A new era of Calvin athletics will kick off next year when the men’s volleyball and women’s acrobatics and tumbling teams launch their first-ever campaigns as varsity programs.

The competitive season for both programs will stretch from January through April. The men’s volleyball team will be led by firstyear head coach Spencer Fredrick, while the women’s acrobatics and tumbling team will be led by head coach Ellen Barker.


In January, the Calvin men’s volleyball team will jump into a full varsity season with the Knights competing in the Midwest Collegiate Volleyball League and playing for a potential berth in the NCAA III Tournament at season’s end.

Calvin will be one of 10 schools in the MCVL, including MIAA schools Adrian, Olivet, and Trine, as well as Baldwin-Wallace, Mount Union, Mount St. Joseph, Wabash, Wittenberg, and Fontbonne. Calvin will play in a series of non-conference matches followed by conference play starting the first weekend of March. The winner of the MCVL Tournament (April 12–13) receives an automatic bid to the NCAA III Tournament the following week.


Spencer Fredrick comes to Calvin with impressive volleyball credentials. He prepped at Valley Christian High School in Cerritos, California and then played for Division I UC–Santa Barbara, where he became a starting opposite/middle hitter. He later played professionally as an outside hitter in both Sweden and Germany.

Fredrick accepted the Calvin coaching position in late December 2022 and has been hitting the recruiting trail hard ever since. He anticipates a roster of as many as 18–20 student-athletes. The lineup will be comprised of recruited newcomers and current members of the Calvin men’s club volleyball program, which has existed for several years.

“We have about 13 new recruits coming in, including a player from Canada, several from the Midwest, and a few from the West Coast,” Fredrick said. “We will also draw on individuals that have been a part of our club program. We are a bit on the young side, but we will have some talent. Our goals are to fight for a spot in the conference tournament, generate excitement with our Calvin community, and help grow the game of men’s volleyball in the state of Michigan.”

Fredrick feels blessed to have a mentor in Calvin women’s volleyball head coach Amber Warners, who has led her program to three national championships. “Coach Warners has been incredibly helpful through the whole process,” Fredrick said. “She is super passionate about the game of volleyball and helps encourage me as a new coach to keep a positive outlook. I am very grateful for that. I anticipate great collaboration between our two programs, with our men’s team supporting the women’s in the fall and the women’s team doing the same for our program in the winter and spring.”


Ellen Barker, meanwhile, is an established collegiate coach, having served as the head coach of the Adrian women’s acrobatics and tumbling program for six years before joining the Calvin athletic program. She hails from Lansing, Michigan. She spent two years as an undergraduate at nearby Davenport University, competing as a member of the school’s competitive cheer team. She then transferred to Azusa Pacific (Calif.), where she spent three years on the school’s newly formed acrobatics and tumbling team, developing a passion that continues today.

“I am so excited to join the Calvin community,” Barker said. “Calvin has so much to offer young women from spiritual, academic, and athletic standpoints. The mission of Calvin matches many of the same things I experienced as a student-athlete at Azusa Pacific, where the Christian faith intertwines with daily life. My number one goal right now is to get the Calvin name out as much as possible and associate it with the sport of acrobatics and tumbling.”


Acrobatics and tumbling is an emerging sport within the NCAA, with 10 Division III schools expected to sponsor it as a varsity sport by 2025. Although operating under NCAA rules, the sport is under the umbrella of the National Collegiate Acrobatics and Tumbling Association. That group currently holds the NCATA National Championships each spring, but the eventual hope is the sport will become a fully sanctioned NCAA III sport with NCAA III Championships competition.

According to Barker, the upcoming 2023–24 season will be a foundational one focused on recruiting new student-athletes and building a strong team culture. “We’ve got a good start to adding some new members, but the upcoming year will be key in building a full roster,” Barker said. “Ideally, we would like to have 24 women on the roster by the fall of 2024 and then build from there to a roster of 28–30. We need a minimum of 15 athletes to compete as a team in a meet.”

Acrobatics and tumbling typically draws athletes from a variety of feeder sports, most notably gymnastics, acrobatics, competitive cheer, power lifting, and sideline cheer. “The beauty of this sport is that it utilizes different types of athletes and athletic skills,” Barker said.

Barker anticipates a full 2024–25 season with home matches. “We would like to host three to four home matches each season and give the public a taste of what our sport is all about,” she said. “I love hosting competitions, and Calvin is a great venue.”