Fellowship of Christian Athletes: Blending together religion, sports

Steven Harbaugh

The high school football players huddled together before the game, praying to God for victory. After the moment of silence concluded, the coach shouted an out-of-place, “Give ‘em hell, boys!”

That was the only time Ted Schumacher prayed — when he wanted to win a game. Schumacher’s God was sports.

A speech by Olympic weight lifter Paul Anderson changed Schumacher’s ideas on religion beyond the playing field.

The speech, masked as a sports lecture, took a religious tone when Anderson said, “As strong as I am, I can’t and don’t want to live a minute without Jesus Christ.”

Schumacher was angered. He felt deceived.

But for some reason, he couldn’t shake the quote from his mind. After all, Schumacher had never encountered someone manly, athletic and also open about his faith.

Now, decades later, Schumacher is a campus minister and the head of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, a student organization committed to serving Christians in the athletic community.

The group, which averages about 15 members per meeting, has been around since 1987. Fellowship of Christian Athletes is a nondenominational Christian group specifically for athletes and coaches at Kent State.

“Like it or not, students look up to athletes,” Schumacher said. “The idea of the group is to live what you believe and influence others in a positive way.”

Although the meetings usually consist of listening to inspirational speakers from athletic groups, there are also sometimes Bible study nights and religious discussion groups.

Hearing speeches from athletes is inspirational to Brad Knife, junior physical education major.

“Athletes tend to hang out together,” he said. “It’s more comfortable to worship with people you enjoy being around.”

The role of religious life in sports is more to Schumacher than just praying before a game — he now calls it his “eternal commitment to spreading the truth.”

Contact religion and culture reporter Steven Harbaugh at [email protected].