The sporting landscape in today’s culture has become a place of worship where sports stars are more recognizable and famous than most other professions. Many in our society idolize these individuals for better or for worse. This can create an imbalance of priorities for many coaches and impressionable amateur athletes where they miss the most valuable lessons sports can teach us.
Back in 1954, Don McClanen, the founder of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), made the same observations regarding the influence of sports on societal culture. He said he was inspired to combine his love for the Lord and sports into a sports ministry.
Fifty-eight years later, FCA has grown into the world’s leading faith funded sports ministry. The organization focuses on the Four C’s of Ministry: Coaches, Campus, Camps and Community. In 2011, 7,034 coaches attended FCA Bible studies and more than 300,000 students were reached on 7,916 campuses across America. More than 52,000 athletes attended camps in 39 states and 24 countries while their Fields of Faith program had more than 160,000 students participate on 475 fields across the nation.
Frederick County FCA hired its first dedicated area representative in January 2011. I had the privilege to sit down with Chris Rich and ask him a few questions.
Mellott: What do you do for FCA?
Rich: As the Frederick County FCA director, I oversee and seek to serve the coaches and athletes in Frederick County with the gospel of Jesus Christ. I oversee and provide resources to every public high school, middle school and college that meet in Frederick County. In addition, I coordinate coach’s huddles throughout the county. The huddles are place for coaches to come together and learn how to coach the heart of the athlete and use their influence as God intended.
Mellott: Why do you like working for FCA?
Rich: I absolutely love working in the FCA ministry to help coaches and athletes understand how their faith can be a part of everything they do. Waking up every day and having the opportunity to teach character and godly principles is truly a gift. I feel so fortunate to impact coaches and athletes with these principles, knowing they will carry them throughout their life.
Mellott: How can FCA help an athlete?
Rich: There are so many stresses on young athletes today. At FCA, our goal is to come alongside each of them to provide hope that is bigger than sports. As we pour into athletes they begin to see that there is someone who loves them beyond their performance and that weight is lifted off their shoulders. We work hard to teach our young athletes about what it means to have character, challenge them to choose a path of integrity and be different than the mainstream athletes that we see. As a Christian competitor you are called to be different and a light for Christ in all that you do, and that is what we strive to teach.
Mellott: How can FCA help a coach?
Rich: Coaches are some of the most spiritually neglected people in the world. In FCA, we seek to serve the coach right were they are. It’s all about getting to know the coach; it’s relational. My goal is to come alongside them, walk with them and love them no matter what. At FCA we speak the language of sport in the context of Faith. We understand the impact of a coach and the platform from which they work. Billy Graham said: “A coach influences more people in one year than the average man does in a lifetime.” In FCA we want to reach the heart of the coach so that they can, in turn, change the lives and hearts of the athletes they influence. Our goal is to help the coach understand how they can coach the heart of the athlete and not just the scoreboard by walking alongside them through the ups and downs of competition. All the while bringing them hope in all that they do and how God has them right where they are for a reason.
For more information, go to www.frederickfca.org.
Editor’s Note: Timothy Mellott is an active Urbana community member who founded the Southern Frederick County Youth Athletic Facilities, coaches Predators Wrestling, and is an FCA Character Coach at Urbana and Seneca Valley High Schools. Mellott lives in Ijamsville with his wife, Beth Ann, and son, Parker.