Athletes in Action
|This article may rely excessively on sources too closely associated with the subject, potentially preventing the article from being verifiable and neutral. (October 2015)|
Athletes in Action (AIA) is an organization that was founded in 1966 by Dave Hannah. It is an offshoot of Cru Ministries (formerly known as Campus Crusade for Christ) that’s purpose is to, “[Use] sports as a platform to help people answer questions of faith and to point them to Jesus.” Athletes in Action has grown from its humble beginnings in tandem with its mother ministry, Cru. It now has evolved to have three main components; international, collegiate, and professional. It is present in over 90 countries, 150 university campuses, has a direct influence on 11 NFL teams, and has a strong presence in the WNBA and the national and international soccer world.
Athletes in Action was started in 1966 by Dave Hannah, who saw the need for a ministry to specifically target the student-athlete population that Campus Crusade for Christ wasn't reaching. The initial vision Hannah had was to create AIA teams that competed in different sports against college teams. They would play the game against willing universities and then share their faith and experiences with the crowd at halftime. The first three sports that implemented this between 1966-1967 were wrestling, track and field, and basketball. The most popular and successful of these was basketball. The height of the basketball ministry occurred in the 1976-77 and 1977-78 seasons. During this time they beat the University of San Francisco and UNLV, both of whom were ranked in the top 5 in the country. The Chargers also played the Soviet Union national basketball team multiple times, winning in 1986. The basketball form of this ministry declined as years went on, and effectively died when the NCAA cracked down on Division 1 teams playing non-amateur teams in 2004. Other sports, like women's basketball and wrestling continue on, though to a lesser degree. Athletes In Action has since begun to focus on their summer opportunities for college students as well as encouraging team Bible studies. There is full-time staff located on approximately 150 college campuses. AIA has also expanded to emphasize international ministries to students and sports professionals, as well as providing chaplains to NFL teams, WNBA teams, and many different soccer teams.
Athletes in Action is already present in 90 countries around the world, and hopes to make themselves known in more. They use the language of sports to overcome cultural barriers like different customs, languages, and traditions. They believe the gospel can be taught through sport, and spread by the athletes who have been given a platform to use intentionally. In addition to famous athletes from around the world, Athletes in Action has partnered with other Christian ministries and individuals to help reach a broader audience. They have been present in many global events such as the Olympics and the World Cup, as well as in smaller, local competitions. Athletes in Action hopes to continue growing and reach more and more countries until the Great Commission is fulfilled and every nation has been exposed to Christianity.
Athletes in Action’s professional ministries reach out to athletes, their families, and coaches in the hopes of changing their perspective on their sport. They understand that these athletes are under extreme amounts of pressure, and teach them that looking at their sport as a way of honoring God with the gifts he has given them is a liberating point of view. Athletes in Action provides opportunities for professional athletes to share their faith and how it has impacted their athletic career, in the hopes that they will be able to use this platform in order to make a difference in their community. Professional ministry aims to help both athletes and their fans answer hard questions about faith. Athletes in Action provides service opportunities for professional athletes both locally, and internationally. These experiences provide an opportunity for well-known professionals to share how their faith has impacted their relationship with their sport, as well as in their life.
Athletes in Action is part of Cru, and ministers on many college campuses. They provide staff members that lead chapters of AIA and facilitate the discipleship that goes on at each location. These chapters provide resources both help to grow athletes in their faith and help athletes learn how to share the gospel with others. The main components of the on campus ministry are the team bible studies and, at many colleges, a weekly large group meeting with athletes of all sports. They also provide summer opportunities such as Ultimate Training Camp and an annual Winter Retreat to further their knowledge of Christianity and introduce them to fellow Christian student athletes from all across the nation. “Athletes in Action is currently present on over 200 campuses nationwide, providing a place to grow in your faith and impact others.” 
Super Bowl Breakfast and the Bart Starr Award
Among the events sponsored by Athletes in Action is the NFL-sanctioned Super Bowl Breakfast which features the presentation of the Athletes in Action/Bart Starr Award "to honor the NFL player who best exemplifies outstanding character and leadership in the home, on the field and in the community."
Nominees are gathered from the Public Relations Directors of each NFL team, the past winners of the Bart Starr Award, the Athletes in Action Pro Staff working with NFL teams and Bart Starr himself. Ballots are sent to each team and voting takes place at the same time as the Pro Bowl selections. The award, bearing the name of the Pro Football Hall of Famer, honors Starr’s lifelong commitment to serving as a positive role model to his family, teammates, and community.
- Super Bowl Breakfast Official Site
- Bart Starr Award
- Athletes in Action Web site
- Athletes in Action Newsroom
- Beyond The Ultimate
- Campus Crusade for Christ
- Ultimate Training Camp