2014 Bay City Christian School graduate Katie Bender has earned the 2017 NCCAA Game Plan 4 LIFE Character Award — the highest national honor awarded in NCCAA Division II women’s volleyball.

Katie’s team, the Maranatha Baptist University Sabercats, also went on to win the Championship title for the second year in a row, overpowering Bob Jones University in the semi-finals, and then defeating Kentucky Christian University in the finals — in just three sets! 

The NCCAA Game Plan 4 LIFE Character Award is given to one outstanding volleyball player every year, chosen from teams across the country, who demonstrates excellence in athletics, academics, and most importantly, Christian leadership and service.

Katie says she never expected to receive this award. “They say it’s the highest honor you can get because it shows you’re a good athlete and are also a servant leader — super cool and super honoring!”

Throughout her four years at Maranatha, Katie has been busy serving God and others — at school, in church, and in the community.  Besides being volleyball team captain for the Maranatha Sabercats, she’s also a dorm room leader and sits on the student body council. In church, she regularly performs special music and works with the deaf ministry interpreting sign language.  Additionally, Katie has done basketball camps at Bay City and Maranatha. She’s been involved in the Big Brother, Big Sister program in the community, and also went on a mission’s trip to Guam.

Katie explains that her years in high school at Bay City equipped her to be a servant leader. “I was team captain of the volleyball team my senior year, and as captain, I got to work through some conflict on the team… You have to be able to have good problem solving skills and be able to look at it biblically… and just being pushed every day in practice to do your best… it was tough, but it taught me a good work ethic because [in college] they work us – even harder!”

She added that it wasn’t just a good work ethic that helped build her character, “Dr. Phillips really encouraged us as seniors to get to know the younger kids… I learned from Bay City to just pour into other people’s lives.”

Katie plans to graduate this year with a degree in elementary education. She then hopes to further her education with a master’s degree and continue playing volleyball and other sports for Maranatha.

She says the teachers she had at Bay City Christian School helped give her a love for education and teaching – and shape the kind of teacher she wants to be. “I appreciated Bay City because the teachers cared about you, not just your academics, but they cared about you in your social lives, sports, all aspects… I want to be a lot like them. My teachers invested a lot in me as a person.”

Katie’s only regrets that she didn’t always recognize the blessings God had given her growing up. “I loved my time at Bay City, although I didn’t always look at it that way. In life we kind of squander what we get to grow up in. I was born into an amazing family, and amazing church family and school family that I took for granted… Bay City was a great environment for me to grow up in, and I think I didn’t appreciate it as a much as I should have and as much as I do now.”

She has some advice for current Bay City students and all young people.  “Get involved in your local church. There’s nothing more satisfying in life than serving the Lord… When you’re living for Christ and doing what he wants you to do and you’re serving him — there’s no better way to spend your time… because that’s the way God designed it… that’s what God wants you to do with your life.”

And her advice for young athletes — “Just look for ways to serve others… Grow close to the Lord and work hard… maybe you have to sit on a bench for a year, learn under somebody that’s better than you… Everything that’s good in life is hard… just be ready to work hard.”

We’re so excited to see Katie Bender working so hard — serving the Lord and others — and we can’t wait to see what else God has in store for her.

Congratulations, Katie Bender on earning the NCCAA Game Plan 4 LIFE Character Award as well as leading the Maranatha Sabercats to win the 2017 national volleyball championship title!

For the article written by NCAA on Katie, please click here.