Thirty years later, alumnus James Walraven ’93 continues to be impacted by—and have an impact on—Redeemer University.
Walraven is the 19th inductee to the Redeemer University Royals Hall of Fame, formally inducted during this year’s Alumni Week Royals vs. alumni basketball game. Athletics at Redeemer exists to train Royals athletes to become champions for Christ by placing the highest values on faith, influence, teamwork, and excellence. As a result, the athletes are empowered to pursue athletic excellence from a desire to honour and glorify his name above all. The Hall of Fame exists to recognize former Redeemer student-athletes for their remarkable contributions to the university’s athletic legacy.
While at Redeemer from 1989 to 1993, Walraven studied physical education, biblical and theological studies and math. He was also part of the men’s volleyball and soccer teams. Throughout his four years at Redeemer, Walraven won a number of awards and titles such as Ontario Colleges Athletic Association (OCAA) All-Star in Soccer (1990-91), OCAA All-Star in Volleyball (1992-93), MVP of Royals Soccer (1989-90), MVP of Royals Volleyball (1990-91), top 10 in OCAA soccer scoring on two occasions, two-time Royals leading scorer (1990-1991), third all-time leading scorer in Royals soccer history and Scholar Athlete of the Year (1993).
Today, Walraven works at King’s Christian Collegiate in Oakville as a high school teacher, teaching courses in biblical studies and physical education. At the school, he proudly coaches volleyball and soccer. It’s easy to see that his Redeemer education has proved to be useful. At King’s, Walraven also leads an annual global service trip to the Dominican Republic. In the community, he is an active member at Faith Christian Reformed Church in Burlington, where he has served as an elder, a deacon and a musician.
Walraven has many fond memories from his time at Redeemer: the gold-medal match against Cambrian in his fourth year; weekend road trips up north with the volleyball team for tournaments; and watching spectators cheer on soccer games using pots, pans and wooden spoons. Walraven also proudly remembers when the Royals soccer team beat the defending national soccer champions, the Mohawk Mountaineers, in the season’s opening game.
Walraven feels an overwhelming sense of gratitude to Redeemer for a student experience he says was transformative. He is especially grateful for two coaches that left a lasting impact on him, his soccer coach, the late John Hamilton, and his volleyball coach John Byl.
Everybody’s role is equally important, and that’s what I love about sports. It’s kind of like the body of Christ. There is one body but many parts.
The Walraven family is building a legacy at Redeemer. Their son Matthew, a 2023 alumnus, and daughter Emily, who is a current student, have both been highly involved in Redeemer athletics. Walraven says he has felt a lot of pride in seeing his kids play soccer at Redeemer—albeit on turf rather than the bumpy field of yesteryear. Watching his kids beat his records puts a joyful smile on his face.
He deeply appreciates the ways he’s been able to stay connected to Redeemer over the years.
“[It’s meant] more than I could even communicate, to be honest,” Walraven says. “Coaching soccer and volleyball over the years at King’s has provided opportunities for me to come back to Redeemer to see how the athletic program has evolved into what it is today.” In the present day, Redeemer athletics boasts an indoor sports complex, an outdoor turf field, a weight training and lifting program and a large team of supportive coaches.
Walraven says that there are many lessons he learned as a student-athlete that have shaped him into who he is today, including the value of accepting the role you are given for the good of the team. Walraven was an experienced striker in soccer but was asked to play as a midfielder when he came to Redeemer. It was a significant adjustment.
“It takes a little bit of soul-searching to say yes to filling a role that you might not have necessarily wanted but that you know is needed. In the end it was what the team needed at that time.”
He also learned the importance of community and the beauty of working with other people toward a common goal.
“Everybody’s role is equally important, and that’s what I love about sports. It’s kind of like the body of Christ. There is one body but many parts. That exact same concept is true in athletics when you are working as a team. One team, many roles.”
In your pursuit of athletics, consider the idea that athletics should not be your primary goal. Rather, place the seeking of God’s Kingdom at the top of your list.
Walraven has some advice for current and future Redeemer student-athletes, inspired by Matthew 6:33.
“In your pursuit of athletics, consider the idea that athletics should not be your primary goal. Rather, place the seeking of God’s Kingdom at the top of your list. Use every opportunity on and off the court, on and off the field, to learn what it means to live life well. Strive for personal excellence while you simultaneously put others first. Honour your teammates. Respect your opponents. Play with passion. Keep your eyes on the bigger prize and you’ll experience true success.”