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Soccer: More than Just a Sport
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(Left-Right) Travis Julian, Loren Ellenberger, Michael Howell, Tyler Timberlake

by Yeng Her

No matter where you are, or what language you can or can’t speak, soccer is universal, and it can be used to open doors in so many different ways I could never imagine.

Michael Howell, TFC Freshman 2010

Have you ever wondered what it is that brings people together? How do people just instantly click? For some, it may be the excitement of watching sports games, for others it may be the relaxation that knitting brings; but this past fall, for five particular Toccoa Falls College students, it was more than just excitement and relaxation, it was soccer and the friendships created through it.

Toccoa Falls College students: Travis Julian, Eric Bill, Tyler Timberlake, Michael Howell, and Loren Ellenberger all attended Dakar Academy in Dakar, Senegal, and also all share a love for the sport of soccer. Though they all attended at different times, they all played for the Dakar Academy’s soccer team and all have been coached and mentored by Jim Timberlake.

Jim and his wife, Shari, both serve as dorm parents for the Dakar Academy and have been serving as dorm parents for 23 years in Africa. Jim is an alumnus from TFC, played soccer for the college from 79-82, and graduated with a degree in Middle School Education. Jim has been with the Dakar Academy for eight years, both as a dorm parent and as coach of the soccer team. Jim and Shari are currently on furlough until summer 2011.

Travis Julian grew up in Republic of the Congo, Africa, and is a senior majoring in Secondary Education with a concentration in History. He plans to get married and teach overseas in Korea after graduation. Travis is in his ninth year of playing soccer. Eric Bill is a junior majoring in Cross-Cultural Business Administration with plans to return to West Africa after graduation. Tyler Timberlake is a sophomore majoring in Outdoor Leadership and plans to work with camps in the United States or overseas. Michael Howell is a freshman majoring in Cross-Cultural Studies, and Loren Ellenberger, also a freshman, is majoring in Outdoor Leadership.

Playing soccer for Dakar Academy didn’t just mean winning and losing, but the team used soccer as an avenue to reach out to the people of Dakar. In Africa, soccer is a very popular sport and it can be used to relate to anyone of any age. Travis shares that it was neat to be able to go into areas that were predominantly Muslim and find something in common. One thing that Loren says that he has learned while playing soccer is that, I have realized God can show his ministry through many different ways, and I am a witness to the players I play against on the field as much as off it.

For Travis, the highlight of playing soccer is to be able to use soccer for the glory of God and the bond that is made with the other guys on the team. He also says, “One thing that I have learned from playing soccer is the importance of friendship. Without friends, soccer would just be a lot of hard work. It’s incredible the bonds and friendships you make with the guys you play soccer with. I think the same is true of life. Having friends to live life with makes work fun, hard times not so bad, and good times great.”

When asked about Toccoa Falls College, the players heard about TFC through friends, Coach Timberlake, and parents who are alumni of TFC. Eric Bill chose to attend TFC because when he looked around at colleges, he says, “I think TFC has the best missions program.” Tyler Timberlake chose TFC because of close friends and the family he has in the area. Tyler is the son of Jim Timberlake. Loren Ellenberger chose TFC because of the great community that TFC has and the friends he knows who are already attending TFC.

Jim adds, “It’s an honor and great joy to be able to be here in Toccoa and see the five of them playing for TFC. And to wonder, if it didn’t start with soccer, where would these young men be today? It started with a common denominator, soccer, and has developed into friendships that will be forever remembered. Soccer, in its entirety, is not just a sport, but is the bond that has brought these young men together and helped them minister to others.”

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