Club Sports leaders train to advance teams' spiritual mission
September 8, 2020 | Lynchburg, Va.
Liberty University Club Sports Spiritual Development Coordinators Reese Braband and Heather Gollnick led a one-day conference on Saturday at the Hydaway Outdoor Center for 45 student-athlete representatives training to keep their teams spiritually focused and grounded in God's Word.
Club Sports student-athletes designated as their respective teams' spiritual leaders learned ways they can incorporate their faith in team activities.
Teams designated one to three spiritual leaders who have demonstrated mature walks in their faith to serve in roles similar to team chaplains. They are charged to be intentional about developing Bible-based relationships, reflecting the attitude of Christ, and remaining available and approachable to their teammates.
"Part of our mission statement here in Club Sports is to develop the spiritual lives of all of the athletes," said Gollnick, who also serves as Head Coach of Liberty's men's and women's triathlon teams and has worked with Fellowship of Christian Athletes in the past. "These leaders will help them throughout the season to deepen their walk with Christ."
After introductions, testimonies, and prayer centered on this year's spiritual development theme of I Corinthians 10:31: "Whatever you do, do it for the glory of God," student-athletes had opportunities for fellowship and team-building activities that included a scavenger hunt and ice breaker games.
Throughout the semester, student representatives will meet with Braband and Gollnick for hour-long morning updates on Sept. 14, Oct. 12, and Nov. 9.
"We will meet once a month to hear what is happening with their teams and answer ‘What does it look like to be a Christian athlete in an environment of competitive sports?' and ‘How do we use sports as a tool to be on mission for God?'" Braband said.
All of the designated spiritual leaders received a copy of "The Assist: A Gospel-Centered Guide to Glorifying God Through Sports" by Brian Smith, who works with Athletes in Action. The book is designed to help student-athletes integrate faith and sport and to leverage their position to maximize their impact in God's Kingdom.
They will also utilize resources on the Victory Beyond Competition website which encourages student-athletes to live above and beyond their circumstances for something more important than sport.
"Some of these athletes aren‘t going to be competing this fall, so we are giving out a lot of resources and will let them run with what will be best for their teams," said Braband, who asked the representatives to pray for their peers, that God would use them to grow more in love with Him, and each other, as they serve their respective teams.
They will have opportunities to lead Bible studies, worship nights, prayers before and after practices and competitions, or just taking the time to have lunch or get together with teammates outside of the athletic arena.
"There's really no limit as to how you can share your faith," Gollnick said. "All teams do it a little bit differently, but we encourage everybody to be open and bold about sharing their faith. That is the best part about Liberty."
Men's wrestling Head Coach Jesse Castro, a four-time national champion at Liberty from 1977-81 who has helped transform hundreds of young men into spiritual leaders throughout his coaching career, closed the conference by challenging the student-athletes to take up the mantle with their teammates to spur one another on in their spiritual journeys.
"Many years ago, when this university was established, the founder, Dr. (Jerry) Falwell, had this vision, had this dream and his dream started to unfold right before our eyes, and we saw the hand of God involved in it. It was nothing less than miraculous," Castro said. "To watch it grow has been unbelievably powerful.
Men's wrestling Head Coach Jesse Castro reads Matthew 7:21-27 in his charge to the student-athletes.
"You guys have been charged, I have been charged to be a gatekeeper of our mission of Training Champions For Christ," he added. "I'm so excited for what's happening in Club Sports and I'm so excited that Reese and Heather have taken this on because this is huge. Let's make Club Sports special, not just in terms of winning and losing, but also in terms of building a strong foundation in Jesus Christ."
Braband and Gollnick are stepping up in their spiritual support roles this semester as Club Sports Ministry Director Brian Davidson, who led last year's event, will be more involved in facilitating Athletics and Club Sports coaches' luncheons as well as teams' global outreach opportunities and individual student-athlete counseling.