The men’s basketball team was founded in 1910, making it Concordia’s first official sports team. Photos courtesy of Dr. Jerry Pfabe.
by Paige Uzzell
Concordia celebrates its 125th year of education this year, but education is not the only part of campus life that has been around for many years. Concordia’s athletics have been celebrated since the first sport was introduced in 1910.
Athletics started on campus in 1910 with Concordia’s basketball team. The school’s football, baseball, tennis and track teams were only clubs at the time.
The varsity team was comprised of seven players. Today’s varsity basketball team has 16 players on both the men’s and women’s teams, along with 14 players on the men’s junior varsity team and 21 players on the women’s junior varsity team.
Until 1960, Concordia did not have its own gymnasium available for athletics. Fortunately for the basketball players, the YMCA of Seward opened their gym for practices. When students could not get to the YMCA, they held practices in dormitories and different basements across campus.
The basketball team sparked an athletic movement on campus and was quickly followed by Concordia’s football team in 1920. The students petitioned to move the football team from interclass games to a competitive varsity sport. The team did not start competing until 1926, but by the 1950s, Concordia had a thriving football program.
“The Silver Maple”, Concordia’s yearbook from the 1949-50 school year, said of the team: “Little did we know we were setting the mold for the greatest team and season that Concordia ever had.”
The 1950s were a big stepping stone in athletics at Concordia. The women’s basketball team was created. The school’s tennis clubs consolidated into one Concordia tennis team, and golf became a club. The men’s golf team became a competitive sport in 1970 with the women’s team starting in the mid-1980s.
Even though the different programs have now been here for decades, they still experience change every year.
“Since (I took) over the golf programs in the fall of 2011, Concordia (has) been more competitive in the GPAC (Great Plains Athletic Conference),” Head Golf Coach Brett Muller said. “This is a testament to the players and their hard work in the classroom and on the golf course. Expectations continue to rise each year.”
The introduction of the women’s basketball team was a big step in female athletics on campus. It gave rise to the creation of a large number of athletic teams for women on campus in the 1970s.
The athletic movement in the 1970s included developments for both men and women. For men, swimming and soccer became new varsity programs. On the women’s side, volleyball, swimming, cross country, tennis, softball, and track and field teams were inducted into Concordia’s athletic program.
The athletic groups may have adapted to the times, but some things will never change.
“I don’t think the program has changed,” Head Women’s Basketball Coach Drew Olson said. “The players are responsible for keeping the values and culture as good as it is. I think the standards have been raised with the continued success.”
The 1970s gave way to the opening of the soccer and golf teams for women in the 1990s. Throughout their time on campus, the different teams have grown as families for the coaches and athletes.
“The women’s soccer program is a family, and the relationships off the field drive the success on the field,” Head Women’s Soccer Coach Greg Henson said. “We continue to be intentional at connecting current players with past alums and understanding where the program has been, where we are, and where we are going.”
Even today, Concordia is still adding new athletic programs for everyone in attendance. The most recent groups to join Concordia’s athletic family are the co-ed cheer and dance teams and the men and women’s shooting teams. The cheer and dance teams’ first competitive seasons started in 2014 while the shooting teams’ first competitive seasons began in 2018.
Coaches have provided support for student athletes for over 100 years. They have helped students learn and grow in faith and as athletes.
“I connect with each of the students to help with their personal goals, academic excellence and help to foster their faith as they learn and grow through the journey of their college years,” Head Coach of Cheer and Dance Miranda Maser said.
After 125 years of academic growth and 109 years of halftimes, cheers and athletic greatness, there is much to be grateful for. Concordia has become a place for students to grow in education, faith and athletics.