Canada Day event was inspiring and will become regular event in more cities, reports Faith Today's summer intern
Ten minutes, one-on-one, with an inspiring professional athlete. That’s what 39 students aged 10 to 16 got to do on Canada Day in Mississauga, Ont. at the Pro-Athlete Experience put on by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) Canada.
Students signed up to meet either Olympic rower Sarah Chaudhery, former minor pro journeyman goaltender Ryan Mulder, former international rugby player Sean-Michael Stephen or NFL-CFL football veteran Swayze Waters.
The 10-minute slots included drills and exercises as well as a short conversation on what it means to be a Christian and an athlete.
“We have such a joy and privilege of knowing a number of pro athletes,” says FCA Canada’s Hans Ostrem. “What if we partner with them on a large-scale event to really influence communities and young athletes?”
Ostrem sees the event as a success. He tells the story of one student-athlete who drove over two hours, simply to talk with someone who had trod her current path.
According to Ostrem, she told Sean-Michael Stephen that “sports is ruling my life up to this point and I love it, but sports shouldn't rule my life: God should rule my life.”
Stephen and the student didn’t do any rugby drills, “just tossed the ball back and forth for the entire 10 minutes,” Ostrem says. Stephen “got to share from his experience growing up here in Canada, learning sports, learning his faith, working out the relationship between faith and sports and getting to the pro levels.” He showed her that the path of a Christian professional athlete can indeed be trod.
The FCA Canada team hopes the impact of the Pro-Athlete Experience goes beyond July 1. Ostrem says that pastor Graeme Melvin of nearby Meadows Church, which supplied volunteers for the event and are now tasked with ministry follow-up, are hoping to foster relationships with local students who participated.
And he says that everyone at FCA Canada is enthusiastically thinking about next year. They hope to expand the Pro-Athlete Experience to multiple cities, possibly with one or two athletes per city to make the expansion more feasible.
The pros themselves are completely on board. He says that at the end of the Zoom call debriefing the event, they all said, "We had so much fun, we loved it and we want to do it again.”
The FCA was founded in 1954. It is currently based in Kansas City, Missouri and present in 107 countries worldwide. It hopes to impact coaches, professional and student athletes with the gospel by holding camps, skills clinics, field trips and other events, incorporating conversations and messages into those events. It aims to “lead every coach and athlete into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ and His church through integrity, serving, teamwork and excellence.”
Matthew Neugebauer of Toronto was the 2022 summer intern at Faith Today.