During a recent qualifying basketball tournament in Uruguay for the 1988 Olympics, Karl Tilleman, a guard on the Canadian National Basketball Team, placed a poem he had written on a bulletin board in the team's dressing room.
"I told my teammates how much I loved them," said Tilleman, a counselor in the elders quorum presidency of the Grandview 9th Ward in Provo, Utah. "It wasn't long before several notes began appearing on the board just before big games. The coach grabbed me afterward and said, `I saw your faith take you through a lot rough times. . . I saw a lot of guys depend on your faith."The Canadian team finished third at the tournament, defeating the home team for one of the tourney's three Olympic berths.
Tilleman isn't the only Latter-day Saint who will be handling a round ball at the Summer Olympic Games in Seoul, Korea, Sept. 18-Oct. 2. Troy Tanner, also a returned missionary, will represent the United States as the newest member of the men's volleyball team.
After the 1984 Olympics, Tilleman served in the California Arcadia Mission and later married Holly Walker of Calgary, Alberta. In the 1984 Olympics the Canadians finished fourth, losing by three points to Yugoslavia in the game that decided the bronze medalist.
One of his goals when he returned from his mission was to regain his place on the national team.
"I wanted to prove to myself and other people that going on a mission doesn'taffect your athletic career," Tilleman said. "If you serve the Lord, He is goingto help you do what you want to do."
It took about a year for him to get into good physical condition again. And now he feels he is a better player because of his mission.
"The experience and discipline of a mission have put perspective in my life and that helps me perform better," he said.
Though he was an active Church member before his mission, he said he is no longer embarrassed to pray or read his scriptures in front of his teammates.
"I think the influence has been good on my team," he said. "All of a sudden no one wants to drink anymore. My teammates got together and decided that 'Let's all not drink.'" One recent Sunday, while the team was training in New York, one of his teammates asked him where he was going.
"I said, I'm going to church." Tilleman recalled. "He said, Do you mind if I come along?"
Tilleman's role on the team is to shoot, especially from the 3-point range. He's usually the first player off the bench, and he's expected to enter the game and score.
Troy Tanner of the Pacific Beach Ward in San Diego, Calif., is known more as a passer and a swing hitter on the U.S. Volleyball Team. Tanner, an all-American at Pepperdine University in Los Angeles, was one of 12 picked from 60 hopefuls for the Olympic squad.
"He's playing really well right now," said his father, Rolf Robert Tanner of the Encinitas (Calif.) 1st Ward. "He has been on the team for a year."
The 6-foot-3 Tanner is not a regular starter but receives a lot of playing time in specialty roles, his father said. He recently had to bounce back from arthroscopic surgery on his knee to make the team.