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Fellowship of Christian Athletes hosts inaugural retreat

Wednesday, October 19, 2011
by Mark McGee

They ate pizza and s’mores, but the first Fellowship of Christian Athletes retreat of the year was more about feeding the heart and the mind than stomachs.

Friday night approximately 20 students, athletes and non-athletes, met at Five Star Retreat near Dickson, Tenn. Leaders for the event were Brent High, associate athletic director for spiritual formation, and Kayla Marsh, spiritual formation director. The retreat ended at noon on Saturday.

“It was really laid back,” said Marsh, who is pursuing her Master’s in counseling. “We sat around the fire and talked a little bit about each other.

“People really opened up. One girl said she was really confused when she first came to Lipscomb because she didn’t know any of the stories from the Bible. We shared stories from the heart on both faith and a lack of faith.”

The retreat attracted athletes from baseball, softball, track and field and cross country. The Lipscomb basketball teams held their first official practices of the new season and were unable to attend. Men’s soccer played Jacksonville that evening. The Lady Bisons’ soccer and volleyball teams were both in Florida.

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes chapter has been meeting on Tuesday nights in the Hall of Fame Room at Allen Arena. Both athletes and non-athletes are invited to attend.

The combining of athletes from different teams provides them with a community that extends beyond their teammates and offers the chance for the consideration of different perspectives and opinions.

“It was awesome,” said pitcher Davey Hackett, one of the spiritual leaders of the Bisons’ baseball team. “We don’t usually get to hang out with players from the other sports.”

Hackett stressed that the baseball team is very concerned about how the program is perceived on campus. High asked the baseball players present what they thought about the situation.

“We were glad that he brought it up,” Hackett said. “We have changed and hopefully everybody knows that.”

“Ever since I have been here it has been an issue. I guess a lot of people see the baseball guys as the `wild bunch’. But it has definitely changed and that is what I told everyone at the retreat.”

One of the common threads among the athletes was that many of them attended church on a regular basis when they were younger. But that as they spent more time on their chosen sports through various programs attending regular church services became difficult.

“Baseball tournaments were on weekends and if you played in the championship game it was usually on a Sunday,” Hackett said. “We tried to go to church at some point.”

Sometimes the scheduling of college games also makes church attendance difficult as well.

“We had weekly devotionals last year and we are going to do it this year,” Hackett said. “The first time we did it we had about six people attend and the next time we had 30.”

Hackett, Will Blaylock, Tennyson Dodd and Chad Fromm have been among the most active leaders in the devotionals.

Lipscomb catcher Mollie Mitchell and pitcher Whitney Kiihnl are the spiritual leaders for the softball team. Last year they started holding devotionals with the team.

“My freshman year we were on the road every Sunday,” Mitchell said. “Last year we started doing devos on Sunday. We had different team members lead them and had communion together. It was a good team-building thing. Everybody really opened up.”

Mitchell saw a similar dynamic at work at the FCA bonfire.

“We sat down around the fire and there were a lot of people there that I had seen, but that I had never met before,” Mitchell said. “We all introduced ourselves and we all started talking. When people start opening up it is amazing because everybody starts to feel; comfortable.”

The softball players meet every for devotionals. Most team members attend despite having busy schedules.

“It is a great way to get to know each other on a non-athletic level,” Mitchell said. “We try to do different things.

“I’m really excited with what Brent and Kayla are doing with FCA. In high school I loved it. And they have such big goals for us here.”

Mitchell was determined to attend Lipscomb whether or not she was able to play softball. She seldom missed a chance to visit her brother while he attended school at Lipscomb and she seldom missed an opportunity to talk with coach Kristin Ryman about playing softball.

“This was where I always dreamed of coming to school and being here is so much better than I expected. It is great to be in the kind of environment where people don’t just care about you because you are an athlete.”