FCA: Where faith meets athletes

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Photo courtesy of Samantha Deitschel

The University of Dallas offers a wide variety of clubs and other extracurricular activities, each of them promoting an opportunity for students to grow together as a community.

During the fall semester of her sophomore year, Samantha Deitschel, class of 2019, introduced the campus to a national organization known as Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA). Eastern Oklahoma A&M basketball coach Don McClanen began FCA in 1954 and believed that if athletes at the time could promote commercial products such as cigarettes, they should do the same with religion. Once the organization was formed, members strove to give witness to Christ both on and off the playing field. FCA promotes four core values: Integrity, Serving, Teamwork and Excellence. The organization has quickly spread throughout the country, and many high schools and colleges host FCA chapters.

Now a junior, Deitschel, a former member of the UD women’s soccer team and a current history and theology double major, continues to live out her passion for sports and faith. She believes this organization can benefit the community in multiple ways.

“This will change our athletic department in the sense of bridging athletic mindset and faith,” Deitschel said. “FCA is a group where like-minded people can come together to increase their faith and live out their Christian lives on a college campus environment, and I hope it can promote strong, lasting, and faith-centered friendships. However, FCA is not strictly for athletes. All students are welcome to attend the meetings.”

It is important to Deitschel that she and her leaders extend the invitation to non-athletes. Despite the large number of athletes on campus, most students do not play a sport, and Deitschel does not want the club to be exclusive. She hopes that creating a welcoming environment for all who participate in the Christian faith will bring more people together and unify the student body.

To bring structure and unity to the club, Deitschel has selected several representatives from sports teams here at UD to serve as group leaders. The young men and women that she has chosen have exhibited both a love for their sports teams and their faith.

One leader is Mark Peterson, a member of the baseball team as well as the Society of Saint Joseph (SSJ). Both faith and sports play an important role in Peterson’s life, so when Deitschel asked him to serve as an FCA leader, he gladly accepted.

“[Joining this group] seemed like the right thing for me because at the time, I was turning a corner in my faith and relationship with God,” Peterson said. “Here at UD, we are [a] tight knit community, and the camaraderie that FCA develops is second to none.”

Peterson encourages more male athletes as well as non-athletes to join this organization. He believes FCA provides an opportunity to create a brotherhood between the men of the university.

“I’ve realized there are so many people going through the same things I am,”Peterson said. “It’s cool to the lead the charge among teammates and get to know other people. I’ve definitely become closer to God. Whenever I need someone to talk to, I can turn to Him.”

FCA meetings take place on Wednesday nights from 8:30-10:00 pm, beginning with games such as Capture the Flag or Pictionary, followed by inspirational talks or videos, focus groups and conversation and prayerful reflection. The current number of members ranges from 20 to 30 people, including nine leaders, but Deitschel hopes that it will prosper in the future.

“I’d like to see it continue to grow,” Deitschel said. “Right now, we don’t have all of the sports represented. I want to come back after I graduate and see it still here and impacting more lives.”

Softball coach Beth Krysiak joined Deitschel in bringing this organization to the attention of athletes and serves as the club’s faculty sponsor. At an FCA meeting last semester, Krysiak delivered a powerful speech about her faith journey and relationship with God. Krysiak spoke of her past in order to encourage members to listen to God’s calling and to remember that He works in mysterious ways.

After Krysiak’s speech, Deitschel discussed many of the trials she has faced in living her faith. During her sophomore year, she discovered that a back injury would force her to stop playing soccer, and in December 2017, her father suddenly passed away from brain cancer. With talks like these, Deitschel hopes to inspire members to openly discuss their faith journeys.

Even though I was one of a few non-athletes at the FCA meeting where Krysiak and Deitschel made their speeches, I was warmly welcomed by the leaders. They immediately reached out to me and helped me to feel comfortable in the FCA environment. The other athletes were also receptive of new additions to the group that night, and all were very attentive and respectful of the speakers. By listening to these speeches as well as being encouraged to share their own experiences, members are respectful of each other and understand that at FCA meetings sensitive matters can be discussed in confidence.

Sophomore soccer player Kate Vidimos regularly attends FCA meetings and especially enjoys the personal environment. “You’re safe to talk about things, and you learn to see from different perspectives,” Vidimos said. “I think [FCA] will help the community a lot because this college is very rigorous, so sometimes we forget about faith.”

Vidimos also stated that FCA promotes living a life of faith, one that includes more than just going to mass on Sundays. She believes that this organization will help athletes live holier lives.

The club is on Facebook at UD: Fellowship of Christian Athletes. The kickoff for FCA Spring 2018 was Jan. 31.

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