COLUMBIA — The Fellowship of Christian Athletes is a popular national program that has been combining faith and athletics for nearly 60 years, but it had not reached the Christian-affiliated Columbia College campus until this autumn.
Three Cougars athletes — basketball players Zach Rockers and Tanner Sutton, along with volleyball player Aleah Hayes — decided that the advent of five new sports programs in 2012 signaled a need for an FCA program at Columbia College.
Veterans of sponsored meetings at MU, the trio promoted their weekly summits, held in the Cougars softball team’s miniature indoor field known as the Turf Room, by bringing in guest speakers and capitalizing on the athletics fraternity at Columbia College.
Rockers, whose grandfather and mother participated in FCA organizations, said he thinks the special angle helps the fledgling program.
“That’s what really attracts the athletes to it,” Rockers said, “It’s mainly about God, but we can relate it to sports.”
Team updates and bible studies are interspersed at the hour-long sessions, which bring in 20 to 30 athletes a week. Athletes can talk about whatever they like and often stay much longer than the allotted time.
“There are a lot of people I know where this is the first time they’ve been in a Christian group setting,” said Rockers, who was raised as a Roman Catholic.
This fall’s meetings might not have been possible without the recent surge of athletics squads at the school. Columbia College added five new teams in the past calendar year: men’s and women’s cross country and track, men’s and women’s golf, and women’s soccer.
The influx of new Cougars made the FCA transition from the big university down the road to a school with a student population around 1,200 much easier. But it still took three special athletes to make it happen.
“They are really great young people,” Matt Brock, an assistant men’s basketball coach, said of Rockers, Sutton and Hayes. “They make my job very fulfilling.”
Brock is the Columbia College FCA faculty sponsor and has been involved with the program elsewhere since high school. He and his wife, Sheryl, have contributed to various meetings throughout the year.
Their help is representative of a supportive Columbia College community that is quickly making the Turf Room a popular attraction on Wednesday nights.
Needless to say, Rockers is thrilled.
“I’m blessed to have this kind of dream become a reality and to be able to meet people who all have this same thing in common,” the 20-year-old sophomore said.