The Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) was founded in 1954 in Norman, Okla., and gained national attention after being endorsed by Branch Rickey, the Major League Baseball executive most known for breaking baseball’s color barrier and signing African American player Jackie Robinson. Today, FCA’s headquarters are in Kansas City, Mo., and athletes in 47 countries have adopted its program. Sarah Peterson came to Newman from Dallas, Texas, to play volleyball and be a nursing student. Little did she know, she’d also be called to charter Newman’s own chapter of FCA.
“I just wanted to create something that was open and welcoming to student-athletes,” she says. “I’m Catholic, but a lot of the students who come here aren’t, and I wanted to help them create a strong faith base in their lives. Starting with the parallel between faith and athletics was important,” Sarah said.
With the help of her co-founder, baseball player Lane Ramsey, Sarah sought approval from Newman administration and registered with the national organization. Vice President for Student Affairs and Newman Athletic Director Vic Trilli, also got on board.
“I had originally talked to Vic about this idea, and he loved it! He’s now our sponsor, and whenever we need something for our meetings, he takes care of us,” Sarah shares. “Vic has been really awesome in helping us get this started.”
Dean of Students Levi Esses and Director of Student Activities Lauren Fontarum were also instrumental in helping FCA at Newman to grow.
“Levi and Lauren have been really on- board with FCA and invited me to different events so I could get the word out to students across campus,” Sarah says.
And Sarah definitely got the word out. Having only started in the spring of 2015, FCA now boasts anywhere from 40 to 50 members, and has even started to gain popularity with non-athletes across campus. Andrew Russell, a freshman baseball player and Sports Communication major, has begun to take a more active role in spreading the word around campus and promoting meetings, which generally last about 30 to 45 minutes and are followed by a game or other fun activity.
“My goal is to have 200 to 300 members, involve more students and start involving freshmen early in their Newman career,” hopes Sarah.
Head Men’s Basketball Coach Mark Potter and wife Nanette visited with FCA to speak more about forming Christ-like relationships within dating. The group has prayed devotionals together, met in small groups and even enjoyed worship music in a candle-lit setting. FCA provided a prayer service before the basketball season opener, then attended the games to support their fellow students. After meetings, they’ve played dodgeball and volleyball, eaten ice cream and held intense rock-paper-scissor matches.
Sarah and future Vice-President Andrew hope to continue regular meetings with their local FCA representative and learn about ways to evolve gatherings and add more members. They’d also like to one day host a joint event with the Wichita State University FCA group, called Shocker Athletic Impact, or act as mentors to similar programs already in place at Wichita’s two Catholic high schools, Bishop Carroll and Kapaun Mt. Carmel. With a mixture of prayer, worship, food, fun and attention from athletes and non-athletes alike, FCA has a bright future ahead.
“There are so many student-athletes at Newman,” says Sarah. “We really have to set an example, both on and off the playing field. It’s important that we use FCA to make good leaders.”
For more information about Newman’s chapter of the FCA, please visit NewmanU.edu/Campus-Life or check out the @Newman_FCA Twitter page.