Champions of Character

NAIA Champions of Character

The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics’ (NAIA) Champions of Character program provides training to ensure student-athletes know, do and value the right things in all areas of life. The five core values: integrity, respect, responsibility, sportsmanship and servant leadership are put into play, accounted for and tracked at all NAIA schools.

As an NAIA institution, Morningside College has developed a Champions of Character program that includes:

The NAIA Champions of Character program is designed to instill an understanding of character values in sport, and provide student-athletes, coaches and parents the training to help them know and do the right things, inside and outside the sports setting. The program is dedicated to the principle that character is a choice and that being a champion is about reaching potential and making good decisions consistently in daily life.

The mission of Champions of Character is to restore character values and raise a generation of students who understand and demonstrate in everyday decisions the five core values of respect, responsibility, integrity, servant leadership and sportsmanship.

Mustangs Leave Lasting Impression On Seven-Year Old

On the eve of their 2013 NAIA Football Championship Series (FCS) Quarterfinal Round game at Baker University, the fifth ranked Morningside College football team went out for dinner at a local Applebee's, business as usual for a college team of any kind on the road. However, on Nov. 30 what happened in Olathe, Kan., shows what small-college athletics is all about and why the NAIA, the GPAC, and in this case Morningside College, has some pretty special student-athletes who embody being Champions of Character.

Often student-athletes can make more of an impact off the field than on the field. This story shows why what you do on a Friday night in a restaurant may mean more than any touchdown pass thrown or caught in a college football game on a Saturday afternoon.

The following e-mail (and picture) was sent to Morningside Athletic Director Tim Jager and Head Football Coach Steve Ryan on Monday and is being shared with permission of the sender and Morningside College.

Mr. Jager and Mr. Ryan,

My name is Amber Miller and I am a 1999 Ottawa University graduate. I take pride in small liberal (arts) schools and felt compelled to share with you what my family experienced this past Friday night.

My husband and I, along with our two children (Holden age 7 and Kinsley age 5), and neighbors went to the Olathe Applebee's as we live down the street in Spring Hill, Kansas.

While dining, the entire Morningside football team walked in. I immediately recognized them as I knew they were playing Baker on Saturday. My son was in "AH" and begged me to ask for their autographs. I told him he could. The waitress and my son Holden approached a young man - I believe it was Darius Hicks and Holden asked for his autograph. Mr. Hicks was touched and responded with "Little Man.....I could do better than that!" He proceeded to get everyone on the team's autograph, along with the coaches. I can't tell you how happy my son was. Holden was glowing and couldn't stop talking about it all weekend long.

He asked on Sunday if "his team" won against Baker and I confirmed they did. Congrats!!!

Your team's compassion needs to be shared with others as this is what makes the NAIA what it is!

I wish you much success and Coach Ryan I remember you from Ottawa - congrats on your head coaching and raising a great team.

Amber Miller
Spring Hill, Kansas

NAIA Buffalo Funds Five Star Champions of Character Award Winners

2013-14 Women's Basketball Team

Six Morningside athletic teams have received the NAIA Buffalo Funds Five Star Champions of Character Award since 2006.

The NAIA Buffalo Funds Five Star Champions of Character Awards are presented annually to one team in each of the NAIA’s 23 championship sports. The awards are presented to institutions and athletic programs that strive for excellence in and out of competition and are part of communities throughout the country dedicated to character-driven intercollegiate athletics.

The Mustangs’ most recent Buffalo Funds Five Star Champions of Character Team Award recipient was the 2013-14 women’s basketball team. The team, coached by Jamie Sale, participated in Morningside’s “Into the Streets” campus wide community service project in fall 2013 by assisting teachers in their classrooms at Sergeant Bluff-Luton Elementary School. The team also filled and distributed grocery bags throughout the community in partnership with the faith-based organization Convoy of Hope, participated in the Hy-Vee Iron Kids Triathlon and the March of Dimes sponsored March for Babies Walk, and supported Irving Elementary School’s Walking School Bus program.

Morningside’s other past NAIA Buffalo Funds Five Star Champions of Character Award winners included:

  • 2013 Wrestling Team, Jake Stevenson, Head Coach
  • 2012 Women’s Cross Country Team, David Nash, Head Coach
  • 2010 Wrestling Team, Tim Jager, Head Coach
  • 2008 Wrestling Team, Tim Jager, Head Coach
  • 2006 Wrestling Team, Tim Jager, Head Coach

Servant Leadership Through Community Service

Mallorie Moore and Brandan Tighe read to students when the Mustangs' women's basketball team assisted in classrooms at Cardinal Elementary School in South Sioux City, Neb.

Mustang softball players (from left) Emily Beadle, Savannah Hanlin, Jacey Ross, and Missy Morenz picked up trash at Sioux City's Boys and Girls Home during Morningside's 2014 Into the Streets community service day.

Approximately 450 Morningside College student-athletes went “Into the Streets” and participated in a variety of community service projects on Wednesday, Oct. 1.

Morningside’s eighth annual Into the Streets day of community service is organized by the college’s chapter of Omicron Delta Kappa (ODK), a national leadership honor society, and gives student groups and teams an opportunity to volunteer at almost 80 different locations in the Sioux City area.

The participants performed a variety of service work, including cleaning, painting, yard work, reading to elementary school children, and working with the elderly for a large number of non-profit organizations.

The Mustangs’ wrestling team, four-time winners of the NAIA’s Buffalo Funds Five Star Champions of Character Award, sent all 32 squad members to Whitfield United Methodist Church, where they cut trees, raked the property, picked up trash, cleaned the sanctuary, dusted the pews, vacuumed the floor and seat paddings, scrubbed the dining, kitchen and community areas, and moved furniture.

Grace United Methodist Church was the beneficiary of cleaning work from members of the Mustangs’ men’s and women’s bowling teams, while other team members helped with filing and stuffing letters at Beyond the Bell.

“For me, this was absolutely a great experience,” said Austin Naylor, a sophomore from Wyoming, Mich., on the Mustangs’ bowling team. “I loved how our team was able to help an organization and a church that do great things for our community, plus it was a bonding experience for our team.”

“Into the Streets is a great event because it gives our team an opportunity to be involved with our community,” said Chelsey Van Ness, a sophomore from Denison, Iowa, on Morningside’s women’s basketball team, the recipient of the NAIA’s 2014 Buffalo Funds Five Star Champions of Character Award for Division II Women’s Basketball.

Van Ness helped with cleanup work at Special Troopers Adaptive Riding School (STARS) Inc., an organization that helps improve the well-being of individuals with physical, cognitive, emotional, behavioral, or social challenges through therapeutic horseback riding, canine services, and other animal-assisted activities. Other members of the Mustangs’ women’s basketball team, a perennial NAIA national title contender, went to Sergeant Bluff-Luton Community Schools to assist in the class rooms.

Morningside’s baseball team sent a group of 40 players to Loess Hills Elementary School to read to students, fix desks, assist on the playgrounds, and other tasks. Their efforts were organized by former Mustang baseball player Jeff Gacke, who now teaches at the school.

The Mustang men’s and women’s tennis teams helped out at Washington Elementary School and Morningside’s new men’s volleyball team, which will make its varsity debut this January, helped out at Bryant Elementary School.

Morningside’s swimmers helped move furniture at Mission of Messiah and raise funds for “Partners for Patriots,” a group that trains and provides service animals for disabled veterans. Mustang cheerleaders and golfers helped clean at Lamb Theatre and members of the Morningside dance team assisted at the Salvation Army. Area nonprofits such as Girls Inc., Camp Good Will, and the Sioux City Art Center among others all benefited from clean-up work from members of the Mustangs’ softball, men’s basketball, women’s volleyball, football, and men’s and women’s track and cross country teams.

Nicole Ausborn, a track & field junior from Nora Springs, Iowa, was one of a large number of Mustang student-athletes who did their service work at Camp Good Will.

“Working hard every day in practice is one thing, but working hard for something or someone else puts a new perspective on doing something from a team aspect,” said Ausborn.

Mustang football players Ethan Stofferan (left) and Justin Berkey helped out at Camp Good Will during Morningside's Into the Streets community service day.

Allstate AFCA Good Works Team Honorees

Jordan Sitzmann made a mission trip to Haiti in the summer leading up to his junior year.

Morningside football players Jordan Sitzmann and Colby Rohde received national recognition for their community service efforts off the playing field when they were named to the Allstate AFCA Good Works Teams presented by Allstate Insurance Company and the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA). Sitzmann was named to the 2013 team and Rohde was selected in 2011.

As members of the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team, Sitzmann and Rohde traveled to New Orleans to take part in special volunteer projects and attended the Allstate Sugar Bowl games in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, where they were introduced at halftime.

For more than two decades the award has recognized college football players at all levels committed to making a difference in their communities and the lives of others. The honorees are selected by a voting panel comprised of former Allstate AFCA Good Works Team members and college football media. 

Sitzmann was selected to the Good Works Team for his volunteer service and mission work. He twice took part in two-week mission trips to Honduras to help construct water systems for villages in El Junco and La Florida, and in the summer of 2012 he spent 10 days in Haiti to construct window screens for an orphanage near Cap Haitien. Sitzmann also participated in volunteer work for various organizations, including the Siouxland Food Bank and Countryside Retirement Home in Sioux City, Then Feed Just One, Kids Against Hunger, and the Alzheimer’s Association in his home town of Le Mars, Iowa, and the American Heart Association.

Rohde was also selected to the Good Works Team for his mission work. Following the major earthquake that struck Haiti in January 2010, Rohde spearheaded the fundraising and organized and led a group of Morningside students that went to Bois De Lance, Haiti, that summer to assist with building an orphanage to house over 50 homeless children. Rohde organized another group that returned to Bois De Lance in June 2011 to assist with building homes for widows and single mothers.

The Allstate AFCA Good Works Teams were established in 1992 by the College Football Association, recognizing the extra efforts made by college football players and student support staff off the field. AFCA became the governing body of the award in 1997 and continues to honor college football players who go the extra mile for those in need. Allstate partnered to present the award starting with the 2008 season.

Colby Rohde led a group of children from the YMCA of Greater New Orleans in some football drills as a member of the 2011 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team

Success In The Classroom

Monte Larsen

Participation in athletics and success in the classroom go hand-in-hand at Morningside.

In fact, 53 percent of Morningside’s student athletes achieved a grade point average (GPA) higher than the entire student body’s cumulative grade point average in the 2015 winter/spring semester.

Numerous Mustang student-athletes have achieved the distinction of Daktronics-NAIA Scholar-Athlete, presented to junior, senior, and graduate student-athletes who maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.50 or higher. A total of 43 Morningside student-athletes were recognized as Daktronics-NAIA Scholar-Athletes during the 2014-15 academic year.

Breanna Mathes

Morningside has produced 56 Academic All-Americans since it made the transition to NAIA athletics in the 2002-03 academic year.

The Mustangs’ Monte Larsen was named the Capital One College Division Men’s Track & Field/Cross Country Academic All-American of the Year in both 2012 and 2013. Morningside’s Breanna Mathes was also named the Capital One College Division Women’s Track & Field/Cross Country Academic All-American of the Year in 2013, making Morningside the first school to ever sweep the award for both genders in the same year.

Morningside’s Beau Kildow was named the ESPN the Magazine College Division Football Academic All-American of the Year in 2009.

That same year Kildow was one of 16 college football players named to the 2009 National Football Foundation (NFF) National Scholar-Athlete class announced by the NFF and College Hall of Fame. Kildow and the other recipients were the finalists for the 20th anniversary William V. Campbell Trophy, presented to the best football scholar-athlete in the nation. The finalists were honored at the NFF Annual Awards Dinner at the Waldorf=Astoria Hotel in New York City, where Tim Tebow of the University of Florida was announced as the winner of the 2009 Campbell Trophy. Each finalist received an $18,000 post-graduate scholarship.

Beau Kildow (left) and Tim Tebow were among the 16 national finalists for the 2009 William V. Campbell Trophy, presented to the top football scholar-athlete in the nation.
Champions of Character
Great Plains Athletics Conference

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