MOUNT VERNON — Cultivating a God-focused culture among the Mount Vernon Nazarene University’s men’s basketball team is the main focus of head coach Jared Ronai.
Ronai spoke on Thursday at the Knox Network of Christian Ministries’s June meeting. KNCM is a local organization that seeks to connect ministries and community members, and build a stronger community united in Jesus Christ, something they have in common with MVNU’s team.
In his speech, Ronai outlined the defining factors that led to one of the team’s most successful seasons.
“Culture is kind of an overused word, especially in sports today. It’s a word that can be misunderstood, for us we define it as our daily approach to our team character, and how we do what we do. We don’t want to be so worried about our image, we want to be worried about our team character and what we’re building into our players and what we’re building into our program,” Ronai said as he addressed the crowd, which consisted of a mix of pastors, ministry and community leaders and students.
The team follows various standards of behavior, standards that Ronai says are daily decisions the players make that drive the team’s culture. These standards are practiced in all aspects of the players’ lives, from the classroom to the court. Some of the standards include respecting teammates, officials, and even opponents. Simple acts like thanking the bus driver after every away game and cleaning up their bench area are standards the team practices at every game.
One of the first and main aspects of “Cougar culture” are the team’s priorities as a program and as individuals, and God is at the top of both lists. Ronai said that in order to keep God at the center of their priorities, they look to the verse Ephesians 3:20, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” Ronai credits the verse in keeping the team focused this past season.
“This particular verse, was one that we really constantly talked about, especially this past season, so we could emphasize our priorities even more of keeping Christ and God at the center, the very center, of our program,” Ronai said. “He’s going to be able to do infinitely more than we could ever imagine, not only on the floor, but off the floor as well.”