Coaches and athletes impact a watching world through their sport and the lives they lead on and off the playing field. These two areas are interconnected in ways that may not be apparent at first glance but, in reality, cannot be separated.
In our hero-worshiping nation, one man had a revolutionary idea 63 years ago. He said, “If athletes can endorse shaving cream, razor blades and cigarettes, surely they can endorse the Lord, too.” So Don McClanen, the founder of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), formed an organization that would help Christians strengthen their faith so they could serve as role models for the youth and athletes of our nation. He knew that faith was critical to sound thinking, decision-making and guiding people of all ages to a life of true freedom.
I have been blessed to live my life in sports through the Fellowship of Christian Athletes for the past 25 years to help bring the life-changing message of Christ to those who may have never heard about the true freedom He offers. As a husband, father, coach and athlete, God has used faith teaching to grow and change my life, marriage and family in many positive ways. Every aspect of my life is a testament to the impact the Lord can make through a God-centered sports organization like FCA.
I became a Christ-follower as a Fellowship of Christian Athletes camper in 1985 at Black Mountain FCA Camp in North Carolina. I was mentored in my faith by a coach and also served as a Camp Huddle Leader. I then followed God’s calling into coaching where I witnessed many lives changed by the Lord through the ministry. I joined FCA as a staff member in 2002, and now I can say what an honor it is to lead FCA as the first president to come from field staff. I am blessed to interact with our 1,500 staff around the world who are committed to keeping our eyes fixed on Christ, the Author and Perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:1-2).
Through FCA, we also have the privilege to see Christ’s impact on some of the greatest sports leaders of our generation. For example, Dabo Swinney, Clemson University’s football coach and friend of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, shared with FCA about his faith and last season’s journey to the national title. Dabo is one of the best examples of how one man’s faith in Jesus Christ has made a difference not only in his own life but in countless players’ lives and in the lives of millions of fans.
After the 2016 College Football Playoff National Championship Game in Tampa, with 74,512 roaring fans inside Raymond James Stadium, and more than 26 million more watching on TV, Mr. Swinney said: “Only God can do this. If anybody thinks anything different, they’re really missing it. This is nothing that I’ve done. Truly, only God can write a script like this.”
“As great as that moment was in Tampa,” Mr. Swinney told FCA Magazine’s editor Clay Meyer, “it pales in comparison to the journey it took to get there. It’s always how you get there.”
Our magazine editor Clay added, “[Dabo’s] childhood was not easy, coming from a broken home and struggling with a difficult relationship with his father. But throughout the difficulties that no young man should face, Swinney found peace in Jesus. He began attending an FCA Huddle at his Alabama high school, and, in 1986, gave his life to the Lord after attending an FCA meeting. Jesus never promised that the life of the Christian would be easy, but today, Dabo Swinney puts his faith in Christ in all things”
In eight seasons at Clemson, Mr. Swinney has led the Tigers to eight straight bowl games, two consecutive national championship games and the school’s first title since 1981. And Mr. Swinney gives all of his success and the glory to God.
“I think God has honored the way we’ve done things,” Mr. Swinney says. “I believe that with all my heart. That’s why I said what I said: ‘Only God can do this.’ We serve a big God — big, powerful — and He’s real, and I know that. To experience what I’ve experienced is surreal, but it’s comforting because I know that He is (real). I know He loves us. We’re imperfect people, but I know God has a plan, and I just try to live my life in a way that can hopefully be an encouragement to others.”
The cultivation of Christian principles by FCA in local communities and nationwide is accomplished by encouraging, equipping and empowering others to serve as examples and to make a difference in sport and in all areas of life. Reaching approximately 2 million people annually on the professional, college, high school, junior high and youth levels, FCA Values are the at the core of the ministry.
Relationships with coaches and athletes demonstrate steadfast commitment to Jesus Christ and His Word through the four FCA Values:
• Integrity: We will demonstrate Christ-like wholeness, privately and publicly. (Proverbs 11:3)
• Serving: We will model Jesus’ example of serving. (John 13:1-17)
• Teamwork: We will express our unity in Christ in all our relation- ships. (Philippians 2:1-4)
• Excellence: We will honor and glorify God in all we do. (Colossians 3:23-24)
There is One who makes all things possible, who changes lives and who blesses and protects those who follow Him. And He even does this through the exciting world of sports, reaching coaches, athletes and fans around the globe.
• Shane Williamson is the President of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. For information on how to bring FCA to your school or campus, visit www.FCA.org where FCA camps, FCA gear and FCA events can also be found.