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  • Coaches and Christians: Press On

    Jan 6, 2011

    It is said that nothing, except death and taxes, is certain in life. Added to that list of absolutes in our results-driven society should be the numerous coaching changes that occur annually like clockwork. Due to the big business atmosphere that collegiate and professional sports offers, it is no wonder that coaches are held to a seemingly unfair performance standard of perfection.

    When teams inevitably fail to meet the high expectations of fans, boosters, and alums alike, the proverbial rope of grace becomes tightened. And with so much money, for so many people at stake, that rope often becomes a noose for coaches and their staff, inescapably signaling the end of yet another coaching regime.

    Similar to coaches, as Christians, we’re called to strive for the high goal of perfection. The Gospel of Matthew (5:48) sets the gold standard, “…Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect…” For mortal man, this seems unobtainable, and in many ways it is. Fortunately for our frailty, in contrast to the grace period oft given to coaches, the apostle Paul conveys that God continually offers an arm of grace to the genuinely repentant individual. And so we too, regardless of our failings, must exemplify the model of Paul, “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on…”

  • Heisman Winner Cam Newton: Hope it’s not True

    Dec 17, 2010

    College football has long been synonymous with big business. Lucrative television contracts, corporate sponsorships, conference profit sharing, coaching endorsements, merchandising, concessions, luxury suites, seat licensing, stadium naming rights and multi-million dollar bowl appearance payouts—there is nothing “non-profit” about the game.

    So it is no wonder that the collegiate landscape has long been tainted before the allegations ever surfaced surrounding Auburn’s Heisman trophy winner Cam Newton. Most recently, before Newton, was another Heisman inductee—who has since returned the reward—former University of Southern California (USC) standout, Reggie Bush. Prior to USC, there have been multiple programs that were reprimanded by the NCAA for illegally alluring recruits, most notably of which was Southern Methodist University (SMU). In the 1980s, SMU saw their football program cease operations for two years—receiving the ‘death penalty'—for multiple incidents surrounding the illegal payment of players. And even prior to WWII, William and Mary found itself in scandals revolving around transcript adjustments that directly made players eligible to play and receive academic scholarships that were unearned.

    For every school, coach, and player that was convicted for operating illegally, there are many more that are left undetected. Some critics would say, “If you’re not cheating, you’re not trying, and thus you won’t be competitive.” And though the NCAA has recently become more strict in its due diligence, as long as there is money and imperfect people, there will always be controversy, greed and unethical business practices in an attempt to “get ahead.”

    So for the Christian, how do we proceed? In 1 Timothy we are urged to “be above reproach.” Regardless of what others do on the field of competition or in the boardroom at the office, it’s imperative to live blamelessly, knowing that you’re ultimately responsible to God. Because, regardless of success or not, His opinion is the only one that truly matters.

    So congratulations Cam Newton on a phenomenal year, but regarding the surrounding defamatory allegations—we are hoping it’s not true.

  • Preseason bonding helps Flyers soccer to NCAA berth

    Dec 8, 2010

    Team forged chemistry during a preseason stay at the Athletes in Action facility in Xenia.

    By Doug Harris, Staff Writer

    Updated 12:03 PM Tuesday, November 9, 2010

    Most coaches would prefer not to start a season with a road trip, but Mike Tucker, the University of Dayton women’s soccer coach, thought the best decision he made all year was loading his players on a bus back in August and getting them out of town.

    Because UD’s preseason camp opened before campus housing was ready, the Flyers spent a couple of days at the Athletes in Action facility in Xenia. And the chemistry forged on that get-away helped propel them to an Atlantic 10 title and an NCAA tournament berth.

    “We would all eat together, all practice together and all do different activities together,” said junior star Kathleen Beljan. “And even in our down time ... because we were at that camp, we all just hung out as opposed to going our separate ways. It brought us close together.”

    That unity certainly will come in handy when the Flyers (18-3) begin NCAA tourney play against Virginia Tech (10-9-1) at Ohio State at about 7:30 p.m. Friday. OSU (14-4-1), the Big Ten co-champ, plays Northeast Conference winner St. Francis (15-4-2) in the first game of the doubleheader at 5 p.m.

    The Hokies, one of eight ACC teams in the field of 64, eliminated the Flyers from the tourney last season in a second-round game at Baujan Field. UD dropped a 1-0 regular-season decision at home to the Buckeyes this season.

    Tucker, who has led the Flyers to seven NCAA berths in 16 years, doesn’t consider the trip to the AIA grounds a stroke of genius, calling it instead “dumb luck” because UD’s campus was closed.

    He’s glad it was.

    “When you come to camp that early, you have one group here, another group there,” he said. “They all got to know each other. They all got to spend a lot more time together than they would have otherwise. That was big. We’re going to try to do that every year now.”

    Contact this writer at (937) 225-2125 or

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  • A Spiritually Rich Movement is Thriving in Poverty-stricken Moldova

    Dec 7, 2010


    Poverty, despair, and lack of resources have been prevalent in the country of Moldova. Being listed as one of the poorest countries in Europe, Moldova has experienced serious hardships throughout the years. However, Moldova is one of the fastest developing countries for Campus Crusades for Christ, and especially for Athletes in Action.

    AIA Moldova is running several major projects throughout the European continent, showcasing the true message of Jesus Christ. Currently Ghena M.*, a dynamic, faithful man of God, is leader of this developing ministry. Since its beginning in 2002, AIA Moldova has been actively hosting events and camps for athletes. They are responsible for major basketball and football camps, tournaments, and the most recent: Character in Sport, SonRise Netherlands, and Total Athlete conferences and projects held this year.

    Moldova has a lot to look forward to in the future: “Three weeks ago, I and my colleagues met with the Minister of Sport. After he learned about our organization and what we can offer the world of sports, he redirected us to the Olympians Training Center (OTC). After a brief conversation with the head of OTC, we now have a verbal agreement on a long-term partnership, where AIA Moldova runs the Total Athlete seminars for all coaches, athletes and doctors of the Olympic sports in Moldova! Is it not a blessing!” Ghena exclaims. “Also, since 2010, all new AIA staff members are trained in sports ministry. In addition to this change, we have prepared a course for students and key volunteers. We call the course ‘Faith in Action.’ I think this is an incredible achievement for our ministry, as we have adapted the material for athletes, and we are those who teach the course rather than somebody from outside the ministry.”

    “God has prepared for us what we cannot even imagine”

    We asked Ghena about his experiences with AIA and what he has gained from working with Athletes in Action. “Being part of the sport ministry is a big responsibility, because not only do your physical area and even intellectual areas matter, it is very important how you mature as a Christian. It's obvious who you are when you perform on the sport field. People can immediately see what a person you are, because the stress is much higher than outside of sport. I believe that God has prepared for us what we cannot even imagine—1 Corinthians 2:9. So I believe that is still to come!”

    By Ronald Woodland, AIA communications intern

    *AIA does not publish last names of staff members.

  • Odds are against Oden

    Nov 22, 2010

    Recently, I was watching highlights from ESPN and my heart began to break as I watched injury-prone Portland Trailblazer’s Greg Oden carted off on a stretcher, an all-too familiar scene that will end yet another promising season for the big man due to reconstructive surgery.

    Life is a fickle thing. At one moment you can be on top of the mountain and at the next you find yourself stuck in the valleys. Oden has lived this paradox.

    After playing a promising collegiate freshman season—playing for a national championship—Oden was atop the sporting world, seemingly having his dreams come true. Touted as the best promising big man to play in decades, he was drafted as the first overall pick in the 2007 NBA draft—ahead of Oklahoma Thunder’s star Kevin Durant, a current MVP candidate in the league. Since then, Oden has lived in the valleys of life as chronic injuries have plagued his playing time, sidelining him for more than 176 games over the course of three seasons, and leaving his critics to wonder “What if?”

    Now maybe you can relate with Oden to some degree. Maybe you find yourself filled with disappointment and unfulfilled longings. Maybe you were granted the job of your dreams, just to have an unexpected terminal illness render you bankrupt. Maybe you were given a coveted promotion, just to be unemployed weeks later. Maybe you have hoped for years to conceive, just to miscarry. Maybe you married the love of your life, just to tragically lose them in the following months.

    Life is filled with “What if?” moments. And even though it is part of the healing process, the questioning is unfortunately pointless to ponder too long. Inevitably it leads to nothing of benefit. Sure, everyone wants to enjoy the mountain-top experience: the view is much better, the air is much cleaner, and the perspective is much clearer. But few realize that the vegetation is found in the valleys—that is where the most growth occurs.

    So the next time you’re tempted to consider “What if?”, choose instead to consider “What now?” Because as Ecclesiastes tells us, it’s not wise to ask, “Why were the old days better than these?”

  • Tide’s Katie Hancock ‘living a dream’ at Alabama

    Nov 19, 2010

    By Allyson Angle Special to The Tuscaloosa News

    Published: Wednesday, November 17, 2010 at 3:30 a.m.

    TUSCALOOSA | Katie Hancock said she was in organized basketball as soon as she could be, by age 5 or 6.

    “I might have come out of the womb playing basketball,” Hancock said.

    Hancock, a senior forward on the University of Alabama basketball team, said her family has old photos with her brothers holding big teddy bears when they were asleep, and she is holding a basketball.

    Growing up with two older brothers made her competitive.

    Jon-Jon played baseball for Ole Miss and was a member of the Rebels’ 2006 SEC championship team. Her oldest brother, Josh, pitched for Auburn’s College World Series team and professionally for the St. Louis Cardinals before he died in a car accident less than a year after the Cardinals won the World Series in 2006. Their father played Division II basketball at Delta State.

    Katie got the athletic gene, too.

    From Tupelo, Miss., which is between Oxford and Starkville, Katie figured she would go to Ole Miss or Mississippi State.

    “I always wanted to play in college, but it was kind of a stretch for me to play SEC basketball,” Hancock said.

    When neither of those schools, or any other SEC school, offered her a scholarship, Jon-Jon sent tape of Katie to the coaches at Alabama.

    The Crimson Tide called and she made an unofficial visit. UA didn’t have a scholarship to offer, but she came anyway. She fell in love and the coaches welcomed her to walk on the team for the next year.

    Within a week of being on campus, Hancock had earned a scholarship.

    “It was extremely fortunate,” Hancock said. “I’m living my dream ... and it’s humbling to play with people like Ericka (Russell) and Tierney (Jenkins), who have so much talent.”

    Hancock said the team at Alabama became like an extended family, especially after stepped onto campus just six weeks after her brother Josh died.

    “I felt like all my support system had been cut off and I was struggling to find something to hang on to, but the team just embraced me and they were my family and still are,” Hancock said. “Twenty years down the road I might not remember any of these games, but all of these girls will be at my wedding.”

    Katie graduated in August, earning her degree in business management in three years. Before graduation in August, she went to Pueblo, Mexico, for three weeks with an organization called Athletes in Action, which forms a basketball team with girls from all over the country.

    “It was a ton of fun,” Hancock said. “It was really good for me because I think I had lost the passion to play basketball and then I went on this mission trip and it kind of just reignited me, and now I’m having a blast.

    “I’m not fast and I’m not quick, but I’m a hard worker and I can pick up basketball pretty well.”

    Alabama coach Wendell Hudson agrees.

    “She’s not the ‘Rah-rah’ type,” he said. “She’s the type of leader that will come and work hard everyday and expect everyone else to work hard.”

    To see the original story go to:

  • Not Your Ordinary Ministry

    Nov 11, 2010

    The – University of Wisconsin (4,700 U.S. monthly unique visitors per Quantcast)

    By Allen Knappenberber, Nov. 10, 2010

    What is present in 85 countries, on nearly 125 U.S. college campuses, and on 35 U.S. professional sports teams? The answer is Athletes in Action, or more commonly known as AIA.

    Since 1966, AIA has been a world leader and innovator in the sport ministry. The organization exists to help change lives on a spiritual and athletic level not only in the locker rooLeft to Right: Danielle Grey, Josh Miller, and Megan Krusenstjerna meet to discuss upcoming ‘Athletes in Action’ events for the semester. The group meets Wednesday nights at 9 p.m. in 337 Cartwright.m but also in the community.

    AIA speaks the language of sport. A language that shatters barriers, surpasses differences, and touches even the non-athletic. More than 500 staff members, countless volunteers, and thousands of athletes stand together to share one message: Life's greatest victory is found in a relationship with Jesus Christ.

    AIA brings the concept of Jesus and his message of victory into the hearts, homes, and communities of millions around the globe.

    UW-La Crosse is just one of many college campuses that is host to such an organization. AIA is a Bible study with the motto, "Changed lives" that is geared toward athletes. But student leaders on campus try to invite anyone and everyone to the weekly meetings.

    Community team leader Kelly Kirchmeyer is able to see the rewarding aspects of the group manifest themselves each week. "I just feel there is great fellowship and bonding. Getting to know other people's insights on God's word is the true reward," said Kirchmeyer.

    But she isn't the only one who thinks AIA is a life-changing experience. In his three years of being a leader of the weekly meetings and manager of the discipleship team, Josh Miller feels that the meetings challenge him both spiritually and mentally. "You are always learning something new," said Miller. "Whether it is a guest speaker or preparing the Bible study for the week, there is always a new dynamic that unfolds."

    AIA is more than just a Bible study geared towards athletics. This group participates with campus wide events and fundraisers that anyone can attend. Campus Crusade staff member Mark Ducklow, who works directly with the leaders and members of AIA, commented on his favorite event--the 3 v. 3 basketball tournament hosted each March.

    It is a great opportunity where, "People can have fun playing basketball," said Ducklow. "What they don't know is that through this, AIA is raising money to buy mosquito nets for the people of Africa." These nets help fight off mosquitoes that may be carrying malaria or any other sort of disease.

    The big seller for fundraising comes from haunting a local corn maze in West Salem. Hidden Trails Corn Maze has asked AIA to help them in their haunting for over six years. Members are happy to contribute time and energy to help local communities. "It's fun to get together outside of the group and learn about people on a more personal level," said Miller. The haunting of the maze takes place every year the weekend before Halloween and Halloween weekend.

    Not only do the members of AIA plan fundraisers but they enjoy spending time together outside of the organization. Members try to get to any sporting event UW-L puts on and cheer on the Eagles. They have a passion for sports and through that they want to tell others about what God can do in sports and in your life. They are just regular college students with a desire to grow in their sport spiritually, mentally, and physically. Having fun seems to be a key priority to those involved with this organization.

    The primary goal of this group is to give people an opportunity to encounter Jesus, to help them walk and grow in their faith, and to help others find Jesus in their lives.

    A typical meeting for AIA consists of announcements, a sport blooper video, an icebreaker, prayer, and then a Bible discussion. Often special speakers will come in and give their testimony or insight into God's word. Recently former Wisconsin Badger football player Luke Swan came in and talked about our significance in this world. With over 40 members, it is the perfect spot to come relax, hang out, and chat with a small group of people about what you believe in.

    AIA meets at 9:00 p.m. every Wednesday in room 337 of Cartwright Center. People of all backgrounds and denominations are welcome to attend. It is completely free to become a member.

  • Michael Vick: On the Wings of Eagles

    Oct 7, 2010

    Resurging. Rejuvenating. Restoring.  Those adjectives have surprisingly been used to redefine the career of Philadelphia Eagles’ quarterback Michael Vick throughout the NFL’s 2010 campaign.

    After his tumultuous fall from grace, as one of the premier athletes in the world, many considered Michael Vick as just another talented athlete who sadly squandered his God-given abilities and foolishly sabotaged his finances and brought on his own demise. But this story doesn’t end there. After humbly serving his time—both in the literal sense of his months of incarceration, and the figurative sense of serving as second and third string quarterback—Michael Vick has emerged renewed—heartily committed, heroic in the heat of the game, and a spokesman for the Humane Society. 

    Regardless if you are offering cheers or jeers for Michael Vick, he has silently taught many spectators a lesson:  you can lose what you’ve worked for in the blink of an eye, but even so, that doesn’t have to be the end all. The principle of reciprocity notes that there are consequences for every action—whether good or bad. And while sometimes the world is less likely to offer forgiveness for acts of redemption, Vick has shown that sometimes you are granted a second chance in life. And in that, it is imperative to make the most of each moment you’re given and to “do the right thing” no matter how you are received.

  • Michael Redd Partners with Athletes in Action and City Life in Columbus, Ohio

    Oct 6, 2010

    Michael Redd with Columbus kids

    “Was this about what you expected tonight?” I asked Jack, director of the City Life urban ministry center. “No. This is by far the most people we’ve ever had here. I can’t thank you and AIA and Michael enough for this,” Jack replied.

    It was the evening of August 21 as Jack and I stood in the gymnasium at the City Life Center watching as more than 400 people departed from the evening’s outreach event. That day around 20 of the student-athletes involved in Athletes in Action at The Ohio State University partnered with NBA all-star and Olympic gold medalist Michael Redd and his ministry, The Wave, to reach out to urban Columbus. Michael purchased 500 backpacks and a number of gift cards to distribute to kids and families at four sites around the city. At each site the students prayed for and talked with people who stopped by.

    At one apartment complex, Taylor (track) and Corey (ice hockey) made a sign that said “Stop for Prayer” and stood on the road to attract people. Two 20-something girls saw the sign and pulled in with tears of sorrow in their eyes. After the girls shared the reason for their sadness, the AIA students prayed for them and then talked to them about what it means to have faith in Jesus Christ. Both girls then pDSC_0322 (2)rayed and asked Christ to come into their lives to be their Lord and Savior.

    At the City Life center—the final stop for the day—they served a meal to people from the Franklinton community, one of the most impoverished and crime-stricken neighborhoods in Ohio. Over 400 people showed up see Michael Redd and receive a free meal and free backpacks. Jack and the City Life staff were astounded by the number of people.

    Michael then delivered a message about his life growing up in that community and how Jesus has given him hope. Nearly 90 people stood to their feet to acknowledge their desire to learn more about a relationship with Jesus. Again the AIA students had an opportunity to pray with these people and to tell them the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ.

    The day served as a brilliant picture of how AIA seeks to minister to and throughDSC_0213 (2) athletes. Michael showed the student-athletes that it is truly possible to be a star athlete, walk with God, and use your influence for the glory of God. And the AIA OSU athletes showed the city of Columbus the love of Christ in some real, tangible ways. More significantly, we were able to partner with City Life, a dynamic urban ministry that is already established in doing significant long-term work in Franklinton. (Check them out online at The AIA student athletes at OSU hope to have similar partnership opportunities in the future.

    By Jamie B., Athletes in Action staff member at The Ohio State University

  • FCA/AIA Ministry Thriving at NC State

    Sep 28, 2010

    RALEIGH — The pack of NC State athletes who strolled into Case Dining Hall didn’t break for the buffet line.

    Instead, they huddled in a corner of the cafeteria, seeking food for the soul. They were there, males and females, for the weekly meeting of FCAIA — a partnering ministry of Athletes In Action and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

    Amid the sound of upbeat music, they snacked, chatted, laughed and engaged in a competitive ice-breaking game. Then director Russ Throckmorton, drawing from Psalm 66, announced: “Come and listen to what God has done!”

    Moments later Wolfpack women’s basketball player Hannah Halteman and student weight-trainer Dave Overman shared how their faith grew through Athletes In Action excursions this past summer.

    Halteman spent a week in an Ultimate Training Camp at Ft.  Collins, Col., a physically demanding, spiritually enriching experience. She explained how God revealed “He is more than enough; He gives you everything you need,” however monumental life's challenges might be.

    Overman, renewed and enlightened by a mission trip to East Asia, encouraged his peers to “go against the grain,” be strong and adhere to biblical teachings rather than succumb to temptations of the world.

    Overman and Halteman, along with football players Asa Watson and Zach Powell, baseball player Ryan Mathews and women’s soccer players Jordan Edwards and Paige Dugal, are on NC State’s FCAIA student leaders team.

    They’re part of a growing campus ministry led by Throckmorton -- a former Kentucky swimmer and football player -- and his wife, Mary, who played on one of North Carolina’s national championship women’s soccer teams.


    “We just want to be a spiritual resource and blessing in the athletics department (to) every athlete, coach, manager, trainer, administrator and help them develop spiritually,’’ said Russ, adding that support from NC State coaches has been tremendous.

    In addition to the weekly meeting, Russ leads Bible studies, one for coaches and administrators, and others for athletes. Mary has facilitated studies for women and trains  student leaders. The couple, parents of a five-month-old son, do one-to-one ministering as well.

    They’ve also made their home, located four miles from campus, a convenient haven — or refuge — for athletes who just want to hang out, relax,  discuss a problem, or get guidance.

    It’s a continuation of the spiritual emphasis on NC State's athletic scene. The FCA and AIA have long had a presence on campus.. The ministries merged several years ago at the suggestion of former athletic director Lee Fowler, a Christian who strongly supported the organizations.

    “The last two years, we’ve seen a movement (with) numerous lives changed,’’ Russ said.


    Women’s soccer player Alex Berger, whose family is part Jewish, committed to the Christian faith last spring. She noted that defining moment: "May 14th."

    Her new faith journey began after meeting the Throckmortons, whom she calls “incredible people.”

    “God definitely worked through (Mary) to help me find Christ,’’ Berger said. “She helped me work through a lot of problems, and find my way. It has completely changed my outlook on life. I live my life entirely differently.”

    Berger wondered how some of her family members would react.

    “I had to make the decision for me; I’m growing more and more,’’ added Berger, who attends the FCAIA huddles and several weekly Bible studies.

    Zach Powell, a senior reserve defensive back on the Wolfpack football team, says his time with the Throckmortons and FCAIA has strengthened his faith the past two years.

    “They’ve grown me tremendously,’’ Powell said of his spiritual leaders. “The big thing, (FCAIA) applies God to sports, puts God in terms I understand. They (Throckmortons) taught me who God is … and how I can share Him through sports.”


    Like some of the athletes he serves, Russ Throckmorton — widely known as “Throck” — underwent a spiritual revival seven years ago while in college.

    Though having grown up in church, he veered away and hit the party scene his first two years at Kentucky. During that time Throckmorton said he tried to satisfy his life through dating relationships, academics, and athletic success, yet still felt a void. Then he made a turn around, thanks in large part to Brett Nathaniel, UK’s Athletes In Action leader.

    “He really loved me, cared about me,’’ Throckmorton said. “I saw his life and heart, what he was truly about. He  hounded me to go to the Ultimate Training Camp (at Ft. Collins). There I heard the story of the Bible through the language of sports. It clicked for me.

    “I met my Savior there. I met my wife there. When I came back to Kentucky I had the mindset that I had to tell everybody about Jesus,’’ added Throckmorton, who started Bible studies on campus.

    Throckmorton, who had planned to become a dentist, and Mary got married in 2006. The couple then spent two years in training at AIA headquarters in Xenia, Ohio, before getting the call to serve at NC State in 2008.

    Mary was familiar with the area. After winning National Gatorade High School Soccer Player of the Year  honors in Lakewood, Col., she played four years for UNC’s national powerhouse and  earned All-ACC Academic honors.

    “She’s the athlete of the family," said Russ, but both are committed to the same higher calling.

    “Our motivation is to change lives for the sake of the gospel,’’ Russ said. “We hope to raise student leaders and volunteers in the Raleigh community. When (the NC State) students leave, we want them to influence the world for Christ.”

    By A.J. Carr, a freelance writer in Raleigh, N.C., and columnist for the NC State Wolfpack.