FCA offers safe space for student-athletes to grow in faith

Alyse Riffer, Reporter

Student-athletes explore new ideas and build strong connections weekly in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

The fellowship first began in 1986 by Ted Schumacher. His son Kyle Schumacher, who graduated from Kent in 2013, remains in charge of the group as a campus minister.

Schumacher organizes meetings that range from talks by past members and alumni to discussions of the “Book of Job” and applying it to everyday life.

“One of the best ways to learn and engage is by sharing your story,” Schumacher said.

He also focuses on the need to eliminate personal biases when analyzing books of the Bible.

“We want to recognize our own biases,” Schumacher said. “Growing up in Western society, there are certain ways that we view the world that aren’t inherently wrong but also aren’t inherently right in recognizing that there are people in places that view the world very differently.”

FCA welcomes all students whether they’re involved in a sport or not and no matter their religious alignment. Schumacher stresses the idea that everybody has challenges with their faith.

“I would hope that we can be a space where people can ask and wrestle with those challenging things,” Schumacher said. “Whether you have any faith background, or for those that are deeply connected to their faith, all of us wrestle with those questions … if someone tells you they don’t, then they’re lying to you.”

Frank Kurtz graduated from Kent State in 1988 and now works for FCA as associate staff.

“I’m going to care about you whether you do or whether you don’t [want to talk about faith],” Kurtz said. “I’m still going to treat you in a Christ-like way.”

Sports management grad student Isaac Vance has taken part in the group ever since he initially came to Kent State in 2017. Now he attends the weekly meetings as a student leader.

“FCA is a phenomenal community for people to be themselves and know that they’re loved,” Vance said.

Vance grew up in a Christian household and takes the opportunity and platform he’s granted to brighten the lives of members at FCA who want to grow in their faith.

“At the end of the day, our relationships with people and the Lord are what matters most and being able to show the love of Christ because we’re just as messy as everybody else,” said Vance. “Who am I to judge somebody?”

Two other student leaders also take on extra responsibilities in FCA including student leader and current graduate student in clinical mental health counseling Danie Tyson and senior general business major and softball player Julia Mezanec.

“This group is so inclusive, I can’t stress that enough,” Tyson said.

Tyson describes the group as a family environment.

“It’s a big, conscious effort to make sure everyone’s involved,” said Tyson.

Mezanec said she loves hearing from everybody in the meetings.

“I personally love group settings because I can hear all of these different point of views and how other people are interpreting things,” Mezanec said. “You can try to apply that to how you’re reading it instead of how you would normally read something, and I think it deepens understanding.”

Student-athletes Amanda Winquist, soccer player and junior majoring in integrated health studies, and Danielle Hamm, junior field hockey player majoring in hospitality and vet management, also attend the weekly meetings.

Winquist said she appreciates the sharing of feelings at the beginning of meetings.

“It gives me a sense of calmness … some people are in the same shoes as me right now,” Winquist said.

As a soccer player, Winquist said she learns new ways to approach different circumstances on the field and encourages her teammates to see hardships as opportunities from God.

Hamm plays on the field hockey team and said the group shows a very conversational and inclusive manner.

“They’re so accepting, it doesn’t matter where you are on your journey,” Hamm said.

Winquist and Hamm will attend the upcoming Jubilee convention with FCA in Pittsburgh.

Coalition for Christian Outreach oversees FCA as a regional nonprofit organization and holds the annual trip for the Jubilee convention. FCA hasn’t traveled for the Jubilee convention in three years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Attendees travel on Feb. 17 and depart for home on Feb. 19.

FCA groups all over the nation will attend the convention to see four main speakers while engaging in small-group discussions of faith. Attendees often split into workshops to share and learn views on a multitude of topics.

“One of the big things I’m hoping for is deeper relational connections with each other,” Schumacher said. “I’m really hoping for the students that go that it’s a chance to build relationships and trust with each other, and that they’ll walk away having made more friends or deeper relationships with the friends they came with.”

FCA meets weekly on Tuesdays at 8:15 p.m. in room 306A in the Student Center. Many members of the group have said they are accepting toward any new members.

“A big thing in the Christian faith is to always be humble and kind to people. That’s what I try to be,” Hamm said.

Vance said he has a similar mindset and to always approach people with positivity.

“I always tell people [to] love the unlovable … if I cross somebody in the hallway and give them a smile, maybe that’ll brighten their day,” Vance said. “Little things go a long way and they add up over time.”

Alyse Riffer is a reporter. Contact her at [email protected].