For more than 60 years, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) has been on a mission “to lead every coach and athlete into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ and His Church.” Based in Kansas City, FCA has chapters in 107 countries and leads 20,948 certified huddles worldwide. It’s influence in South Florida has grown in recent years with the establishment of an FCA Campus Director at The University of Miami (UM), a program at Florida Atlantic University (FAU) and increased staff throughout the tri-county area.
“We are truly excited about what God is doing in South Florida through FCA!” said FCA President Shane Williamson. “Our ministry has really grown through the leadership we now have in place, and thanks to the generosity of our supporters we have even bigger plans for reaching every coach and athlete in this part of the country. The South Florida team – Mike Blanc, Jerry Beverly, Desmond Cook and Greg Anderson – have all made a significant impact in their respective areas, and now more than ever they are collaborating to maximize the ministry opportunities we have in that region! So we are pumped for the future!”
FCA Palm Beach County Board Member Steve Scalici is Senior VP of UBS and Pastor at Family Church Jupiter. A self-described “rapscallion” as a teen, Scalici has developed a real affinity for young people. “Less than five percent of people in our county attend a gospel based church, so the idea that we’re just going to have church and hope the kids just show up – it’s a pipe dream. So we want to bring the gospel to the schools. One of the beauties of FCA as a club is as long as it has a student and staff sponsor, we have a better chance of getting in the school because they cannot say no to any club.”
FCA primarily reaches out to high school and middle school athletes and coaches through campus huddles. And since South Florida is home to some of the largest school districts in the country (Dade is #2, Broward #6 and Palm Beach County #11), it faces the daunting task of establishing FCA programs in every school.
Desmond Cook, FCA Multi-Area Director for the South Atlantic Region, which includes Broward County, and Team Chaplain for the FAU Football Team, said, “When I came on in 2017, I was the only FCA missionary in Broward, but by the grace of God we’re up to six local missionaries with boots on the ground, and we have a pretty nice volunteer base as well.”
A Broward native who played defensive tackle and center/guard for Stanford University in California, Cook formerly operated a tech company before becoming an FCA volunteer and ultimately coming on staff in 2017.
Discussing his transition to full-time ministry, Cook said, “There is nothing more rewarding in my life than what we get to do… Just since I’ve been here, we’ve seen 2,400 students, athletes and coaches come to Christ, and not just be a hand that was raised but be a life that’s been changed, and to see how that manifests….Some of my guys at FAU are not just team leaders, but they’re the team spiritual leaders as well, which is amazing.”
Jeffte Joseph, a wide receiver at FAU, was introduced to FCA as a student at Deerfield Beach High School and now leads huddles as a student athlete at FAU. “FCA has helped me out in the sense of my spiritual growth. Many athletes deal with mental health, but FCA helped with that balance of body, mind and the spiritual side… and knowing my identify in Christ helped me have confidence both on the field and as a person.”
To and through the coach
Greg Anderson, FCA Metro-Director for Palm Beach County, said, “One of the highlights of FCA for me is ministry to coaches. FCA has a mantra that is frequently heard and that’s ‘to and through the coach,’ and I think God’s put on my heart coaching the coaches on how to coach.”
A pastor for 25 years, Greg Anderson served at Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale for 13 years before joining FCA. A University of South Carolina graduate, Anderson was the football team’s student manager and coached college football at East Carolina and Liberty University in the eighties, and most recently coached the offensive line for Calvary Christian Academy.
In April FCA hosted a coaches clinic using the 3Dimensional Coaching program. “The concept is not just a coach telling a kid physically what to do – most coaches can do that – but also its coaching the kid mentally and spiritually. Helping a coach realize these kids are not just athletes that throw balls, catch balls and score points. They’re actual human beings with emotions, minds and souls.”
Anderson added, “Within the world of coaching there is a misunderstanding or mentality that I’ve got to be loud and forceful and boisterous if I’m going to motivate, but there’s a lot of great coaches that motivate through their character and their own example. When I see a coach yelling and screaming, to me it’s almost evidence of his lack of ability to get a point across.”
During the pandemic, Anderson and his wife also began an online bible study for coaches and their wives, focusing on marriage. “We saw a need and wanted to help them be better dads, better husbands, better wives,” said Anderson.
FCA also hosts coaches retreats. Coach Jevon Glenn, head football coach at Deerfield Beach High School, has attended FCA coaches retreats in Naples and Palm Beach. “I met coaches from all over the country from different sports. It wasn’t just football, which was very refreshing. We got spirituality. We got relationship advice. We got financial advising and tools we could take back and implement in both our football programs and our personal lives.”
On the campus at Deerfield Beach High School, Coach Glenn said, “FCA is a huge part of our program and why we’re successful at doing what we do. It helps us give structure and gives us that edge. Through Christ, through religion and faith, it can give you a competitive edge in life and sports and relationships and everything.”
Camps and clinics
Summer at FCA is about camps and clinics. These are opportunities for students athletes to develop athletic and leadership skills while also receiving a gospel message. For example, Broward FCA runs a Trench Warrior Camp for football lineman. They are holding a Baseball Camp August 21 – 22 at Westminster Academy Athletic Complex (email [email protected] for information). And a five-day Lakeland Leadership Camp develops student athletes for leadership on campus.
However, Huddles are the mainstay of FCA. Organized at the team, campus or community level, huddles are essentially Bible studies led by a student athlete or coach. They are designed to “make disciples by engaging, equipping and empowering coaches and athletes to know and grow in Christ and lead others to do the same.”
Mike Blanc, FCA Campus Director at University of Miami and the Football Team Chaplain, runs chapel services for the entire football team prior to games and leads about 14 team members in a discipleship program called Leaders In Training (LIT) in addition to spreading his time among other sports. “At FCA we have the opportunity of preaching and teaching the word to everybody, but those student leaders are kind of like the 12 disciples. They are a smaller group, and you really get a chance to pour into them in a special intimate way.”
A Broward native who played football at Auburn University, Blanc was drafted into the NFL playing for the San Diego Chargers and Pittsburgh Steelers before he returned to South Florida and came on staff with FCA. However, Blanc said one of the ‘wow things’ for him recently has been seeing the growth of student athletes like Kolby Bird.
“The ministry here is relatively new and Kolby was able to go all four years from freshman year to senior year. A star volleyball player at UM, FCA impacted her so much that she said I want to come on staff with FCA back home in San Diego and help to establish something there the same way it is established in Miami. And to me that’s big! It’s very similar to my story.” A student president for FCA at Auburn University, Blanc came home to Broward and established the chapter at University of Miami four years ago. Since then, more than 50 athletes and students have been baptized, FCA organized a mission trip to the Dominican Republic and the ministry has gained the respect of the administration.
“About two months ago, I was invited to meet with UM President Julio Frenk. He thanked us and said, ‘I’ve heard nothing but good things about what you’ve been doing on campus and the love you have for our students and athletes.’”
In Dade County, FCA has had a strong presence for decades, most notably hosting the Orange Bowl Prayer Breakfast in conjunction with the Orange Bowl Game for more than 50 years. Held virtually due to COVID last year, the community-wide event featured Dr. Tony Evans as keynote speaker along with coach and player testimonies from Texas A&M and the University of North Carolina.
FCA South Florida Director, Jerry Beverly said he became a Christian through FCA in high school. “I was a troubled youth and didn’t have a real healthy home environment, so my head football coach was the one that was a father figure, a huge inspiration to me and mentor. He was the one that introduced me to FCA when I was in high school. I’m a product of FCA and was president in high school and college and went to all the local leadership camps.” Playing football for Troy State University, Beverly worked at Florida International University (FIU) and Miami Dade College as a Life Skills Coordinator and coached football, baseball and volleyball before returning to FCA 10 years ago.
One Miami FCA Tradition that has helped kick off the school sports season for more than 15 years now is FCA Night of Champions. Held the week before school starts, Night of Champions brings together coaches and athletes from competing schools in the district for an inspiring message and gospel presentation. This year UM National Champion and Former NFL Wide Receive Pastor Daryl Jones will speak at the event, which will include a dinner, DJ and activities hosted at two location in Dade County and for the first time in Broward as well.
FCA Night of Champions
Potential Church Cooper City
Christ Journey Church Coral Gables
Christ Fellowship Palmetto Bay
In addition to campus huddles and coaches clinics, the Miami area FCA also hosts an annual Glory Run 5K at Tropical Park each year as a fundraiser and corporate run. They’ve also adopted an FCA chapter in Columbia, South America, where they hope to help them establish a Glory Run 5K as well. “About 5 years ago FCA made a turn to focus globally with each region adopting a country,” said Beverly. “It really shows how they think about the world.”
Florida has expanded statewide from 35 staff members almost 10 years ago to 180 today. And Jason Bernick, FCA Region 14 Vice President over Florida and the nine countries around Brazil, recognizes South Florida is also an international community. “In a sense it’s a modern Corinth… the uniqueness here is a fervor – a warrior mentality… but they’ve kept their faithfulness and steadfastness. These guys are all in.”
FCA partners with churches to facilitate campus huddles at various schools. Volunteers are always welcome. Area directors are also seeking board members to help cast vision and support the mission financially. For more information, visit one of the following sites: www.fcapbc.org, www.southatlanticfca.org, www.universityofmiamifca.org, or www.miamifca.org.
For more article by Shelly Pond, visit www.goodnewsfl.org/author/shelly/