Giving the game some soul

Some athletes are motivated by their insatiable desire to win. Some, such as Michael Jordan are driven to be the best out of the fear of failure. Others are driven by a force much more powerful.

“Christian-athletes should be the hardest working athletes because they are doing it to the glory of God,” said nutrition and fitness coach, Manny Coya.

Coya is the director of Champions for Christ. Champions is a ministry dedicated to helping athletes become successful, both on and off the field. Coya said Champions also tries to let athletes know that their identities are not wrapped up in a sport, and gets them to look forward to life when their playing days are over.

“Athletes hit a huge wall at the end of their careers,” Coya said. “We try to show them that God has something greater for them than just a sport.”

Kassie Hartfield, vice president of the Fellowship for Christian Athletes at Florida State University, said some Christian-athletes have difficulties setting aside time for their faith.

“At our meetings, a lot of our focus has to do with time management, making time for God amongst a busy schedule.”

Hartfield said the biggest issues expressed at FSU’s FCA meetings by student-athletes have to do with being bold, not being afraid to standout and being ridiculed for not going out after games.

“I let them know my stance. That I won’t do those things,” said junior Michael Ayodele, a forward on FAMU’s men’s basketball team.

“So my teammates pretty much don’t ask anymore.”

The FCA vision is to present to athletes and coaches and all whom they influence, the challenge of receiving Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, serving him in their relationships and in the fellowship of the church.

“Athletes have so much influence on their teams and interact with so many people,” Hartfield said.

“We’re just trying to make sure they are influencing people positively.”

FSU fields teams in eight men’s and nine women’s sports yet Hartfield said the average attendance at FCA meetings on Tuesday nights is somewhere around 40.

“There are so few student-athletes who stick to the Christian walk,” said the 21 year-old humanities student.

Ayodele has been a member of Champions since he first arrived on campus in 2001.

Ayodele said he has a good relationship with his teammates.

The 21-year-old computer information systems student said he uses a combination of both speaking and living the word when ministering to his teammates.

“I let them know that I have a heart after them,” Ayodele said.

“I try not to be preachy. I try to be practical and lead by example.”

Ayodele said he tries to talk about things outside the stereotypical locker room chat during his one-on-one conversations with his teammates.

“A lot of athletes like to talk about sex,” said the Toronto native.

“I try to open their minds to bigger things, like God’s plan for them.”

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