Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Ben Page has found a way to combine professional soccer with missionary work. After escorting a group of kids from Charlotte, N.C., to Winterfest in Gatlinburg he decided to return to the Midstate and spend a couple of days on the Lipscomb campus. Between visits with friends and his former coaches he spent some time talking with lipscombsports.com.
What sport did you play at Lipscomb? What years? Who were your coaches?
"I started playing soccer at Lipscomb in 2003. My last season was 2007. I graduated in the spring of 2008 with a bachelor's degree in History-Teaching.
"I played for Jon Goad my freshman year and I red-shirted my sophomore year when Jim Maddux was the coach. I played for Charles Morrow and Kevin Burk for three seasons."
What is your fondest athletic memory at Lipscomb?
"Every year we played Belmont, especially the first year we created the rivalry trophy (2007). It was always a fun game, but that year we had the backing of the whole school. There were over 2,000 people at the game.
"Before that the most we ever had for a big game was around 500 people. To see so many people for a game was kind of cool"
Who had the biggest influence on you during your athletic career at Lipscomb? How?
"Kevin Burk (assistant soccer coach) did. He played at the professional level. Every kid has a dream of continuing to play soccer after finishing school. After my sophomore year, Kevin looked me in the eye and said, `I think you can do it'. He told me if I was serious about being a professional player I was going to have to give it my all.
"He was super influential because of his background of playing at the pro level. He put faith in me. He would let me be complacent. He always was pushing me to be better in season and out of season. When he told me that he thought I could do it then it almost made it real for me. Someone else was thinking this so I needed to make the practical steps to make it happen.
"Charles was a great influence from an athletic standpoint. But Kevin was like a mentor figure as a coach."
What is your fondest non-athletic memory from your time at Lipscomb?
"After leaving school, and thinking back on it, what I valued the most were the one-on-one conversations I had with teammates, friends and coaches in the dorm rooms and in houses off campus.
"People would pull you aside and talk about life and the future. There was a mentorship relationship."
What is the most valuable thing you gained or learned from your time at Lipscomb?
"I learned the importance of sticking with my values even when times are tough. Who you are is more important than what you do. Understanding what your values are was a big part of my growth at Lipscomb.
"There is a value with trying to be the same guy day in and day out. You have to let that flow through you in everything you do in the classroom, on the field and in your relationships in life."
Who was your favorite professor? Why?
"Most of my memories are from the athletic department. Dr. Lin Garner cared about both sides of my life. She pushed me to be a good student in the classroom and she went to our games.
"Monte Betz, an education professor, took a special interest in me. That was something you get at a small school that goes beyond the classroom. We did special things in the practicum. We would do student teaching and he would watch us and give us constructive feedback. He was honest about telling us things that would make us better, but he always did it in an encouraging way."
Where do you live now?
Who is your employer? What is your occupation? What does your position entail?
"I play soccer for the Charlotte Eagles in the USL-Professional Division (United Soccer League). It is basically like Triple A baseball. We have affiliations with MLS (Major League Soccer) teams this year. We are affiliated with the Chicago Fire.
"This will be my sixth season with them. The day after graduation I moved to Charlotte and I was under contract with the Eagles. The team is owned by a missionary organization (Missionary Athletes International). I am a forward, but about three years ago I started doing more than just playing for the team. I also am on staff with the organization.
"Their vision is to use the game of soccer as a platform to help share the gospel. We do that by running camps and clinics for kids. Over the past three years we have moved into certain communities around the city creating teams and creating a family environment for the kids to grow up in.
"I am a neighborhood leader. We are in three different neighborhoods. I work in Grier Heights. There is a director above us in what is called the "Urban" Eagles. I live in the neighborhood I work in."
Has your pro career been what you expected it to be when you signed your first contract?
"I guess no, and yes. It is fun to be able to do what you love every day. I am really blessed to have been placed in the situation I am in with this team.
"My experiences as a pro would have been totally different in a different organization. From day one we are taught by our coaching staff and by upper management that it is not about you. On other teams and organizations you are taught that it is all about you. If you don't score goals or do this or that you are out of a contract.
"We are taught from day one to think that these gifts we have been given to play this game are to glorify God. That means your game should look different on the field and who you are as a person should affect what you do on and off of the field. We are taught that we should use the gifts and influence we have as professional athletes to effect a difference in your community.
"I still love to play. But my priorities have shifted. I really love to coach. All of us want to play at the highest level. I have that desire, but honestly I don't know if I would go to the MLS if I had the opportunity. I feel like Charlotte is where I need to be."
How does soccer on the professional level differ from the college game?
"You are used to being one of the best players in college, but all of a sudden everyone is athletic and technical. It raises the bar. You have to really separate yourself from everybody else.
"I remember having a conversation with my coach about half way through my first season. I was playing a little bit but not a lot. The coach told me he wanted to hear from me how I thought my season was going. I told him I thought it was O.K., but that I could be playing better. I told him I wasn't really sure what he wanted from me.
"He told me something that I totally benefited from. He told me I was a good player. He told me on a scale of one-to-10 that I was a 6, 7 or 8 in all of the categories. I wasn't below average in anything and I was pretty above average in most things.
"But then he asked me what was going to be the thing that separated me from the next guy? My work rate in practice and games and my ability to finish plays and be in dangerous places on the field at the right time are what separate me. It is about making your weaknesses your strengths and making your strengths even better."
What will you do when you retire from the game as a player?
"I want to see communities change through God's love. I think what God is doing on the whole earth right now is really fun. He is using the game of soccer and other sports to help people build relationships with people who need mentors and guidance."
Tell us about your family.
"I am single."
My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org