by Vicky Kaniaru
CLEVELAND, Ga. (TMCNews) – "Truett-McConnell is on a mission of winning souls for God. I think if my philosophy is closely related to the institution's philosophy, then that's the place I need to be," said Damien Westfield, Truett-McConnell College's new head coach for men's soccer.
Formerly TMC's assistant men's soccer coach under David McDowell, Westfield succeeds McDowell, who moves to the sole role as head coach, women's soccer.
Westfield said he is thankful to work at an institution whose philosophy matches his own, and is grateful that Truett-McConnell's biblical education is training students to serve God in whatever career they choose. "That makes it fun to work here, and it makes it easy to work here," said Westfield, who wants "to build a program where players understand first and foremost that they are ambassadors for Christ, for Truett-McConnell, and the community."
A native of Trinidad and Tobago, Westfield credits his spiritual convictions to his mother, who was a strong Christian influence in his life. As a single parent, she ensured that her children were involved in sports and church.
Westfield's soccer prowess as a young student-athlete in his home country gained international attention from Young Harris College. The school recruited Westfield, and as a freshman he broke school records with 39 goals and 12 assists. He tallied 30 goals and 11 assists as a sophomore, finishing as an all-time points leader in the National Junior College Athletic Association. The NJCAA will induct Westfield into its hall of fame Nov. 2012.
Concluding his soccer career at Creighton University, Westfield in his junior year helped the Blue Jays advance to the NCAA Div. 1 Final Four. The next year, the team advanced to the Elite Eight.
The soccer standout earned a master's degree in communications from Bellevue University, Bellevue, Neb., and a doctoral degree in leadership studies from the University of Nebraska/Lincoln.
Accolades and fame matter little to Westfield, however, who said his priority at TMC "is to disciple our students and help them understand the importance of baptism and serving God."
Though he grew up considering himself a "religious person," it wasn't until after earning his doctorate that Westfield made a public profession of his Christian faith. And later, "I got baptized, that's when I gave my all to God," he said.
Westfield then began applying to Christian schools so he could mentor athletes as a coach: "I have been where they are, and I have a greater chance of influencing those students," said Westfield, adding that his mission is to disciple athletes, ensure they graduate, and make certain that players become successful in their call.
Westfield plans to have regular open discussions to create a team culture where players are comfortable sharing their testimonies and experiences. To facilitate that, he said, "I think one of my best assets is to share my testimony that I wasn't always a good Christian boy, and that if you want to receive all the blessings and all the benefits of what God has for you, you need to commit your life to him, then baptism is the next step."
"I believe that once you have an intimate relationship with God, all other aspects of your life will fall into place," Westfield noted.
"Whatever I do, I have to be mindful that I am the leader. My behavior on and off the field must depict the highest spiritual, moral, and ethical standards," he added.
With regard to winning soccer matches, Westfield said, "I believe we can win games as long as we have our priorities intact. I believe that whatever you do, you can do it with excellence. I want to be the best at whatever God leads me to do."
Vicky Kaniaru is senior writer at Truett-McConnell College.