Baseball, Race and Religion: Exploring a Bumpy Playing Field

For LeQuez Spearman, assistant professor of recreation and leisure studies and newest member of that department, his scholarship is often about the uneven playing field of America’s greatest game: baseball. During the Popular/American Culture Association in the South’s national conference in Savannah, GA, in early October, Spearman chaired a session entitled, “Lessons Learned from ‘42’: Examining the Intersection of Race, Class, Spirituality and Sport in the Jackie Robinson Story.” He also presented an individual talk he called, “A Critique of Meritocracy and Race in ‘42’: What Really Mattered in the Jackie Robinson Story?”

In early November, Spearman—whose research interests include social inclusion in developmental baseball, leisure constraints theory and environmental sustainability in sport facilities—will continue an iteration of his talk at the North American Society of Sport Sociology conference in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada. There, he’ll focus on the twin tides of oppression Jews and African Americans have faced by using Hank Greenberg and Jackie Robinson as an entry point to examine the interface of sport and religion. 

Here is his abstract of the talk: “America is seen as a bastion for meritocracy, and the sport films produced and directed here tend to reflect this narrative. Sport is regaled as the great equalizer for so many of the social groups pushed to the margins of society. Simply put, the final score in a contest is decided between the lines and not in the public sphere. The film ‘42’ continues this tradition of meritocratic sport films with the biography of Jackie Robinson, the first African American to break the color line in Major League Baseball. My presentation and paper critiques meritocracy and racism as illustrated in this film.”


Gordon Tradition: Moving into the Best Year Yet

 Gordon begins each new academic year with a matriculation chapel and hears from last spring’s distinguished professor. In her talk, “The Best Shape of Your Life,” Valerie Gin, professor /chair of recreation & leisure studies and 2013 Distinguished Senior Faculty,  challenged students to consider how trust and regiments could translate into their best efforts for the new year. Her speech is reprinted below.

“The Best Shape of Your Life”

By Valerie Gin

When I told my Mom I was asked to speak at Matriculation Chapel, she wondered why I was asked.  When I told her it was because I received the faculty award, without hesitating she told me to, “GIVE IT BACK!”  My mom was horrified and worried that I had to speak in front of so many and now I think I should have listened to her. Well, at least I didn’t have to worry about what I was going to wear.

I am here today because I am blessed by faculty and staff colleagues who support, encourage and pray for me; wonderful students and the Lord’s generosity, grace and goodness. I am grateful for the opportunity to teach at Gordon College. I thank you all.

Wouldn’t it be great to start off this year in the best shape of your life and better yet, maintain it?  Perhaps some of you are there, others not quite. Whether you are there or not, Proverbs 3 provides wonderful guidance in how to prolong life, bring peace and prosperity, win favor and a good name in the sight of God and others, be on a straight path and bring health and nourishment to our bones.  Sounds like great shape to me!

How do we get and stay in shape?  Well, you are already off to a good start because you are at a state of the art boot camp/training facility with the best trainers available. The drill sergeants—I mean professors and staff—will provide a regimen so that you won’t easily forget what you have been taught. It’s our job to ensure that you write on the tablet of your hearts and not just your iPads.

We are professors because we profess what we believe.  Our profession of God’s teaching, commands, love and faithfulness are embedded in who we are and what we teach.  The Gordon basic workout/core classes are designed to develop and strengthen your CORE.  This tremendous workout, premeditated by the faculty, ensures that your mental, spiritual, emotional, social and physical muscles are developed in symmetry. Have you ever seen people who only work out their upper body and then have skinny chicken legs? Back problems are at an epidemic because we have stronger quads and weak hamstrings and abs.  But if you work on the CORE regimen and do your daily reps, you will be well balanced and in great shape.

I have had personal trainers before they were in vogue.  I’d like to share part of my training history with you to encourage you in your training. Continue reading

Six Faculty + Summer Grants = Interesting Scholarship, Part II

Each summer at Gordon, the Provost’s Office invites applications for small grants that Faculty can use toward ongoing research and scholarship in between academic years. This summer, six were awarded stipends, ranging in projects from screenwriting and data reviews to humanitarian logistics and fiction writing. Here are two more recipients, with others to follow:

Mike Veatch, chair and professor of mathematics and computer science, writes about his project entitled: “Airport/Port Congestion During Relief Operations”: “Humanitarian logistics, which concerns the acquisition and delivery of material, is receiving increased attention from aid agencies and academics. Although similar to commercial and military supply chains in their core IT and transportation technologies, humanitarian operations have unique timing, goals, and human factors. This project addresses an aspect of humanitarian logistics that has not received much attention: scheduling an airport or seaport after a disaster. Mathematical models and data from Port-au-Prince airport after the Haiti earthquake are used to test innovative scheduling strategies to allow more aid to be delivered. One or two papers will be submitted to logistics journals.”

Valerie Gin, 2013 distinguished faculty, chair and professor of recreation and leisure studies, and Jo Kadlecek, senior writer and journalist in residence, are co-authoring a novel (tentatively) titled, “When Girls Became Lions.” Here’s their abstract of the story: “A work of contemporary fiction, When Girls Became Lions celebrates the power of women’s friendships against the backdrop of Title IX. Through alternating view points and parallel stories, the novel follows a young woman soccer coach/high school teacher in 2008—herself an ‘entitled’ beneficiary of Title IX—as she discovers the history of her school’s first girls soccer coach, his state championship team, and their corporate legacy. The more she learns what the inaugural team endured just to compete, the more her own perspectives are challenged. The novel’s climax publically honors those first players, who had never received recognition.”

Distinguished Faculty Awards, 2012-13

On Saturday, May 18, at Gordon’s 121st Commencement ceremony, provost Janel Curry recognized professor of recreation and leisure studies Valerie Gin and assistant professor of philosophy Brian Glenney as this year’s recipients of the Distinguished Faculty Awards. The Distinguished Faculty Awards are given annually to one senior and one junior full-time faculty member in recognition of excellence in teaching, substantial scholarly and professional achievement, and notable service to the Gordon community. Upon being nominated by the faculty and members of the graduating class, the final recipients of the award are chosen by a committee comprised of Distinguished Faculty Award winners from the previous three years and the provost.

Said Provost Curry of Senior Distinguished Faculty Award winner Valerie Gin, “The Senior Distinguished Faculty Award recipient can be found almost anywhere in the world–mentoring others in places as far-ranging as South Africa or China. Beyond cultural boundary crossings, she has also been exploring the boundaries of gender and sport, and is presently working on a novel–collaboratively–around the topic of Title IX.”

Of Junior Distinguished Faculty Award winner Brian Glenney, she noted, “The Junior Distinguished Faculty Award winner also crosses boundaries–especially disciplinary boundaries. I believe our conversations this year have ranged from: perception of place, to the sovereignty of God and cultural landscapes, to randomness in nature, to graffiti art, and finally, to the construction of shelves in my house–from the abstract to the concrete and everything in between. Often I forget what department he actually belongs to because his work is so creatively cross-cutting.”

Honored: Gin Recognized for Global Sport Contributions

Val Gin, second from left, with colleagues at the June conference.

She might teach recreation and leisure studies, but Professor Valerie Gin takes her work seriously. As a result, colleagues from across the country honored her last month for her international contributions to the field.

During the Christian Society for Kinesiology and Leisure Studies (CSKLS) conference held June 7-9 at Indiana Wesleyan University, Gin, who is also the chair of Gordon’s Recreation and Leisure Studies department, received The Glen Van Andel Distinguished Service Award. The Award “honors a current professional member who has provided extensive meritorious service to the profession within or outside of the society.” Recipients of the award are recognized as “leaders in the Society, who have worked to enhance and advance CSKLS goals,” and have earned the respect of fellow-members through extended dedication to the Society.

Gin was recognized because of her extensive international involvement lecturing, presenting papers, and consulting athletes and coaches in over 20 countries for the past decade, including Argentina, Australia, Canada, China, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Egypt, England, Greece, Guatemala, Honduras, Hong Kong, India, Jamaica, Kenya, Korea, Lebanon, Portugal, Romania, Singapore, South Africa, Thailand, Ukraine, and Zambia.

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Moral Reasoning in Sport

Gin_Valerie_2008_11_21_02_48_46Aren’t athletics supposed to build character? The answer might be a bit more complex than most would assume. This past summer Valerie Gin, professor of recreation and leisure studies, presented her work on moral reasoning in sport at a conference hosted by Neumann University’s Institute for Sport, Spirituality and Character Development. In line with other studies on the topic, Gin found that the moral reasoning of college athletes actually decreases over time, even at faith-based institutions. This decline may be due in part to the tension between sport world values and faith world values. At the conference, Gin presented her research on the positive effects of personal narratives and group discussions on the moral reasoning of college athletes. With a small pilot group, Gin had seen the value of storytelling as a means of reducing this moral tension, helping athletes to reflect upon the role and place of morality in their respective sports.   Athletics can indeed build character, but without intentional measures to help athletes process and re-frame their experiences, the opposite is often true.

To join the dialogue on integrity in sports, visit Professor Gin’s website wired4sport.

Archives Receives Generous Collection for Recreation and Leisure Studies

180Dr. Gerald Fain of Boston University, a leading scholar in the field of recreation and leisure studies, chose Gordon as the recipient of his personal collection, in large part because of his relationship with Peggy Hothem, professor of leisure studies who also initiated the program at Gordon in 1990. Fain—who was Hothem’s dissertation advisor in graduate school—said he believed the study of leisure “should always be rooted in spirituality.”

So when he retired from teaching, he decided to donate his archives to Gordon for that reason. His gift includes over 400 books, resources and historical manuscripts that span the last 100 years of the recreation and leisure studies movement in the U.S.

(Pictured here from left to right, Dr. Val Gin, professor and chair of recreation and leisure studies, Dr. Peggy Hothem, professor of recreation and leisure studies, and Dr. Gerald Fain on Oct. 18, 2010, the day he gave his collection to Gordon.)