Almost 30 years ago, Coach Rick Andreassen, founder and president of SAINTS International Sports Ministry and SAINTS of Florida Homeschool P.E., knelt at the foot of his bed and prayed. “They were going to have me teach Sunday School [at New Covenant Church] and I was like, ‘Lord, I can’t.’ I was making all the objections like Moses did; I felt so unqualified, and God said, ‘Love my children. Just do that one thing… love my children.’ He kept it simple and that’s all I’ve ever done,” Andreassen said.
Today, Coach Rick Andreassen heads up an international ministry dedicated to sharing the love of Jesus Christ with children around the world through the platform of sports. Creating an atmosphere “Where Jesus is Lord and Every Child is a Winner,” SAINTS reaches more than 10,000 children weekly throughout four states and six countries.
With his signature smile, a seemingly endless supply of enthusiasm and an uncanny ability to remember the name of every child even years after they graduated, Coach Rick exudes the joy he strives to bring into the lives of children.
So many families wrote letters of appreciation about him in 2002 that he was elected to carry the Olympic Torch on its way to the 2002 Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, Utah, representing homeschool families. He’s been recognized in Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers and was named a “Hero Among Us” by the Florida Panthers in 2015 for “enhancing the lives of young people around the world.”
“I never get tired of hearing my name from a little boy or girl in the grocery store,” Coach Rick beamed.
Coach is a title he is honored to wear. “Billy Graham once said he believed a coach is one of the most influential people in America today.” Coach Rick added, “There are more kids on a soccer field on Saturday than in a Sunday school on Sunday. I know they believe coach on your name is like having MD – doctor said. ‘Coach Rick said, eat all my vegetables. Coach Rick said, I can… Coach said you are awesome.’ So, if I can co-labor with parents to raise up a child in the way he should go, I know God has given our staff a huge platform.”
Coach Rick and the SAINTS staff hope to impact a generation for Christ through sports. He points to salvation statistics that indicate 70 percent of all people who get saved do so before they turn 14 years old, another 20 percent by their 18th birthday and the final 10 percent in their adult years. He’s personally witnessed thousands of kids make salvation commitments through SAINTS since its start 21 years ago, then they connect these children to local churches in whatever country they are ministering.
After working as a physical education teacher at New Covenant Christian School and Children’s Pastor at New Covenant Church in Pompano Beach for 11 years, Andreassen said God gave the vision for SAINTS while he was heading back to Florida following a visit to his childhood home in Saugerties, New York.
“I was going through a rough emotional time after the drowning of a 5-year-old little boy who was very dear to my heart, and I was reading a book Stephan Tchividjian gave me [A Tale of Three Kings]. I read this one sentence ‘…that God might yet be able to give his authority to a trustworthy vessel.’ I wrote down the words ‘trustworthy vessel’ and looked out the window of the plane, then God gave two words: Homeschool P.E.”
I heard a pastor say (and I will paraphrase), “There is a part of God’s heart that can only be seen through eyes that are filled with tears.”
God gave the vision on August 27, 1997, and five weeks later on October 1st, SAINTS was launched by Coach Rick with two volunteers at George English Park in Fort Lauderdale, serving 18 kids from ten homeschool families.
Using an A.C.S.I. accredited homeschool physical education program Coach Rick designed for children ages 5 to 18, SAINTS brings joy to children by engaging them in more than a dozen sports and games, including archery, basketball, kickball, volleyball, flag football, soccer, track and field. He modeled his Saints-Sational Fitness Challenge after the President’s Physical Fitness Challenge and incorporates games with parachutes, hula hoops, frisbees, jump rope and more. Beyond fitness, SAINTS coaches are encouraged to “build children up in who they are in Jesus Christ.”
“It’s not rocket science, but what we do with the kids is a science,” Coach Rick explained, stressing that structure is everything. “My background is in Early Childhood Development with three years of Bible College, so we create an environment of order. If you can create order where they feel safe, then you can teach. A few days of playing, laughing, feeling safe and not being picked on, then you can speak into their hearts.”
Through sports, Coach Rick is able to fulfill what he calls his life mission, “to tell a child who they are to Jesus Christ.”
He tries to live by “The Starfish Story,” saying, “I know I cannot help them all, but like the little boy who picked up one more starfish, I know I can make a difference in the life of this one.”
In the midst of this one-life-at-a-time approach, SAINTS doubled in attendance year after year. “In the first year it went from 18 to 36 and from 36 to 72, but then there was a year when it went from 250 kids to 500 and from 500 kids to 1,000 the following year. That’s when all the dynamics changed… That meant duplicating the vision and duplicating the heart. We duplicated vehicles, equipment, but it was a stepping stone. God allowed it to duplicate in Palm Beach, then Orlando and Jacksonville. And with that model we could duplicate in Texas and California then to other countries.”
The expansion from homeschool P.E. to international ministry began about 10 years ago when a homeschool mom from Boca Raton asked, “Do you think you could do SAINTS in Zambia, Africa?” Coach Rick said, “Absolutely, yes. I knew everything we were doing could be duplicated in third world countries. Since we set up everything from the back of a van, it could fit into a duffle bag” or what he now calls “SAINTS in a Box.”
After going through Lifework Leadership and Ministry Ventures, our passion for God to reach more children for the Kingdom grew exponentially.
SAINTS International Sports Ministry partners with typically American organizations that are feeding, clothing and educating children by bringing in games, joy and laughter. “My heart would be to give children a childhood they’ve never had. The Bible says laughter is good medicine. So we bring joy,” explained Coach Rick, adding “what these kids go through would break your heart.”
In Haiti, SAINTS partners with Mission of Hope, a connection that developed through Rio Vista Community Church. Kenya, Africa, is facilitated through John McKay at a Boy’s Home for teenagers rescued from living on the dump. Their Zambia, Africa, ministry is through CCM Trust School. The ministry in Zimbabwe was started by Coach Steve Schaffer, lead coach at SAINTS of Texas. And SAINTS ministers at a Christian school in Guatemala through a partnership with Lighthouse Community Church in Hollywood and Pastor Bob Befeld.
“We are also grateful for Above & Beyond Community Church in Boca Raton, that has now commissioned Full-Time Missionary Felix Lopez to serve in Guatemala as well,” Coach Rick said.
Two months ago, Coach Rick and his team went to Guatemala with Lighthouse Community Church. “We were able to train 12 coaches in Guatemala then those 12 went out to three different ministries… We go, we train and it continues to run. And it’s run by locals, so Guatemalans get a job and Haitians get a job as SAINTS coaches.”
SAINTS also orchestrates short-term mission trips for families, including a father-son trip to help with the SAINTS program in Haiti three months ago. Ministering through activities, they strategically love them, play with them, enjoy, laugh and on the fourth day they share the gospel. “Since they’ve experienced the love of Christ through these people, the Salvation statistics are off the charts,” said Coach Rick. “We can set up activities in an open field anywhere in any country and kids just come out of the woodwork… Games are cross-cultural. I can’t speak their languages, but I can say ‘Jesus loves you’ in Creole, in Swahili and in Spanish.” He has participated on 30 short-term mission trips since his first trip in 1990 serving on the Billy Graham Crusade as a youth counselor throughout Scotland and England.
Raised in a large family as the second youngest of eleven siblings, Coach Rick attended Catholic School for eight years before attending public high school where he was recently inducted into the Saugerties Sports Hall of Fame for his accomplishments on and off the field. “Because I had six older brothers and three older sisters, I always felt incredibly loved as a little boy,” Coach Rick said, adding, “It’s the voice of a big person to a little person. It’s just, you can do it. Good job. I’m proud of you… The power of life and death is in the tongue and I pray that I can speak life.”
Coach Rick’s younger sister Ruth died of Multiple Sclerosis at 38 years old and was bedridden for the last 13 years of her life. “She loved Jesus and always had joy through all she went through. She was my hero,” said Coach Rick, and his inspiration. In her honor, he has run 19 marathons wearing a shirt with “Go Rick Go” on the front and his sister Ruth’s picture displayed on the back. He is often present at Multiple Sclerosis Walks, carrying his Olympic Torch and helping to raise money for a cure.
When things get difficult, Coach Rick remembers what he calls his life verse: Hebrews 12:2, “fixing our eyes on Jesus…” He explained, “When the storms of life come and when troubles come, I fix my eyes on Jesus. He’s the author and perfecter of my life.” Coach Rick testifies, “My life is not one of a success story, but more one of a Faithful Heavenly Father.”
It’s the testimonies of children that are the highlights of his life. Travelling to Guatemala two months ago, he encountered an 18-year-old boy who stopped him at the airport and said, “Your name is Coach Rick. You spoke at my church when I was eight years old… When your mission team shared the gospel at our church in San Andreas, Guatemala, I accepted Jesus as my savior.”
While he has no biological children of his own, Coach Rick said that when people ask, “Do you have any kids?” he smiles and says, “Yes… a few thousand!”
An inspirational speaker at homeschool conventions, Coach Rick’s message is “God is faithful” and he believes the greatest message is the value of children to God!. He has an amazing way of communicating from the heart of God to the heart of a parent about the heart of a child.
Coach Rick added, “I am very grateful for my home church at Calvary Chapel Fort
Lauderdale. And we know you don’t have to get on an airplane to serve children. SAINTS is
privileged to partner here locally with 4Kids of South Florida, One Hope Ministries in Pompano
Beach and also God’s Little Acres in Coconut Creek.
To get involved with SAINTS of Florida Homeschool P.E. and SAINTS International Sports Ministry, please…
* Pray for their staff and ministry
* Consider sponsoring a “SAINTS in a Box” to be implemented in another country or to be used as an after-school program here in the United States.
* Host a SAINTS Sunday at your church where they can share the vision.
* Partner financially by donating online at SaintsOfFlorida.com.
SAINTS International Sports Ministry is a qualified 501C3 nonprofit organization, and 100 percent of your giving is used to enhance the life of a child.
SAINTS of Florida Homeschool P.E. is now registering students for its 2018-2019 season. For details, visit SaintsOfFlorida.com. Coach Rick Andreassen can be reached at 954-494-6812 or [email protected].