The College of Mount St. Joseph boasts 24 varsity sports teams for men and women. This is the highest in the college’s conference, the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference (HCAC).
The women’s soccer team won four HCAC conference titles from 1999 to 2002 and another in 2005. The football team won three straight conference championships from 2004 to 2006 and won another in 2009, with seven wins and zero losses in their conference that year. The women’s volleyball team has won their conference more often than any other team at the College, adding their most recent conference championship this season.
In sports, the success of a team is often measured by the number of trophies sitting in the display case, or the number of wins accumulated in a season. The Mount has continually met these standards, but athletes at the Mount will leave with much more than just trophies.
Lending A Hand
The College’s baseball team has been doing outreach at the Sisters of Charity Motherhouse for eight years. Last year, much like the years before, the baseball team headed to the Motherhouse to decorate for Christmas.
Grace Ann Gratsch, SC, ’55, who is in charge of activities at Mother Margaret Hall, the nursing home next to the Motherhouse, says that the team members set up a Christmas tree on every floor, a total of nine trees. They also decorated the halls, dining hall and the Motherhouse Chapel. She says, “It is great for the whole team to come over. It helps create team spirit and it’s a great outreach.” She also told the team, “this will help impress your future wives.”
The activities staff at Mother Margaret Hall consists of two full-time and two part-time employees. Sister Grace Ann said that without the baseball team’s help it would have taken them several days to decorate instead of the two hours it took the team.
“The team helps out to show our willingness and concern for others and to provide an example of giving back to the community, making it a better place,” says Drew Ernst, a Mount pitcher.
Annina Morgan, SC, ’46, a resident of Mother Margaret Hall, says the baseball team was generous, courteous, polite, and thoughtful.
She also says, “The decorations definitely helped with the holiday spirit. We were very grateful to them.”
The Baseball Head Coach, Chuck Murray says, “Education is not just academics and classes. There is so much more to it. There are athletic clubs, community service and things like this. They (the baseball players) get out in the community. I think it builds character to see and help people in our neighborhood.”
The baseball team is not the only team at the Mount that values more than just a winning record.
Making time for Special Players
The soccer program at the Mount has also found a way to give back to the community. For the last six years both the men’s and women’s teams have partnered with the Top Soccer organization. This organization provides a soccer league for players with special needs. The participants have a passion for the game and the coaches and players at the Mount continue to help make that passion grow stronger with their involvement in the program.
Each year the Lions run a training session to keep the Top Soccer players in shape and to share their passion for the game. During this training session, the men’s and women’s teams not only run drills with the teams, but also interact and get to know the athletes.
“We run a two-hour soccer training for their soccer teams,” says Rudy Argueta, men’s soccer head coach. “Most importantly, we get to socialize with the outstanding players.” Not only do the Top Soccer athletes look forward to the visit from the players they call the “professional team,” but the college players look forward to going every year. “When I’m with them I have a greater appreciation for the game, even though I play it every day. It makes me more thankful for the abilities that I have,” says Brittany Bowman, a senior outside midfielder for the Mount Lions.
The alliance goes past the two-hour sessions when the Top Soccer players come to Mount games to be “ball retrievers.” They are able to be on the field during the game and help the college players. They take this job very seriously and make sure each team gets a ball to throw in as quickly as possible. Sometimes they even fight over who gets to give the ball to the players. “Seeing them fighting over who gets to throw me the ball during the game makes me smile,” says Bowman, “I realize how passionate they are about the game.”
The work with this program is not only a requirement of athletes on the team, but something players look forward to all season long. When asked his favorite part of working with this organization Coach Argueta replies, “Seeing the Top Soccer players' smiles while we are teaching them the game. No matter their disability, they are always smiling and doing their best!”
Trading in Drivers for Dough
In 2012 the Mount’s men’s golf team began volunteering at the local Ronald McDonald House.
Phillip Gilmore, a junior on the men’s golf team, says, “Tom Witterstaetter (one of the golf team captains) came up with the idea, and Coach Joe Sparhawk followed through with it. We all thought this was an awesome idea, and something we all thought would be a cool experience.”
The Ronald McDonald House vision is to offer all the comforts of home to every family with a hospitalized child. The Greater Cincinnati location is designed to accommodate the families of children who are receiving treatment at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center or other area hospitals. Housing is provided to families who are from outside the Greater Cincinnati area.
Coach Sparhawk says the reason for getting involved with this service is, “To support the College’s mission and help student athletes recognize that it is important to help the community.”
The men’s golf team volunteered at the Ronald McDonald House by working at a pretzel bar, providing a snack for as many as 40 people. The goal of this service is to provide fun down time to the families with critically ill children.
Gilmore says, “We all help out because we all need to give back to the community. These simple acts show what we, as a team, can do on and off of the course.”
The team is planning to volunteer at the Ronald McDonald House again this year. They will be working the pretzel bar again and will be doing more service by also hosting a snack time.
Coach Sparhawk says, “The people there really appreciated it and the guys really enjoyed it.”
The Mount’s men’s golf team started in 2002, this is Head Coach Sparhawk’s ninth season.
One Outstanding Individual
Along with the many teams that give back to the community, one individual has really stood out with his incredible devotion to serving his community. It was because of this devotion that Greg Tabar, a punter for the Mount’s football team, was selected for the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team. Tabar was selected from among 22 football players honored from NCAA divisions I, II and III across the nation.
Tabar began his service before coming to the Mount. In high school, as a part of his church group, he took part in a program through the Vineyard Community Church in which over 300 special needs teenagers around the area were invited to their very own prom. Many of these teenagers are not able to go to their own high school prom so the program encourages the teens to dress up and have a night they will not soon forget.
Much of Tabar’s service involves working with those with special needs or young athletes, two causes to which he is very dedicated. He founded Lions for Christ, a Bible study for student athletes, with the intent to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ, apply Bible lessons and verses in student-athletes’ lives, and to give back to the community. Tabar spends much of his time coaching and volunteering at various local schools and churches.
“I am very fortunate and blessed to have all the necessities in life and I enjoy helping those who may need help,” explains Tabar. He manages to continue his dedication to the community while balancing his education and football. Tabar is currently the Mount’s all-time leading punter and has the highest career punting average on the Mount’s football team.
“My favorite part (about community service) is knowing that I have an opportunity to give back and impact the next generation,” says Tabar.