By: Emily Lehner
Ethan Whaley and Jonny Marlin are both Indiana Wesleyan Alumni that, since their graduation, returned to IWU to work with the men’s basketball team. Whaley, originally a transfer from Ball State University, and Marlin, originally a transfer from the Indiana University basketball program to the IWU basketball program, both shared their experiences and thoughts.
Marlin came to IWU with a grand basketball history. He first met with the Associate Head Coach, Jeff Clark, and one of the first things Clark told Marlin was, “Our coaching staff would consider this season successful if we grew spiritually, even if that means we win zero games.” Marlin’s time at Indiana University gave him the ability to see the contrasting characteristics between being an athlete at the Division I level, to being an athlete at an NAIA school.
He said, “Indiana Wesleyan is by far the closest knit community that I have ever been a part of, and that would even include high school. I was blown away with the fact that most kids live out their faith here, and that was super encouraging to me.”
Whaley, a 2011 graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree in Physical and Health Education, spent his hours at IWU as the manager for the men’s basketball team. Before coming to IWU, Whaley assumed the campus would interact in a similar way to a public college campus, like he had experienced at Ball State.
He stated, “I was really blown away by the truly authentic Christian atmosphere that seemed to be here. Everyone from the professors, to the RDs and even administration cast a vision that people want to grow closer to Christ.”
Both Whaley and Marlin attributed their spiritual growth to the personable leaders on campus. “Professors wanted to get coffee or lunch with me, and that doesn’t happen at other schools,” stated Whaley.
Marlin mentioned that the coaching staff and the members of the basketball team also had a large impact on his faith. “When you have twelve to fifteen guys pursuing Jesus together, you can’t help but have your faith grow,” Marlin said.
It was these characteristics that drew both men back to coaching at Indiana Wesleyan, even after graduating. Coaching was something both Marlin and Whaley wanted to pursue after college, and they believe it has provided them with lessons to better their spiritual life and their marriages.
Marlin said, “Last year, I was put on a pedestal with my basketball career. This year, I am in one of the lowest positions on the team, having to serve my fellow team members. It has been hard at times to submit, but I am definitely growing in that area.”
Upon graduation, Whaley mentioned that he had one high school job opportunity and a second opportunity to be the IWU men’s basketball graduate assistant. Marlin holds the GA position for this year, but Whaley said, “I was fortunate enough to stay on staff after I graduated. I was the first graduate assistant. Jonny is the third GA this year. I knew I wanted to get into college coaching. I wanted to learn to not only coach, but to have a ministry within my job.” Whaley is now the assistant men’s basketball coach.
Whaley remembers Coach Tonagel telling the staff that their success as a coach will be measured by how much they grow spiritually, rather than their record at the end of the season.
Both Marlin and Whaley agree that being part of the staff at Indiana Wesleyan University means you are a part of something greater than yourselves. Everyone’s primary goal is growing spiritually and seeking to know The Lord better. Whether you are a coach, secretary, professor or student, the atmosphere at IWU encourages you to make seeking Christ your focus.
Written by Emily Lehner, writer for the Alumni Center and a sophomore Writing major at IWU. She is active on the cross country and track teams. She is passionate about using her writing skills to share the good news of Christ with others and writes often on her personal blog at www.emilylehner.wordpress.com.