Maybe it’s the vuvuzelas—the South African horns that filled the air with continual excitement and an atmosphere of competition. Maybe it’s the 32 countries that unify and comprise the field. Maybe it’s the creation of an icon. Maybe it’s the hunt for heroics and last-second comebacks. Maybe it’s the pursuit of a dream. Maybe it’s the epitome of success and failure at the highest level and on the biggest stage. Maybe it’s taking part in something bigger than yourself. Maybe it’s the passion, prestige and pride of a nation.
Whatever it is that fuels the fire of the fan-following, and ignites the love of the spectacle known as the World Cup, it is noteworthy. Some argue that the World Cup is the largest event in all of sports—rivaling the Olympics. Though some may teeter on the fine line of being an enthusiast or an extremist of the beautiful game, but at the core of it all is a deep fervor that isn’t present in our daily living.
Too often we stroll through life drudgingly, and seemingly lifeless. At work we merely punch the clock. At the grocery store, we attempt to go unnoticed. On the bus we try to minimize our superficial conversations and keep to ourselves. At home we simply eat, sleep, and run through the rat race of life again—with little or no genuine concern for others as we pass through this world.
But athletics, most notably the World Cup, provide an example to emulate. Sports provide a medium in which emotion is evoked and life is lived. Colossians 3:23 says, “Whatever you do, do it with all your heart…” Therefore, may we transcend social norms and start to live. May we take the examples of the fans of the World Cup, bottle the emotion, and apply that same passion in our daily living. May we be intentional with our families. May we be vulnerable, open, and pliable to our friendships. May we be encouragers of strangers. May we refuse to be lifeless any longer. May we be considerate in our conversations and commitments. May we no longer allow trivial and petty issues to rob our strength and energy. May we be an example for others this day, this hour, this moment.
Athletes in Action volleyball is running a Volleyball Training Weekend July 29 to August 1 for all women volleyball players who will be incoming college freshman, college and post college players, who want to improve their game.
The weekend is designed to bring volleyball players from across the nation together to develop as leaders, learn to connect playing volleyball with personal faith and worship of God, and to meet other players who want to grow in their relationship with God.
Start time is Thursday, July 29 at 6:30 p.m. at the Athletes in Action headquarters in Xenia, Ohio. The end time will be Sunday, August 1 at 11 a.m. Total cost of $145 includes lodging, food, materials and local transportation (it does not include air fare).
The Web site is: http://www.wix.com/samaritano/AIA-Volleyball-Training-Weekend.
Athletes in Action Headquarters 651 Taylor Drive, Xenia Ohio 45385 Phone: 937-352-1000
Front page photo by Guy Gerrard
By Joe Pavlish
07 . June . 2010
Athletes in Action will be in South Africa during the World Cup June 11-July 11 taking opportunity for outreaches like The Prize DVD distribution.
This summer, soccer will once again bring different groups of people together when South Africa hosts the FIFA World Cup from June 11-July 11.
FIFA, the international soccer federation, holds a worldwide soccer tournament every 4 years. This year, the top 32 teams in the world will compete for the 19th FIFA World Cup, the pinnacle of soccer achievement.
With the World Cup coming to town, Athletes in Action (AIA) in South Africa is gearing up by:
AIA South Africa Director Chris Dirks said that the goal is not just to reach the athletes.
“The vision that we’re setting before them is we want to see the 4th generation,” he said referring to Paul's letter to Timothy. “The goal is not to just start a Bible study, but to find reliable men in the study.”
Paul wrote, “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others" (2 Timothy 2:2).
Outreach Tools You Can Use (Whether in South Africa or on Your Couch)
About the life of legendary UCLA Men’s Basketball Coach John Wooden: What’s to write, that hasn’t yet been written?
During his 99 years, he won far more than an unprecedented 10 national championships or an 88-game consecutive win streak—that is yet to be broken. He epitomized character and personified godly values.
Raised on a small farm in south-central Indiana, he took the Christian principles instilled in him growing up in the Midwest to the limelight and the campus of UCLA. To his own admission, he humbly considered himself, “…just a common man true to his beliefs…”
Well…Coach Wooden, unfortunately there is nothing common about a man true to his beliefs. But you, with authenticity and authority, more so than any other sports icon in modern day history, showed us how to live right. Thank you for sharing the wisdom your garnered: think clearly, have love in your heart for your fellowman, be honest, and trust in God.
Thank you for sharing and modeling the creed your dad gave you:
1. Be true to yourself.
2. Help others.
3. Make each day your masterpiece.
4. Drink deeply from good books, especially the Bible.
5. Make friendship a fine art.
6. Build a shelter against a rainy day.
7. Pray for guidance and count and give thanks for your blessings every day.
Thank you for developing The Pyramid of Success. This practical tool has served in a far greater capacity than you ever envisioned. Thank you for providing a true north to which we can align our definitions of success that supersedes possessions, prestige, or positions of power. Thank you for by being a a man of value. Thank you for your legacy, your lessons, and your life.
Thank you for teaching us how to die, by showing us how to live.
When our moment on earth inevitably comes to a close, may we—like you, with an assurance of an eternal hope—utter the verse of 1 Corinthians 15:55, “Where oh death is your sting?”
Coach Wooden: A name revered in the history of basketball, in the history of sport; a name synonymous with winning, and doing so with integrity. But for those who had the privilege of knowing Coach Wooden beyond basketball, it was clear that what made him a champion was much deeper than his success on the basketball court.
As a child in rural Indiana, Coach Wooden had humble beginnings. When he graduated from a country elementary school after eighth grade, he received two priceless mementos from his father, Joshua Wooden. First, his father gave him a two-dollar bill and told him as long as he had that two-dollar bill, he would never be broke. Coach still had the two-dollar bill when he died. Second, he gave him a three-by-five card. On one side of the card was written a poem by Reverend Henry Van Dyke, which read:
Four things a man must learn to do
If he would make his life more true:
To think without confusion clearly,
To love his fellow man sincerely,
To act from honest motives purely,
To trust God and Heaven securely.
On the other side of the card, his father had written seven simple rules to follow for a successful life:
1. Be true to yourself
2. Help others
3. Make each day your masterpiece
4. Drink deeply from good books – especially the Bible
5. Make friendship a fine art
6. Build a shelter against a rainy day (faith in God)
7. Pray for guidance and counsel and give thanks for your blessings each day
Many parents give their children gifts, but with little money available, Joshua Wooden had a better idea; he gave his son wisdom that would last a lifetime.
Coach Wooden and Athletes in Action
In 1997, in a partnership effort between Athletes in Action and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, the Legends of the Hardwood Breakfast was born. The plan was to present an award annually to a member of the basketball world honoring character, integrity and faith in the game of basketball. Who better to model the award after than Coach John Wooden?
In talking to Coach Wooden about the desire to make him the namesake for this award, he was very humble and didn’t want his name to be lifted up, but rather, he desired the focus to be on character traits. After much thought and discussion, the Coach Wooden “Keys to Life” award was born, featuring the seven simple principles given to Coach Wooden by his father many years before.
Since the commencement of the Legends of the Hardwood Breakfast in 1997, and the “Keys to Life” Award in 1998, 13 men of character in the basketball world, have been presented with the award:
1998 - Coach Marv Harshman – Hall of Fame
1999 - A.C. Green – former NBA All-Star
2000 - Jerry Colangelo – chairman of USA Basketball
2001 - Junior Bridgeman – NBA veteran – Louisville Final Four
2002 – Mark Price – NBA All-Star
2003 – Clark Kellogg – CBS lead analyst for college basketball
2004 – David Robinson – NBA MVP
2005 – Bobby Jones – NBA champion 76ers – UNC Final Four
2006 – Lorenzo Romar – head coach U. of Washington
2007 – Jim Haney – executive director NABC
2008 – Hubert Davis – ESPN college basketball analyst – UNC Final Four
2009 - David Thompson – NBA All-Star – Basketball Hall of Fame
2010 – Coach Don Meyer – Northern State University – 2009 ESPY award winner
For six straight years, Coach Wooden was present at the Legends of the Hardwood Breakfast to present the award. Many times after that, his daughter Nan was at the event in his place, to present the award.
In addition to the “Keys to Life” Award, Coach Wooden’s connection to Athletes in Action has included:
~ Color commentary, along with Billy Packer, for the AIA basketball team’s televised games in the 1976 season.
~ Use of his name for the future AIA basketball training facility, to be named the “Wooden Family Field House.”
~ Ralph Drollinger, a player for UCLA for Coach Wooden’s last championship game played for AIA for several years.
~ Meet My Head Coach – a pamphlet that shares Coach Wooden’s thoughts on a game plan for basketball and a game plan for life.
Coach Wooden will likely forever hold the title of the best basketball coach of all time. But more important than his ability to win basketball games was his ability to leave a mark on the lives of all he touched—his players, his fans, and even those who just knew him from afar.
Coach Wooden, your wisdom, loyalty, and genuine care will be deeply missed. You were a true gentleman.
by Megan Soderberg
Reflections on Coach Wooden…
Eric Nelson, Director of Sports Team, Athletes in Action:
I had the opportunity to meet Coach Wooden in his apartment several years ago as a high school coach. It just so happened that while I was taking a group of students on college visits in Los Angeles, I made a random phone call to a number I had received for Coach Wooden. He answered the phone and invited me to his apartment. That was the type of man that he was. Gracious with his time, cared about me during our few hours together and shared his life and wisdom freely; truly one of the most inspiring one-on-one conversations I have ever had. He has served the coaching fraternity in ways that will have an eternal impact on many. His service and love for others models the life of Christ.
Stephanie Zonars, Team Building Coach, Life Beyond Sport:
Two members of the AIA Women’s Ministry Board were UCLA alums and personal friends of Coach Wooden. They organized a time for us to go to his home to soak up as much wisdom as we could in an hour-long visit. In a condo adorned with hundreds of trophies and awards, Coach Wooden was a model of humility and grace. Our group of coaches, former athletes and ministry leaders sat in awe as he talked about coaching and life. He recited his favorite poetry and quotes from memory. He even granted a silly request to show us how to put our socks on, just as he did with his players on the first day of practice! It was a day none of us will ever forget.
John F., Athletes in Action Basketball:
I had the privilege of getting to know Coach Wooden before I joined staff and was blessed to have the opportunity to continue to see him over the years. What jumps out at me was his ability to be present in the moment. When you spent time with him, you felt you had his complete attention and you were the most important person.
Obviously, he was full of wisdom, but it was also how he shared it. Humility oozed out of every word and grace in sharing a different perspective.
We shared the bond of being Boilermakers and he showed me that you can be an excellent coach as well as a well-rounded person. He would share a story about being stuck on the team bus in a snow storm on a road trip and having conversations with his players about the Lord, books and the larger world. He taught me that basketball does not have to define you, it is a gift from God to be able to be a part of the game; and you are there to serve others and not yourself.
The last thing that always amazed me in light of spending time with him over the years is how he always remembered my name. How did he do that? I would see him once a year for 4 hours.
He gave his life away and treated each person he met as someone made in the image of God.
Don Meyer, “Keys to Life” Award Winner, 2010
Coach was like a father to me and yet when we told stories he was like a brother.
~The greatest story-teller I ever met and an even better listener.
~He never let you leave him without feeling better about yourself.
~It was all about joy to him: Jesus, Others, You
~You knew you were in the presence of royalty but he treated you like you were special.
~They should build an exact replica of Nell and his apartment so people would see what meant the most to him, what he read, and how simply he lived his life surrounded by earthly affluence.
~He was always a Midwestern boy at heart and that is what really counts—what is in your heart.
~He was a man emulating the heart of Jesus. He practiced the presence of God that Brother Lawrence believed in.
Treasure by Ernie Johnson Jr.
HE SPEAKS FROM THE HEART…WITH THE WISDOM OF YEARS
WHEN COACH WOODEN’S TALKING YOU’D BEST BE ALL EARS.
MOST OF US HERE NEVER PLAYED FOR THE MAN
BUT YOU COULD SAY HE’S COACHED US AS ONLY HE CAN.
BE TRUE TO YOURSELF… HELP OTHERS EACH DAY…
IT CAN BE A MASTERPIECE PAINTED THAT WAY.
DRINK DEEPLY FROM BOOKS..ESPECIALLY THE WORD…
THAT’S SOME OF THE SOUNDEST ADVICE THAT I’VE HEARD.
WHEN THE COACH SPEAKS OF FRIENDSHIP…HE CALLS IT FINE ART.
YOU DON’T TAKE IT FOR GRANTED…YOU JUST DO YOUR PART.
‘CAUSE IT’S NOT WHAT YOUR’RE GETTING THAT’S FOUND AT THE CORE,
IT’S ABOUT WHAT YOU’RE GIVING THAT MAKES FRIENDSHIPS SOAR.
BUILD YOURSELF SHELTER FOR THE RAIN THAT WILL FALL,
IT’S NOT COMPLICATED…IT’S FAITH…AND THAT’S ALL.
COUNT ALL OF YOUR BLESSINGS…AND GIVE THANKS FOR THESE.
AND WHEN YOU NEED GUIDANCE…GET DOWN ONYOUR KNEES.
ON THIS DAY WE’RE THANKFUL FOR SO MANY REASONS.
FOR THE CHANCE TO REFLECT ON THIS COACH FOR ALL SEASONS.
A MAN WHO’S STAYED HUMBLE AMID THE ACCLAIM
AND WHO KNOWS THAT THE SPORT HE LOVES IS JUST A GAME.
FOR HE’S SET HIS SITES HIGHER…AND HIS FOCUS IS CLEAR
HE’S DRIVEN BY PURPOSE…THE REASON WE’RE HERE.
AMONG THE GIFTS GOD HAS BESTOWED FOR OUR PLEASURE
IS JOHN ROBERT WOODEN…A LEGEND…AND TREASURE.
Ernie Johnson, Jr.
Legends of the Hardwood Breakfast
Used with permission
Lance Cormier, relief pitcher for the Tampa Bay Rays
By Mark Darnall and Bruce Darnall
The quote “Trust in God’s timing; it is always right,” seemed to fit perfectly for twenty-nine year old relief pitcher, Lance Cormier of the Tampa Bay Rays. The right hander grew up in Lafayette, Louisiana, where he was a two-time baseball all-state player and district MVP. His senior year Cormier was drafted in the 40th round by the Cincinnati Reds. Born to Bobby and Charmaine Cormier, Lance and sister Heather, were introduced to hard work and honest living from the wonderful work habits of their parents. Although neither went to college, Lance’s parents emphasized getting a college education. He graduated from Lafayette, LA High School with honors in 1998.
Lance headed for the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa on scholarship to pitch for the Crimson Tide. It was there that things really began to fall into place in several areas of his life including his Christian faith. Although he received his early instruction in the Catholic Church, it was through an experience in the fall of 1998 at a Fellowship of Christian Athletes meeting his freshman year at Alabama that jump started his personal journey with the Lord. Lance and his roommate, Erik Smallwood who was a Tide teammate and still a close friend and brother in Christ, went to hear a high school football player share his testimony and talk about his relationship with his Lord. The football player had been in a serious accident which resulted in the player losing his leg. Yet, through the ordeal he came to accept Christ as his Lord and Savior. The testimony hit Lance like a ton of bricks and he shared “I wanted to develop the kind of relationship with the Lord as the football player. It was that evening I gave my life over to Christ.” Shawn Alexander, FCA leader at Alabama, was an important factor in Lance’s personal growth while at Alabama. Bible Studies and FCA activities were key in Lance’s early walk with the Lord. Lance felt the Lord placed him at the FCA meeting. He was in the right place at the right time.
Interesting enough, Lance met his wife, Jamie, on the first day of classes in his freshman year in his very first class. He explained, “Jamie was sitting in the front row and I was in the back. I saw this girl in the front row (Jamie) who I thought was attractive and seemingly very studious. As time went along, I drifted up rows in class and she drifted back, until we sat across from one another.” Lance goes on saying, “I got her name off the class roll sheet, and she got mine. We got to study together a couple of times; then, around Halloween, we went out on our first date.” The flame was lit! They dated all through college and were married in June of 2002. “I was in the right place at the right time which led me to my lifetime partner.”
Lance did not accept the Cincinnati Reds offer in 1998, instead decided to play baseball at Alabama. Although recruited by other schools, he headed to Tuscaloosa to play for Coach Jim Wells. Lance had a stellar career at Alabama with a record of 31-16 plus 17 saves and an ERA under 4.00, and he contributes that plus being ready to play professionally to Coach Wells and his staff. He was a four year letter winner who as a freshman recorded a SEC-leading 11 saves which was an Alabama freshman record that allowed him to be named All-American. Lance finished his career as a first team Academic All-American and All-Sec for a second time his senior year. He graduated with a degree in finance in May, 2002. As things fell into place for him during his career at Alabama, Lance was in the right place at the right time.
As a young Christian during his time at Alabama, Lance did not face many issues because of being a Believer. “Outwardly, life did not change much for me,” Lance commented, “I have never been a drinker or a party person, except I did change some of my language. I would just go about my business on and off the field. Most people were respectful of me.” However, inwardly, Lance continued to grow in his faith and his walk with the Lord.
Upon graduation at Alabama, Lance was drafted in the fourth round by the Arizona Diamondbacks. His junior year, he was drafted in the 10th round by the Houston Astros but stayed at Alabama to get his degree and play for the Tide. The D-backs sent Lance to Class A Yakima, but he was given permission to take three weeks off for his wedding and honeymoon. Jamie and Lance knew the early road for baseball career would bring about many moves. While holding off starting their family, they worked together to make each move work smoothly going from A ball to double A to triple A to parent club to new club and so on. “We probably moved 30-35 times in my career. Jamie has always been there which really took away the stress from me.” In 2007, the Lord blessed them with a little boy, Lance junior or LJ. “Lance,” says Smallwood, “is a great dad and husband; plus, he is an all-around good guy who would do anything for you.”
“Thinking back on my career, I was lucky as each time I made a move something would happen that gave me a better opportunity.” In his second year (2003) Lance jumped from A ball to triple A, while showing great promise. Then in 2004, he started in double A, but he made his major league debut June 19th against the Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays. After another minor league stint, Lance was recalled and received his first major league win on July 29th against Houston 6-4. In 2005 Lance appeared in 67 games for the Diamondbacks. In 2006 he signed with the Atlanta Braves. The 2006 and 2007 years were roller coaster years with Atlanta because of injuries and being sent down to the minors. In 2008 he signed with Baltimore. Then in 2009 Lance signed with the Tampa Bay Rays where he continues to contribute to their success here in 2010. “It always seemed with each move down I had a chance to move back up; and with each move to a new club, I would have a chance to move up quickly.” Lance, again, feels he was always in the right place at the right time.
“With each new team,” Lance shares, “there were Christian teammates and other people around to help me grow in my faith, but when I got to the Rays in 2009 I knew I was really blessed. There were the regular chapel services, but the Bible studies and the fellowship with great Christian teammates like Ben Zobrist, Gabe Gross (now with the A’s), Brian Shouse and others were so meaningful. I knew I was in the right place at the right time.” In the clubhouse Lance was able to stay within himself; and although more of a listener, he was willing to share in conversation about life’s situations of the home and community as it related to his faith. “Lance has been a huge encouragement to me,” says Ben Zobrist, “His faith is strong, and he is very consistent in all we do here, like Bible studies, chapel, and prayer time. He is a great father and husband to his family, and he exemplifies Christ in his family and our clubhouse.” Zobrist goes on to say, “ God has used Lance in great ways, and he has great gifts to be used for the Kingdom.” Rays chaplain Gio Llerena adds, “Lance loves the Lord and loves his family. As a family man, he desires to be a godly leader in his home for Jamie and LJ.” Chaplain Llerena declared, “Lance has been a blessing to me in the clubhouse.”
Lance has found that Isaiah 41:13 brings meaning to him and baseball. Being a pitcher and his right arm/hand important to his livelihood, Isaiah assures him: “For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who says to you, ’Fear not, I will help you.’” Through the ups and downs of professional baseball, Lance knows the Lord is with him and will help him. II Chronicles 16:9 states,”…The Lord...to show His might in behalf of those whose heart is blameless toward Him.” With that assurance, Lance competes for the Lord!
When we think of being in the right place at the right time, we need only to look at Holy Week to see one person in the “ultimate” right place at the right time. Jesus Christ was in the right place at Calvary taking on our sin at precisely the right time when God raised His Son at Resurrection.
As Lance has grown in his faith, he looks at I Corinthians 16:9 to guide him to witness for the Lord; ”…for a wide door for effective work has opened to me…” When Lance and Jamie, who is described by Mickey Weston of Unlimited Potential, Inc. as “humble and having a desire to be steady and consistent in their walk with Christ,” return to Tuscaloosa in the off season, they relish their family time in a relaxed and private way. However, they look for opportunities to share their faith. Lance has had opportunities to speak at high school FCA groups and at their church, Capstone Church, a non-denominational congregation in Tuscaloosa. The church has a “Day of Champions” where several athletes share their faith. He is also involved in a Christian baseball camp during the off season.
Lance and Jamie look for “wide doors” to witness their faith in the Lord so they can be “in the right place at the right time” for Him. They trust in God’s timing.
Mark Darnall and Bruce Darnall are freelance writers in Wisconsin.
BY KELLY LYELL • KellyLyell@coloradoan.com • June 1, 2010
Connecticut's Maya Moore, the two-time national player of the year in women's basketball, and more than 280 other top college athletes have been on CSU's campus last week and again this week working on a part of their game that they said often is overlooked.
They're taking part in two week-long Athletes in Action Ultimate Training Camps, learning how to incorporate a spiritual dimension into the sports they play.
"Me, personally, as an athlete, I always separated the godly aspect and the sport aspect," said Aaron Henry, a free safety on Wisconsin's football team. "I always kept the two separate, but when I came here to the camp, I found out you can intertwine the two. God has given you an ability, and you should worship him and you should praise him through your athletic ability."
Athletes in Action is a national Christian organization aimed at college and professional athletes with a mission statement that reads, "Building spiritual movements everywhere through the platform of sport so that everyone knows someone who truly follows Jesus."
The camp has been held annually on the Colorado State University campus since 1981, said Jeff Prior, the AIA coordinator at CSU. The Christian organization, funded through private donations, rents dormitory and meeting rooms and athletic facilities and equipment from the school.
"This is the best thing we do in AIA in terms of changed lives," said Prior, who ran the camp for 18 years but is turning the reins over to Jon Detemer, an AIA coordinator at Arizona and this year's camp director.
More than 140 athletes from 50 or so colleges across the nation participated in last week's camp, and a similar group is on hand this week, along with 18 interns and 25 staff members. Both camps were full by March, Detemer said.
The athletes begin each day with a Bible lesson, then participate in various athletic competitions to learn to apply that lesson to their sport. Athletes meet in small-group settings in the evening, where they learn how to share their faith through the example they set.
Christians from across the globe are gearing up to share the gospel with the thousands of soccer fans expected to attend the world's biggest sporting event this month.
Some 200 Brazilian Christians began arriving in South Africa last week for the FIFA Word Cup with plans to target a very specific group when the games begin June 11: North Koreans.
The Baptist team led by pastor Marcos Grava Vasconcelos, a former handball player, prayed for North Korea to qualify for the games and be placed in the same group as Brazil so they could evangelize fans from that country, the U.K-based Guardian newspaper reported.
"We were praying for North Korea to qualify and when we found out they [the North Koreans] would be playing in the same city as Brazil we glorified God for the opportunity to announce to their fans the message of Jesus," said Vasconcelos, according to the Guardian.
Pastor David Botelho of the Brazil-based missionary group Missão Horizontes, which targets the 10/40 Window, said the World Cup presents a rare opportunity to reach the people of North Korea, which he called "a champion in the persecution of Christianity."
"There will be many tourists there from countries which are closed off to the Word of God and who we couldn't reach any other way," Botelho told Eclésia, a Brazilian evangelical magazine.
North Korea last competed in the World Cup in 1966 and joins Brazil, the Ivory Coast and Portugal in Group G. The Brazilian evangelists planning to reach out to North Koreans may face an uphill battle, however.
North Korea's closed regime has imposed travel restrictions on all but a few government officials, the Guardian reported. And Xinhua, a Chinese news agency, reported that North Korean officials have been trying to recruit Chinese fans to cheer for their team when it competes against Brazil in Johannesburg June 15.
The Brazilian missionaries will join Christians from around the world who also have their sights set on sharing the Christ with those attending the games, which will be held in several cities across South Africa.
Britain-based Operation Mobilization is rallying teens and young adults to participate in its Ultimate Goal Campaign, a partnership with local South African churches. And the World Cup Evangelism Project is training local Christians to use evangelist Ray Comfort's Way of the Master outreach strategy to witness to soccer fans one-on-one.
"Many of the Christians down here in our country wish that they could go across the borders to other countries to spread the gospel, but just due to resources we're just not financially able to do that," said Nigel Titus, an evangelist in Cape Town, South Africa, and an organizer of the World Cup Evangelism Project. "We're having people coming from all countries, tribes, tongues, nations—they're coming to our shores. We don't have to go over to them. So it's an opportunity for us now to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ to them."
Several Christians will be bearing witness from the field. At least four members of Brazil's soccer team—Kakà, Lucio, Luisão and Felipe Melo—reportedly are Christians. Kakà has worn T-shirts beneath his jersey that read "I Belong to Jesus," though the FIFA World Cup recently outlawed the use of clothing carrying political, religious or personal statements.
Italian defender Nicola Legrottaglie and U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard are also outspoken Christians.
Kakà and Legrottaglie are featured The Prize: Chasing the Dream, a half-hour DVD filled with testimonies of Christian soccer players that Athletes in Action is distributing during the World Cup. Tim Howard previously released an evangelistic DVD through Athletes in Action.
Hanley Ramirez, a two-time all-star and last year's National League batting champion for the Florida Marlins revealed his lack of maturity and lack of character when he recently faced the Arizona Diamondbacks. After fouling a baseball off his shin earlier in the game, he told his coaching staff that he could play the game unabated. But Ramirez went on to give a dismal/lack-luster performance at best when he accidentally kicked a ball and then lightly jogged some 100 feet after it, allowing two runs to score in the process. His manager, seeking to send a message to the star player and the team as a whole, benched Ramirez for the remaining part of the game and for the entirety of the next game as well. Ramirez responded by verbally bashing his coach and teammates.
Too often, we as individuals, act and react like Ramirez. We know our ‘rights,’ but unfortunately we don’t always know our ‘wrongs.’ We often lack a ‘coachable spirit,’ too prideful to admit when we’re wrong. The Bible notes that we should actually value rebuke rather than hide from it, “Fools think their own way is right, but the wise listen to others” (Proverbs 12:15). Furthermore, it provides the template for us if and when we are confronted, “…Be quick to listen…and slow to speak, and slow to be come angry” (James 1:19). A ‘coachable spirit’ is beneficial both on the field and in the game of life. Regardless if you’re justified or not in your actions, there is usually some grain of truth in people’s observations…and it should be considered accordingly. It is said that the least objective person—with respect to yourself—is yourself. Thus it is imperative to clearly see reality albeit at times painful. If you fail to surround yourself with individuals who will call you out, who will push you, you’re likely to get lost with the rest of the well-intentioned individuals, who though extremely talented and skilled in a craft, simply lack the character to become a positive contributor to society or leave a lasting legacy.
Challenges are commonplace; they are a part of life. For the few times that people succeed, there exists countless preceding moments of failure—it takes a balanced head to recognize that reality. You need the ability to be humble, and vulnerable. By being open to corrective criticism, and possessing a ‘coachable spirit,’ you become pliable and purposeful. This will then help you not only see how things currently are but will focus your vision ahead on how they could be. If you don’t have a pastor, a small group, a trusted friend, a spouse or coach to help hold you accountable and champion the potential within you, you’re likely to fail both on and off the field.
By Rick Sheridan
An inspiring line-up of Olympic and professional athletes mingled with members of the public at the Athletes in Action fifth annual Night of Champions on May 6, 2010, at their World Training and Resource Center, in Xenia, Ohio.
The main focus of the event was to honor two new inductees into the prestigious AIA Hall of Faith. Jennifer Johnson Jordan, a top-rated professional beach volleyball player and Olympian was the female recipient of this national award and Jim Tressel, head football coach of The Ohio State University Buckeyes was the male recipient. The inductees are chosen for their faith, leadership, character and integrity on and off the field of competition.
The evening began with a VIP event hosted by news anchor Dan Edwards, the morning host for news on WDTN in Dayton. He briefly introduced an all-star list of athletes including: Anthony Muñoz, former Cincinnati Bengals lineman who was All-Pro for 11 consecutive years, Doug Yates, U.S. Olympic karate contender, Dan Christie and J.D. Grigsby, both former University of Dayton basketball stars, Trina Smith, head coach of the Wright State University volleyball team, E.J. Junior, former Alabama All-American and two-time Pro-Bowl selection, and current Central State University football coach, and several others.
"The Night of Champions represents the very best aspects of our faith being represented in the community. We see and hear concrete examples of teamwork, leadership, love, commitment, perseverance and humility with a firm connection to sports and the triumph of one's personal faith. This is something that goes way beyond sports and transcends into the very nature of our inner character and testimony. AIA has delivered a landmark platform for excellence to shine brighter and speak louder than any words will ever be able to....it is an honor to attend this event and celebrate the accomplishments of the recipients," said Chris Grindrod, program director of WEEC FM, and a member of the audience.
Jennifer Johnson Jordan was pleasantly surprised to see both of her parents in the crowd. Her father, Rafer Johnson, won the gold medal for the decathlon in the 1960 Olympics. He took a turn at the microphone and described his intense competition with a Russian athlete in the various events in the decathlon.
Clark Kellogg, the lead college basketball analyst for CBS Sports and former player in the National Basketball Association was the master of ceremonies at the banquet honoring Jordan and Tressel. Kellogg, who played for Ohio State, joked with Anthony Muñoz, formerly of the University of Southern California, about the OSU/USC rivalry.
Jim Tressel delivered a rousing keynote speech at the Schindler Banquet Center. He described his faith in Jesus as a crucial part of his success as a coach and his ability to inspire and motivate his players. Tressel was introduced by Jim Schmidtke, AIA staff member at The Ohio State University.
The Tressel family is actively involved with Athletes in Action, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, the OSU Thompson Libraries and the James Cancer Center at The Ohio State University Medical Center.
During the first part of the banquet, a silent auction offered high quality sports memorabilia, including a jersey signed by Brett Favre, an autographed team photo from the 1964 Cleveland Browns and other items. Proceeds from Night of Champions benefit the World Training and Resource Center and further the development of the Sports Complex and Conference Center.
Rick Sheridan is a freelance writer, an assistant professor at Wilberforce University, and the faculty advisor for their student newspaper, The Mirror.