History: Sports Traditions Bring Students Together

November 19, 2020

This year, as we are celebrating Emmanuel’s eightieth anniversary, we have been posting monthly articles on the history of the College.

From its founding in 1940, Emmanuel has offered a multifaceted student experience that has sought to help men and women become well-rounded servants of Christ. The academic aspect of the College has been balanced with regular worship, social opportunities, discipleship and mentorship in spiritual growth, practical experience, and physical exercise. For many students, this physical element has proven to be a profoundly important part of their formation at Emmanuel, helping them maintain strong health and build lasting relationships with their fellow students.

For the first several decades of its history, extracurricular activity at Emmanuel was focused on music. As described in an earlier article, Emmanuel students formed a number of musical groups and travelled around Ontario and beyond, spreading the word about the College. However, sports became increasingly important year by year. During the 1950s and early 1960s, when Emmanuel was located at a large house on Ahrens Street in Kitchener, students enjoyed playing sports together in an informal way. Hockey was a particular favourite among the male students.

The move to the current Fergus Avenue property in 1964 led to a growing interest in sports, as the increase in enrollment that the College was experiencing during that era was accompanied by a significant increase in space. After the Tabernacle, previously used for Christian camp meetings, was converted into a gymnasium, Emmanuel made efforts to integrate physical education into the student experience, with basketball and volleyball being the games of choice. Before long Emmanuel teams were engaging in friendly competition with nearby evangelical schools Lorne Park College and London College of Bible and Mission.[1]

Competition with other schools developed into an annual event called Quad Olympics, in which Christian schools, including Emmanuel, competed in four sporting events. In the 1969­–1970 school year, the selected sports were the much-practised basketball and volleyball and also swimming and ping pong.[2] Emmanuel also added an annual event that would carry on for many years: the Red Cup and Green Cup football games, with Red being for female students and the Green for men. A celebratory banquet, rich with student traditions, concluded the day.

Although the Fergus campus did not have a hockey arena, the sport remained a favourite among the student body, and an official team was established. By the early 1980s this team, along with the basketball and volleyball teams, was officially known as the Wildcats. Almost two decades later, Wildcats hockey gave students an exciting short-term-missions opportunity in the form of a hockey trip to the Czech Republic. During Reading Week, the team flew to the Central European country and participated in a number of activities, from playing hockey to visiting a refugee camp to sharing their personal testimonies with Czech people they encountered.[3]

As time went on, soccer became one of the more popular sports at Emmanuel. It replaced football as the sport of the Red Cup Green Cup event, and the two games were later combined into the Royal Cup, which was a single co-ed match between first-year students and returning students. Into the 2010s, the Royal Cup was one of the main events of the Fall semester kickoff, and the dinner banquet was a special social occasion that helped to welcome the newcomers. During this decade Emmanuel students also played indoor matches against Heritage College at their campus in Cambridge.

Volleyball proved to be a consistent favourite among the student body, also being played regularly during the 2010s. Before the pandemic struck, a student-organized team was still carrying on the long tradition of Wildcat volleyball. This academic year, sports have been halted due to the pandemic, but the school is looking forward to the day when the restrictions are eased and the games may safely begin again.

[1] “Sports,” Pilot (1966): 42.

[2] “Quad Olympics ’70,” in Pilot (1971): 53.

[3] “Czech Trip 2002,” in Pilot (2002): 12.