Kelowna Christian School finally has a banner claiming the school a provincial championship on the gym wall. The tiny private school was crowned the volleyball single-A boys Saturday night when they capped a season that will surely be immortalized in the school's annuals.- Excerpt from the Daily Courier from the week of November 29th, 1999
Our theme for the month of January is our Core Value, "Excellence". In the context of Christian education, excellence isn't a comparison of oneself to others in the quest for perfection. In our context, excellence is to work heartily (Col 3:23) towards our personal best as an image-bearer for God's glory.
In sports, championship seasons are not defined by provincial championship banners, although hard work, great coaching, and great community can often result in provincial success. Kelowna Christian has won 13 provincial banners in basketball, volleyball, and swimming in the past 22 years, more banners than 99% of schools in British Columbia. Also, in 2013, KCS won the BC School Sports Outstanding School award. The banners represent all the laughs on road trips, all the parents in the stands, all the ups, all the downs, and all the hard work, culminating in an immortalized photo and medal that can be found in each participant's home. I have coached basketball since 1995, and the communities built around these teams are always edifying.
6 years after Kelowna Christian celebrated our first grade 12 graduating class of 21 graduates, Kelowna Christian School celebrated its first provincial banner in sports. Even more awesome, they won the championship in front of 400 screaming fans in our own gymnasium. The team had epic uniforms, winning the banner with matching white and black floral shorts. In reading stories and connecting with coaches, parents and players about this event, I have caught a glimpse of the togetherness that our school community had when this group of young adults worked heartily towards their personal best as an image-bearer for God's glory on the volleyball court.
The provincial championship team photo shows a group of boys that are overjoyed. These boys are now nearing 40 years old, and two of the players now have children at Kelowna Christian School. Jordan Hettinga, a KCS parent of three and a champion on our Building Committee is smiling beside Coach Tyler Bishop. Provincial MVP, Chris Siebring, parent of three KCS students is 2 people over from Jordan, pretending to be serious while visions of spikes and blocks dance in his head. Jordan and Chris went to school together since before Kindergarten and now drop their kids off at the same school they started at 35 years earlier. I recently caught up with Chris to learn more about the provincial experience.
Chris Siebring: Since our grad class only had 42, I think, we had the same people on our sports teams since grade 8. Mr. Sader made volleyball so much fun and made me really love the sport. He is one of the reasons we won the provincials by making the sport so much fun.
The other reason we won is the supportive parents we had cheering us on, feeding us and driving for us. Two really stood out, my mom, Pat and Judy Sohnchen. They were incredible! I remember during an away tournament, my mom wheeling 2 coolers over to the team during a break so we could have some food. Judy and her would then set up so we could quickly grab food, we did not have time to go for food. We had ham, chicken, mustard, mayo, lettuce, cucumbers…. Drinks, it was like going to Subway. They would be at every game and tournament and bring whatever we could need and more.
Chris: Jeremy, Dave and I were brought up to play for the senior team when we were in grade 10. That year was the first year our senior boys made it to the provincials. That was a great experience and set us up for success.
In 1998, we were one of the teams vying for the championship and ended up in 3rd. We hosted and it was disappointing to lose when we lost the semi-finals in the 5th set. Especially, after we won the 4th set 15-0.
Mike: What were some in season successes in 1999?
Chris: In 1999 I was determined to win. That year we won every game against AA and A teams. We were beating and competing with AAA teams. We had a solid team with Dell and Troy around 6'5" as middles, Jeremy and I as experienced outside hitters and Dave as a settler we had a solid group of athletic people.
So dominant were the Knights that 5 of the 6 starters were named provincial all-stars. Power-hitter Chris Siebring took the most outstanding player award. Middle hitter Dell Luksts and power-hitter Jeremy Albrecht were named first-team all-stars. Middle-hitter Troy Dell and setter David Sonchen were named second-team all-stars.Daily Courier, 1999
Chris: I remember a team, Agassiz walking in and the trophy was in the display case, they walked in and said something like, "We'll be taking that." I was walking by and said," not likely."
Chris: During the provincials, we dominated because everyone was so focused. I do not think we lost a set. Then in the finals, we faced Agassiz. We were clearly the better team but Dave our setter got injured in the 3rd game, I took over as setter and we had to sub in a player and lost our momentum and gave away several points in a row. We finally got our act together and won our title. Our team played so well that 4 out of our 6 players from the starting line-up received all-star awards. Adding to that, I was a MOP which several of our team found hilarious (Most Outstanding Player). Additionally, I won the serving competition for the second year in a row.
It was a great time, I thought our school was really united and had fun together.
Chris: One other memory I had was that our team was very competitive. So much so that I had competed for my number. I will not say how I won my number, but the important thing is I got to wear # 7 in grade 11 and 12. Additionally, we had competitions where a player could win a free meal from their teammates. It was all good-natured and team building an usually involved targeting other teams with spikes.
Mike: What was excellent?
Chris: We did not lose a single set to any team in the tournament. We did not argue, fight or talk back to our coach, but were united as a team and focussed. Almost our entire starting line, were all-stars.
More than that what was excellent was coaches Doug Sader and Tyler Bishop starting years before seeing the potential in their players. They selected Dave, Jeremy and I to play on the senior team in our grade 10 years which gave us experience and made us better. We were already better than our peers but with this, we got even better. The year after, they did the same thing with Dell and Troy in their grade 10 years. This more than anything else is why we won the provincials in 1999 and 2000. Coaches see the potential in students and challenging them to go to the next level.
Mike: How did the team persevere?
Chris: Our starting setter mistimed his block and a spike hit his finger at 90 degrees. He had to be subbed out. I took over as setter, which was problematic as I was the best passer and had the most kills on the team. We ended up giving the other team several points and everyone got worried that we may lose. Everyone remembered the previous year and thought we should have won so it got tense. However, we had a brief chat on the court and pulled out the win for that set that was too close!
The team ended the season with a highly impressive 50-10 record and with a much more highly prized BC champions banner finally nailed to the wall.Daily Courier, 1999
Every lunch and recess, a group of grade 5 boys are shooting hoops behind the Gordon Campus. 2 km away, our grade was 6s are developing their gym rat skills, finding the blacktop at every opportunity. Grade 6/7 volleyball sports academy wraps up this week and, In the coming weeks, grade 6/7 basketball academy begins. What begins with a grade 6 celebration that a child can serve over the net quickly turns into the first volleyball game as a Knight. A couple of years later comes the first road trip, and perhaps the kids get the added responsibility of bunking with their peers for a night. Parents will be cheering in the gym for 5-6 years (per child), culminating in a grade 12 recognition of excellence, perseverance, and integrity. Whether we take home the banner or not, lifelong memories and faith-formation permeate the experience along the way. "Hip Hip Hooray" to the hundreds of KCS parents who have cheered, encouraged, supported, prepared team meals, drove thousands of miles and watched their child(ren)grow into a small piece of the big plans that God has for them in our gym, and gyms across the province. For those that are not at middle and high school sport yet, I cannot wait to cheer with you (perhaps purchase a cushion for your bleacher seating comfort). For the parents that have journeyed through sports already at KCS, let's continue to celebrate our story. Go Knights!!!