Stories

Life as a Christian in sport

Date posted: 31/10/17

Life as a Christian in sport

 

If you love sport and love Jesus, then He calls you to be His witness in that world. Whether that’s playing in your club, as a coach or official or however else you you’re getting involved, obeying Jesus’ call be both a massive encouragement and a big challenge. As Christians in sport, we need to keep spurring each other in this mission to pray, play, say for Him. That is exactly what this blog is designed to do as two players and a coach share the highs and lows of representing Jesus where He has placed them. Join us for our first entry as we get to know our three Christians in sport and share a year of reaching the world of sport for Christ with them.

Charlie is a student in Bath where she plays Ultimate frisbee

Stevie coaches rugby at a school in Belfast

Lukas is a footballer from Llanelli in Wales

My relationship with sport, and football in particular, started early. Football is massive in Brazil where I grew up. The first toy you are given as a child is a football, whether you’re a boy or a girl. Especially, if you’re a boy, your dream is to become a footballer.

I became a Christian at around eight or nine and was interested in world mission because of sport. I wanted to use my skills and abilities to go to places where people didn’t know about God. For the last 12 years, I have worked for the mission organisation World Horizons and played football for most of that time. To me, it is the best of both worlds – to play the sport that I love and getting to share Jesus with other people.

I first came to the UK in 2007 to study English and came back here last year with my wife, who is from Pembrokeshire, as we felt God calling us here to Llanelli. I had played for a church football team when I was in the UK before, but this time I wanted to join a local club and get to know people there. It turned out that the house we rented was just next door to a football pitch and I went along to see what was happening.

For a while, I didn’t manage to meet anyone who could tell me about the club, but then I went along to a match. At half-time, one of the guys just came up to me and said “do you play football?”. When I told him I was from Brazil, he asked if I wanted to come to training and see if I could play for them.

Life as a Christian in sport

 

As far as I know there are only a few Christians playing in the Carmarthenshire League our club is in. I think there are maybe three Christians and there are between 800 and 900 players in total. This is one of the things that excites me about it. I am enjoying getting to know guys who are very different from people at church and those I work with.

In the beginning, I was the only foreigner in the team, so people asked me why I was here and what I was doing. That was a good starting point. I could say that God called me and my wife to the UK and especially to Wales. That raised a few eyebrows. As it was winter, they said you should be on a Brazilian beach, not in cold and snowy Wales!

Although they don’t go to church now, some of the boys had been on camps run by organisations like the one I work for when they were younger, which they had enjoyed, so it was good to be able to be able to make that connection. I have not yet had the opportunity to sit down with individuals and ask them the deeper questions.

Playing for a local team is very different to playing in a church league. Some of the language the coaches were using I didn’t know, but when I went home and told my wife, she said “don’t use that again”! I have not had to face any prejudice for being a Christian, but I know that others in our local Christians in Sport group have.

The challenge I do find is balancing everything. I work for a Christian charity, I have lots of commitments at church and we have just had our first child. I have been injured for a bit, but hope to be back playing in the next month.

One prayer is that I will keep developing relationships with my teammates. I also get on well with the manager and assistant manager, who recruited me to the team. I pray that I can speak to them about things that go beyond sport.

Another prayer is for God to send more Christians to play in this league and that’s started to be answered. One of my Christian friends who is Korean has now joined our club. The more witnesses we have, the more people we’ll reach. I pray that he and I can live out our faith at the club, not to show off, but simply do what we do in normal Christian life. I pray this will spark interest and get guys asking questions.

 

Charlie is a student in Bath where she plays Ultimate frisbee.

I started playing in my first year. I was a bit keen, going along to lots of sports taster sessions. As soon as I tried Ultimate frisbee, I just absolutely loved it! They had quite a small female club and said would I like to get involved. I am now in my fourth year of playing. The fact that you can play as a mixed team as well means the club is really inclusive.

When I joined, it was really great having older players invest in me and help me improve. I am now on the committee myself and looking to do that to others. We mainly play tournaments, both indoor and outdoor, so it’s an all-year round sport. As well as skills training, I do strength and power work in the gym, with lots of jumping and leg exercises.

The highlight was definitely when we qualified for the indoor nationals. When we found out we’d made it, we were all buzzing and screaming. It was so great. We ended up coming ninth, which exceeded all of our expectations and was the highest position the women’s team had come in a long time.

I was a Christian when I came to uni and got stuck into church from week one. My faith has definitely grown since coming here. I didn’t really know how to live it out when I arrived, but the support of the student group and church and the Christians in Sport group have really helped me. I have definitely learnt that God has called me to Bath for a reason, to serve Him, and much of that is witnessing to my friends and teammates.

Life as a Christian in sport

 

My teammates are some of my greatest friends at uni. We spend so much time together in training and at tournaments. A lot of them know that I am helping lead the Christians in Sport group. In my second year, I held a Dialogue Dinner where staff member Rosie Woodbridge, who is also an Ultimate player, came and looked to answer my teammates’ questions about faith. After that, we went to the CU carol service. My teammates were so open to to asking questions, which was awesome.

A lot of them have now graduated and I’m back for my final year with lots of new Ultimate frisbee players to share life with. This year, I have decided to commit to going to the socials. I had found them quite hard and tiring in the past, but I decided to go for it and pray for opportunities to chat about my faith. At this year’s welcome drinks, I got chatting with a girl whose housemate had taken her to CU. Her brother had become a Christian in the past year and she was so open and said she finds it really interesting.

I asked her if she would like to come to church with me at some point and she appreciated the fact that I had asked her. I’m praying she will take up that opportunity.

Being on the club committee has really helped me live for Jesus. I feel a lot more confident to talk about my faith and be open about it.

I have already messaged our social secretary about the CU events week in November and how we could get along as a club. Hopefully, we can get a team or two together for the Sports Quiz.

I find the Christians in Sport group really helpful and encouraging. Having people, who know the struggles you go through as a sportsperson, supporting and praying for you is brilliant. We’ve just started a Whatsapp group to share things like ‘I’m off to a social now, please pray for me’. It’s really great to know that people are praying for you all the time.

The Bible studies have been really helpful too. I have learnt how to play my sport for Christ, which I hadn’t really considered before. We’ve had 20-25 people meeting this term. A few of them are new Christians. We were looking at Matthew 9 and God’s harvest field being plentiful recently and that was brilliant in reminding us that’s what we’re here for.

 

Stevie coaches rugby at a school in Belfast.

I have been playing rugby since I was about six. When we had our first child eight years ago, I switched to just coaching.

I want to give what’s best to the boys as I remember how much coaches invested in me at that age. In the classroom and on the pitch, I want to enable them to fulfill their full potential. I didn’t think I would coach at the standard I am currently, so I feel very blessed.

One of the challenges I find as a Christian is that you don’t always get opportunities to share your faith. Sometimes they can come when people are going through difficult times. I need to keep praying that God will open doors for me.You would love to be able to speak more into young people’s lives as well.

On game day it's a challenge to not let emotions get the better of me in how I communicate with the referee and opposition coaches. It's important that I behave in a godly way at the side of the pitch and at times this is a big challenge. You're always playing to win, but I try my best to not let that drive overtake my emotions so that I remain in control and that I behave in a way that honours God.

Life as a Christian in sport

 

Rugby is a full-on commitment for the boys. Throughout the summer, they are doing three weights sessions a week and then in the second week of August we begin the pitch work. As a result, most days during school they are doing some sort of training session. There’s a massive motivation to do well and we all feel that.

I grew up in a Christian family and at a young age I trusted in Christ. As a teenager, I struggled with friendships as in the church where I grew up there weren’t many other Christians of my age. At 17, I started going to a new church and saw Christianity in a different light - something that could really be lived out in relationship with others and with Christ. That shaped me into who I was going to be. Jesus is the reason why you want to do anything. Colossians 3 v 23 has been really key for me. As I coach and as I teach, I want to work at it as working for the Lord.

Language is such an important thing within coaching. How you communicate with the boys is so key. I try my best to be positive and if there are negatives that need to be said, they are said in a constructive way. I try to use language that will glorify God. Another thing that’s really important is honouring your word. Let your yes be yes as Jesus says in Matthew 5.

Within our school, there are quite a few Christian coaches. We try to get together as a group to pray on Saturday mornings before the games. We’ve done that for the last couple of years and it’s a big encouragement. In Northern Ireland, assemblies are still very much based on the Bible. I am able to speak in them and it gives me the chance to talk through Bible passages and how they relate to sport.

I am praying for opportunities to talk about Jesus with the other coaches who don’t yet believe.

I pray too that the Christian staff and pupils would be a real light for Jesus. One big encouragement is the Christians in Sport group we have at school, which meets every three weeks. Our heart and desire is to see these the pupils step out in faith and be witnesses in their sports teams. There are so many temptations to follow your own way and not God’s. It’s great to see them loving their sport and living out their faith.

We also have a Christians in Sport group at church where we try to pray for and encourage each other. We had been praying for one of the girl’s athletics friend to come to faith and he did. He joined us at our last meeting, which was awesome.


 



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