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    May 17, 2023 Lynchburg, Va. RSS |

    Much like resident shepherds in on-campus dorms, the spiritual leaders on Liberty University’s 44 Club Sports teams help sharpen the spiritual focus and create a positive culture that leads to holistic growth from its 700-plus student-athletes.

    “We are super thankful and blessed for Club Sports and (Athletic Director) Kirk Handy and all of the leadership for allowing us to have a spiritual leadership team,” Club Sports Assistant Athletic Director for Spiritual Development Reese Braband said. “This year, we had about 70 (student-athletes) or so on the team and we’re thankful to hear of the stories of different athletes coming to know the Lord and athletes growing in their faith.”

    Club Sports Spiritual Development Coordinator Josh Graham said one of the highlights of the year for the team is its annual team retreat in August, when Rebekah Trittipoe, a former FCA women’s chaplain for Liberty’s Athletics Department, worked with the leaders to strengthen their team bond and train them in discipleship techniques.

    “(Trittipoe) has been invaluable in helping teach spiritual lessons through leadership training and games and being able to grow in their own faith but then be able to disciple and create good spiritual climates on their teams,” Graham said.

    Division III men’s hockey junior forward Michael Williams, a spiritual leader for his team, has taken those lessons and expanded on them.

    “We’ve been able to cultivate a very good culture that everybody wants to desire the Lord and see spiritual growth through the entire team,” he said. “We’ve had Bible studies, lunches, dinners, a lot of one-on-ones. We’ve spent time having guys over to other peoples’ homes, just really building those relationships.”

    Claudia Keanini, a junior women’s wrestler from Hawaii, said the experience of being a spiritual leader benefited both her and her teammates.

    “I was a little nervous becoming a spiritual leader just because I thought there was more accountability to it, but it was nice having that because I felt like I could grow more in my relationship with God and feel more confident,” she said. “It challenged myself to be a better leader for my teammates and even in my own life.”

    Brityn Fussy, a spiritual leader on the Lady Flames’ ACHA Division I women’s hockey team, enjoyed serving alongside fellow senior forward and alternate captain Yannick Truter as well as junior defenseman Priscilla Ziefle, and her younger sister, sophomore forward Brielle Fussy this season.

    “They’re super strong, super mature in their faith,” she said. “We’ve had three girls on our team saved this year, which is a huge blessing, especially coming from Finland which was a huge trip for us, seeing people react in an uncomfortable environment … and people got to realize what Jesus’ love looks like through our team and through the people in that community.”

    Braband said there was an increase in coordination between Club Sports and the LU Shepherd’s office on campus this past year, especially in the aftermath of the spinal injury to DI men’s hockey forward Josh Fricks in a game against UNLV at the LaHaye Ice Center on Jan. 20.

    “Just to see how the campus as a whole really worked with us and the holistic development team and our leadership, that’s how we really rallied around the Fricks family and it was cool to see God working in that way in the community we have here at Liberty University,” Braband said.

    Video by Kylee Lilge/Club Sports Video & Media Coordinator