the student athletes began their training.
Ray Holden, men’s basketball team co-captain and Bible major, remembers his experience as a freshman. “My first year, I didn’t know anything about college basketball,” Holden said. “I was just thrown in.”
While many other student athletes shared in Holden’s experience, Kyle Turner, an accounting major and the other men’s basketball team co-captain, was exhilarated by the opportunity to represent the student body as one of the University’s first intercollegiate athletes. “I got to see how it started and how it’s all grown,” Turner said.
The first four years of the Bruins athletic program weren’t always easy. Spencer Martin, the women’s soccer team co-captain and a music education major, suffered an ACL injury during the 2014 season. Through the long year she spent recovering, Martin says her team and her coach never left her side and helped her as she regained her strength.
Holden also remembers the knee injury he experienced during the 2012 season that eventually helped him to grow as not only a basketball player, but also as a man.
“I believe God used my injury to draw me closer to Him,” Holden said. With the help of his teammates and coaches, Holden took his injury and used it as a study in humility and character development.
But the Bruins seniors pushed through adversity to make the best of their times on the teams. Humanities major and men’s soccer team member Ryan McCarty recalled one game against Point University when he and the team fought back from a rough opening and won their first victory against the rival team. Martin remembered her first full game after her ACL injury and the feeling of accomplishment as she realized she’d finally returned to her former playing ability.
Victories were won both in and out of games as the athletes learned the intricacies of their sports on top of managing their academic lives. Accounting major Kendra Jeffcott remembers the serious adjustments that she had to make while she juggled basketball and classes.
“I would sometimes kind of dread practices,” Jeffcott said, referring to long hours on the court beyond classes and homework. But in the end, she did benefit from all the hard work. “It’s given me more discipline,” Jeffcott said.
From overcoming the challenges of team rivalries to developing Christlike attitudes and a sense of family among the players, the coaches have been with the seniors through it all.
Neal Ring, the men’s basketball coach and university athletic director, fondly remembered watching Holden and Turner progress as basketball players. “I’ve watched them develop into men,” Ring said. Even throughout the difficulties that they’ve faced, Ring said his team has embraced what they’ve been asked to do.
Whether you’re cheering on the sidelines or going for the goal yourself, you can look forward to watching the Bob Jones University Bruins continue striving to represent the student body and exemplify the virtue that McCarty described his four years as: “Excellence.”