by Dennis Dalman – firstname.lastname@example.org
The “huddle” includes about 25 athletes, who meet at 8 a.m. every Wednesday morning before school in the choir room of Sartell High School.
All are Christian athletes who want to strengthen their faith and be mentors to others in an effort to spread the word of Jesus Christ. They are members of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, which began 18 months ago in Sartell through the efforts of Craig Mabis, the Central Lakes Area director of the FCA.
The international Fellowship of Christian Athletes started in 1954 and now has thousands of chapters throughout the world with athletes and coaches as members. It’s the largest Christian sports organization in the world. Mabis said there are 25 chapters, including the one in Sartell, in central Minnesota.
In Sartell, there are up to 40 members, but some of them cannot make every Wednesday meeting because of occasional scheduling conflicts. Even though athletes lead the FCA Wednesday-morning huddle, anyone can join the group, Mabis noted. The Sartell group decided to reach out and mentor to athletes at the Sartell Middle School level and because of that, the middle school may have its own FCA huddle within a month or so.
Originally from Colorado Springs, Mabis moved to Sartell 18 months ago when he became Central Lakes Area FCA director. After making inquiries and meeting with many people, including coaches, he heard Sartell has a strong athletic program with full family support, and so he decided to settle there. Currently, he is working at getting FCA huddle groups at other schools in the area, such as St. Cloud Tech.
“The Lord called us in for this ministry,” he said. “We visited the local churches. Our goal is to impact the world for Jesus Christ through athletes and coaches. We’re not pulling out the Bible all the time. Rather, we want coaches to influence youth for the right reasons – with qualities like integrity and character. Some coaches seem to care too much just about wins and losses.”
Mabis said young athletes he’s met everywhere always tell him how important it is to have coaches who truly care and guide young people in more ways than just striving to win games. Coaches, he said, are highly important in being positive influences in the lives of young athletes, second only to parents.
Most youth in public schools do not go to classes for faith instruction anymore, Mabis noted. The FCA huddles give them a chance to do that – to hold faith discussions, to pray and to influence others for the better. The beauty of it, Mabis said, is young athletes run their huddles completely on their own. They make their own lesson plans and coordinate their own outreach efforts. One such effort in Sartell is when the FCA huddle members distribute bottles of Gatorade to visiting athletes just before they get on the bus to go back to their home towns. The FCA members give them the Gatorade and tell them how glad they are they visited Sartell to play.
Mabis’s favorite quote is this: “Being a great coach means taking someone of importance from where they are to where they need to go.” That quote, he said, encapsulates the mission of the FCA. And athletes who gain strength in their faith have a powerful positive influence on all the people they meet in their lives, Mabis added.
There will be an FCA fundraiser from 1-3 p.m. Sunday, March 3 at Great River Bowl. Currently, FCA members are asking Sartell businesses to sponsor one or more bowling-hall lanes. All proceeds will be given to the FCA in Sartell and used to help ministry resources at the high school and middle school.
For more about the FCA, see its website at fca.org.
Dalman was born and raised in South St. Cloud, graduated from St. Cloud Tech High School, then graduated from St. Cloud State University with a degree in English (emphasis on American and British literature) and mass communications (emphasis on print journalism). He studied in London, England for a year (1980-81) where he concentrated on British literature, political science, the history of Great Britain and wrote a book-length study of the British writer V.S. Naipaul. Dalman has been a reporter and weekly columnist for more than 30 years and worked for 16 of those years for the Alexandria Echo Press.