Called To Be Different

Written on 05/21/2024
Paul Batterson, Contributing Writer

After thriving on the pitch for his club team and the Warriors, Jende looks to succeed at Walsh.

For the first time since starting at Worthington Christian, Ben Jende will wear just one soccer kit next fall. Jende recently committed to play for Walsh University.

Usually, Jende marked the calendar by which soccer kit he was wearing. From August to November last Fall, he wore number 13 for the Worthington Christian boys soccer team. He donned the Blast FC Soccer Academy kit from mid-November to mid-July during the 2022-23 season.

Both teams had impressive finishes last year. The Warriors finished second in the Division III state tournament following a 2-1 loss to Willoughby Andrews Osborne at Historic Crew Stadium on Nov 11, 2023. During the 2022-23 club season, the Blast placed third in the nation after falling to Arlington (Texas) 3-0 in a Elite Conference National League tournament semifinal on July 15 in Norco, CA.

Yet Jende sees a world of difference between the two teams.

“It’s all about the culture,” said Jende, a first-team Central Buckeye League and second-team all-district selection for the Warriors last year.

“At Worthington Christian, we have the slogan ‘Walk Worthy’ on the back of our warm-ups. We are trying to do everything we can possibly do for God. The atmosphere is a little more positive, I’d say. It’s more loving and forgiving, which you would expect.”

While the club team includes a handful of believers, Blast FC’s primary focus is not religious.  

“My club teammates and I are still very close,” he said. “Sometimes in club soccer we can snap at each other and say things you wouldn’t normally say. (With the Warriors) we wanted people to see Him in us when we played. Obviously, it’s different for the club, but (living out my faith) is still important to me.”

Worthington Christian coach Dan Roads said if anyone can establish a culture on a team, it’s Jende, who had 13 goals and 12 assists last fall.

“Ben was a major reason this team achieved the level of success we had on the field,” Roads said. “He truly is a Warrior for Christ. His leadership, testimony, and wisdom created an example I pray the younger classmen will one day emulate.

“Ben is a player who took to heart the Warrior Creed. He is among a short list of WC players who combined high-level performances throughout the tournament with an outward expression of faith.”

Last season, Jende had about a week between the two teams. After winning a regional tournament in St. Louis, the Blast FC flew out to California as one of eight teams nationwide competing for the title. The team opened the tournament with a 4-1 win over Virginia Soccer Academy before running into Arlington in a semifinal.

“I was upset we lost, but I was proud we had made it that far in the first place,” he said. “I was appreciative of the journey we had made.”

The forward didn’t have much time to mope anyway. A week after returning to Columbus from California, Jende put on his cleats for pre-season conditioning for the Warriors.

Worthington Christian was ranked first in the Division III state poll most of the season. Jende called his final season with the Warriors “some of the most fun I’ve had playing soccer.”  

“We weren’t playing for awards, stats, or anything like that,” he said. “We were just playing for Christ. I’ll never forget it.”

Jende grew up playing baseball and basketball and earning a black belt in Taekwondo. However, once he started playing soccer, he never stopped.

Jende plans on majoring in either exercise science or a pre-physical therapy track.

“I have always been interested in muscles, their work, and what happens inside my body. I want to use that knowledge to help other people.”

Jende said the one thing Worthington Christian taught him is that Christians are called to be different, whether in the classroom or on the soccer field.

“This is going to sound a little cliché, but the thing I learned is definitely to be who you are and who you are meant to be,” Jende said. God loves you for who you are, not how other people see you.

“I used to be extremely focused on myself. The way I was perceived by other people was super important to me. I wanted to portray myself in a way other people would think, ‘Ooooh, that guy’s cool.’ I realized God loves me for who I am, and He loves everyone the same way.”