GWU Staff Member Finds Success, Fellowship on Racquetball Court

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Athletics Compliance Official Wins State Title, Builds Friendships Through Sport 

BOILING SPRINGS, N.C. – Thwacks echo through the white-walled room. Chips and cracks dot the paint on a wall in Gardner-Webb University’s Lutz-Yelton Convocation Center (LYCC). A blue rubber ball ricochets like a pinball, and Stephen Dolan angles his body to strike a return with his racket.  Dolan dives to the floor to connect racket with ball and win the point against his opponent.

Dolan, 30, is familiar with winning points in racquetball, a sport in which he recently earned an under-35 state championship title in his age and skill category. Dolan, assistant athletic director for compliance at the University, won his age group at the N.C. Racquetball Association and USA Racquetball-sanctioned state championships in Charlotte. He said he has also cracked the state racquetball rankings, with a position near the top 100 players in his division.

“The sport is basically like playing tennis in a closet. It’s real chaotic tennis,” Dolan shared. “You want to hit the ball where your opponent isn’t. You want the ball to bounce two times before your opponent can hit it back. It’s a fast-paced game, so you want to conserve your energy.”

The Gastonia, N.C., resident started playing the sport as a hobby while a student at North Carolina State University. When he joined Gardner-Webb’s athletics compliance office in 2008, he started playing with competitive coaches and student-athletes. Now, for five or six hours during most weeks, Dolan plays racquetball with faculty and staff members on the LYCC’s racquetball courts.

Racquetball, which is played with a small, hard ball and short racket on a four-walled court with no net, takes vision, hand-eye coordination, speed and agility, Dolan said. And, like his compliance job, in which he ensures GWU athletic programs meet all NCAA and university rules, racquetball connects Dolan with people from different departments across campus. He said he enjoys the social benefits of the sport even more than his competitive success.

“It’s a great way to exercise, but also get to know each other,” he shared. “We really connect on the court. The fellowship in the game is the best part.”

Located in Boiling Springs, N.C., Gardner-Webb University’s purpose is to advance the Kingdom of God through Christian higher education by preparing graduates for professional and personal success, instilling in them a deep commitment to service and leadership, and equipping them for well-rounded lives of lasting impact, Pro Deo et Humanitate (For God and Humanity).