June 16, 2017
AIA Team Blog
ARLINGTON, Texas - UTA senior Rebekah VanDijk tips off her summer experience with a basketball tour in Abidjan, Ivory Coast as part of 10 athletes participating in Athletes in Action from June 25-July 9.
Prior to the trip, the team participated in a five-day training camp at the AIA headquarters in Xenia, Ohio. VanDijk is no stranger to the campus, having taken part in the 2016 Captain's Academy with teammate Cierra Johnson. The team will then travel to the Ivory Coast to help prepare the Ivorian U-19 Women's National Team for the upcoming Franchophonie Games.
"I am super excited," VanDijk said. "I have never been to Africa and I think it is a good experience as there are a lot of things to learn there and you can help people there. We will be playing against national teams from Africa and practicing with the teams. We will be doing clinics for young kids and doing hospitality work during our stay."
VanDijk is one of two Sun Belt athletes taking part in the trip as she joins recent Appalachian State graduate Jasmine Ogunjimi. Other members of the squad include players from Iowa State, Rutgers, Northwestern, St. Bonaventure, Eastern Kentucky, Texas Southern, Bucknell and Elon.
Along with learning and growing on the court, VanDijk is looking forward to the off the court action as well as she grows in leadership.
"I want to see God move through me and learn how to evangelize and bring back what I learn back to our team and share with them and share the experience," VanDijk said.
The trip to Africa is one of two foreign trips for the standout center. VanDijk will be joining the Lady Mavericks in August in a foreign tour to Costa Rica to prepare for the 2017-18 season. UTA coach Krista Gerlich has continued to help create an experience for her team beyond just the game, and is excited to see what VanDijk learns from her trip.
"I love Rebekah's heart and her vision and mission," Gerlich said. "The fact that she came to me and said that she wanted to do this and go travel overseas and be able to not only share her faith and play the game that she loves, it is awesome that she has the opportunity and is going to be able to experience that with athletes that are in the same situation and they can share stories with one another. She is gaining some valuable playing experience and leadership opportunities with new teammates and to be able to give her testimony about her faith is wonderful."
VanDijk is a three-time member of the Sun Belt's All-Conference list and was named to the league's Leadership Team for the upcoming academic year. VanDijk was the 2014-15 SBC Freshman of the Year and became the 18th member of UTA's 1,000-point club earlier this season.
Athletes in Action is a Christian faith-based organization which has been using athletics as a platform to assist individuals in answering questions of faith since 1966. AIA is present in more than 90 countries around the globe and is a part of Cru (formerly called Campus Crusade for Christ).