Whether you’re an athlete, a coach or a sports enthusiast, it is very easy to become engulfed by the competitiveness and passion that comes with winning. It’s natural and instinctive, and often it’s what keeps us coming back for more.

Whether it’s improving your season record from the year before, beating that one team down the freeway (yes, the red team that shall not be named), winning a PacWest Championship or, better yet, making it to a national tournament for the first time, these are all things that APU players and coaches strive for each and every time they put on that uniform or coaching polo with a distinguished “AP” on it. 

But from what I’ve gathered during my time here at APU, that’s not why they love their sports. 

It’s the relationships they make along the way and the ways in which the players have grown. It’s the comeback story of the athlete who tore their ACL and scored a goal in their first game back on the pitch. Or the story of that coach who went through a grueling but necessary rebuilding season before being crowned conference champions the very next year.

It’s stories like these that bring goosebumps to my skin or cause me to wipe a quick tear away while working the scoreboard. The best thing is that these types of moments are happening each and every year within the athletic programs here at Azusa Pacific.

As I concluded in a recent article about the long-standing success of Azusa Pacific Athletics, this school is synonymous with winning. But that’s not why recruits come here or why coaches love their job. It’s the stories of all the little moments in between the wins or the bigger picture of why that historical season mattered more than what was seen on the surface.

All these stories of perseverance and more are what stick with coaches throughout their years. It’s what vindicates their whole call to coaching. Here are a few of those “Bigger Than The Game” moments that have served as a consistent reminder as to why coaches feel that this is their calling.

Brooke Lincoln, Women’s Soccer Head Coach

“When I was student teaching, I went to my first high school practice as a volunteer assistant coach and left with a light bulb moment — coaching was what I was called to do. It was crystal clear. My first moment of ‘this is way bigger than soccer’ was when my first player was baptized at Asbury University in my second year of coaching there. Beautiful moment!”

Mark Bohren, Men’s and Women’s Tennis Head Coach

“It’s definitely not the winning and losing. I’m not sure there is a particular moment I knew coaching was my passion, but seeing almost every single player grow in their faith, personal relationships and become lifelong learners because of their student-athlete experience at APU puts meaning and calling for me to want to coach. Also, seeing my players come back as amazing moms and dads is another reason I love coaching. As a coach at APU, we are so blessed to be around our student-athletes on a daily basis. I don’t think there is a day that goes by that I don’t learn something new from my athletes.” 

Carrie Webber, Softball Head Coach

“After my first year as a head coach, I was ready to quit. I thought I had made a horrible decision to coach and what I was going to do with my life. I went to church the following Sunday after the season was finished and sat there defeated and alone. I prayed to God to give me wisdom or direction or anything really. The pastor started to speak, and I instantly opened my bible, and God started speaking to me so clearly. I flipped like a hurricane through the bible, back and forth, looking up verses, taking notes. And before I knew it, the pastor was praying us out of church, and I had my entire coaching philosophy and playbook written out on about 5 prayer request cards!! I knew I was going to be ok, and I knew I had a new purpose in my coaching. Twenty-one years later, that is still the foundation of my coaching … God is the same yesterday, today and forever. He is truly GOOD.”

Jack Hoyt, Men’s and Women’s Track Head Coach

To understand Hoyt’s coaching methodology, one must first understand his background and what inspired his love for the sport in the first place. 

Hoyt, who was recruited to play soccer at Seattle Pacific, took a chance by also joining the collegiate track team as well. He was talented in high school and did well in his first few years of college, competing in hurdles, high jump, long jump and triple jump, but then a new coach took over the program his junior year, and the rest was history.

Sitting behind Coach Hoyt in his office is a case that includes two NCAA National Championship trophies, multiple PacWest awards and a solo picture frame featuring a man in an Olympic sweatsuit. That person that is surrounded by the tokens of success from Hoyt’s coaching career is who he accredits it all to: Ken Foreman, a five-time World Cross Country champion from the seventies, 1988 Olympic Women’s Head Coach and the coach that took over the program at Seattle U, who would go on to coach and mentor a young and ambitious Hoyt. 

After starting as a walk-on for the Seattle U track team, Hoyt spent five years working with Foreman before eventually qualifying for the Olympic trials in the decathlon. 

“It was him kind of building me up and just expecting me to do more and challenge myself to do more. I took those lessons into grad school, and I was [a] much better student because what I learned on the track about pushing myself and the reward I got by just keep building and building and building. I just started sacrificing things that were [what] most college students were enjoying.”

Hoyt went on to become an NCAA All-American before moving on to be a grad assistant under Foreman. When Foreman retired, he encouraged Hoyt to take over for him.

“My goal as a college coach, though, is to take people similar to where I came in and see if I can test them and push them to that next level. One of Foreman’s sayings that always sticks in my head is ‘we either drive ’em up or drive ’em off.’ There’s no letting people kind of float on this team ’cause that’s not what we’re about. We’re about challenging people. Keep the expectation high but also attainable. And when you get that out of somebody, I believe the confidence that they take out of that environment will spill over into other areas of their life.”

Sean Smith, Men’s and Women’s Cross Country Head Coach

“When thinking of a monumental moment that reinforced a coach’s calling, picking the most significant athletic accomplishment is an enticing option, but I don’t believe those moments embodied my sense of purpose in this career. I’ve been so blessed with wonderful opportunities and really special moments in this sport, but coaching is so much more than the highlight reel.”

Smith went on to add that the moment that sticks out to him the most was not merely one single point in time but rather the significance of the process across a specific season.

In 2018, he took over the cross country and track programs at Notre Dame de Namur (NDNU), which included only seven athletes across its men’s and women’s programs combined. That Fall, NDNU would see 20 new athletes, with modest athletic backgrounds, join a handful of returning athletes to embrace a rather difficult journey. 

“The process of watching athletes no one had ever heard of, along with a coach no one knew about, begin shaping themselves into high achieving students, athletes and humans was the long moment for me in which I really felt called to this sport. The athletes struggled, I struggled, and we couldn’t quite see the light at the end of the tunnel. There were so many moments you could see athletes wanting to quit, whether it be from an academic perspective or an athletic one. I felt more challenged than ever to encourage relentlessly, and at times it felt as though it was going nowhere. Somewhere along the way, things started to click, students started to get the hang of classes, they started to feel organized, the sports performance began to improve and the band of misfits really came together.”

That season, the program that couldn’t field a team the year prior would go on to place third at the PacWest Championships. 

“I remember holding a couple athletes who were covered in dirt from their sweaty bodies collapsing after finishing the race, and with tears in their eyes they just said, ‘we did it coach, we did it, can you believe it?’ In part, they meant that we had placed really high as a team, but what was really meant, in my view, was that they had made it through something really difficult. They went from students who did not feel like they were a part of anything, to students who felt they were a part of a family — students who shared a common goal and sacrificed for one another. Seeing the transformation in the students and our program, for me, was the moment I felt like I was in the right place. That season was more than where we placed at conference; it was about more than our sport. It was about building a community and instilling high values while believing in what we were doing. In that moment, I truly felt I was doing what God wanted me to do.”


Azusa Pacific is blessed to have each of these coaches as just a few people who leave imprints on the lives of the student-athletes they touch. As Smith mentioned, APU Athletics embodies this idea of a “band of misfits” coming into a program in their first year of college, then leaving as newly reformed humans who will take their lessons learned and moments of growth with them all their lives. Those are the moments the students remember more than the big rivalry win or the bad race they had at Conference. 

Instead, the student-athletes will eventually leave college and take with them the moments where their coach held them as they cried, lifted them up in a hard workout or sought them out in tough times off the playing field. That is who our coaches are, and I think this article reflects those personas perfectly.

On behalf of student-athletes here at APU, we thank you, coaches, for the moments that have shaped you into the person you are and have built up your confidence as a coach, which has led you to this very school. You create a magic that cannot be ignored and a magic in the lives of hundreds of students that is far more powerful than any win or success, even though that part is pretty cool too.