The PLNU Men’s Basketball team took a trip to Panama this past summer in which they gained not only basketball experience, but also ministry experience. The NCAA only allows teams to take an international trip once every four years, so it is an opportunity of a lifetime and one that is hard to pass by.
Head Coach Ryan Looney is no stranger to these international trips. “This is the third international trip I’ve taken a team on, the first at PLNU,” he said. “So for the guys on our team, [it’s] a special opportunity, literally for each one of them. It’ll be the only time in their career that they get an opportunity to do it.”
The team spent seven days on campus to prepare and practice before flying out to Panama for the next seven days. “A beautiful part of the trip is that if you do it, the NCAA allows you ten practices before you even go,” said Looney. With these extra practices, the team could get better on the court, as well as develop themselves as people off the court through a ministry trip.
The basketball portion of the trip included the team playing in three games, including one against Panama’s U23 international team. However, this trip was much bigger than just playing basketball.
The team took a break from playing and both players and coaches spent an afternoon at an orphanage, hanging out with the children as well as providing them with food, and playing basketball with them.
When they weren’t playing basketball or participating in ministry, the team did some sight-seeing, which included zip lining through the rainforest and riding in boats along the Panama Canal, where they got a special visit from the monkeys that inhabit the area. “Some people got to hand-feed the monkeys,” said Junior Guard Tanner Nelson.
While sightseeing was a highlight of the trip, the ministry and basketball aspect gave both the players and coaches a very valuable experience as well as memories that they will never forget.
“It was just really cool to see how appreciative the people were of us all trying to help them out, just being there and trying to understand their culture,” said junior guard Jack Langborg. “They didn’t treat us like we were anyone different, they just treated us like [we were] one of them.”
Coach Looney spoke about the importance of this experience. “It was a great chance for us to build a culture we want to establish in our program,” said Looney. “I wanted them to have an opportunity to be involved in some type of ministry in a different part of the world which we did with our day at the orphanage.”