Fellowship of Christian Athletes

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Fellowship of Christian Athletes
Formation1954; 68 years ago (1954)
HeadquartersKansas City, Missouri
  • Worldwide
President and CEO
Shane Williamson

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) is an international non-profit Christian sports ministry founded in 1954 and based in Kansas City, Missouri. It has staff offices located throughout the United States and abroad.[1][2]


FCA was founded in 1954 by Eastern Oklahoma A&M basketball coach Don McClanen, who later resigned to become its full-time director.[3] After watching sports stars use fame to endorse and sell general merchandise, McClanen wrote to 19 prominent sports figures asking for their help in establishing an organization that would use the same principle to share the Christian faith. Among the first supporters were Baseball Hall of Famer Branch Rickey,[4][5] who was most known for breaking the MLB color barrier by signing Jackie Robinson to the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1945, and professional athletes including Otto Graham, Carl Erskine and Donn Moomaw.[3][6][7] FCA held its first advisory board meeting in September 1954 and was officially incorporated as a not-for-profit organization in November.[6]

After two years in Oklahoma, McClanen moved FCA's headquarters to Kansas City, Missouri. That year (1956), FCA also conducted its first national camp‚ then referred to as a national conference‚ which drew 256 athletes and coaches to Estes Park, Colorado. The ministry continued its expansion by adding additional camp locations, establishing a national magazine and beginning school campus groups called ‚"Huddles‚" within 10 years of the first camp.[7] In 1979 FCA completed and dedicated a new headquarters facility overlooking Kansas City‚ Truman Sports Complex, and the building was officially renamed the FCA National Support Center in 2011.[7]

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes operates according to an internally written statement of faith. This statement consists of nine points based on Bible teachings and Christian principles. Each point has a corresponding scripture.[1] All staff and ministry leaders agree with and operate according to the FCA statement of faith.[8] While all students are welcome to attend FCA Huddles, students in leadership are required to sign a statements of faith and sexual purity.[9][10][11]


In September 2015, public schools in Roanoke, Virginia, ended FCA ministry to football players following at least two complaints.[12] In an FCA activity referred to as the "Watermelon Ministry", the organization had visited public high school student athletes at team practices to offer watermelon slices and tell players that all the talents they have come from God.[13][14] The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a national nonprofit organization, referred to the activities as "predatory," "illegal" and "unconstitutional"[15] in letters sent to superintendents of two of the largest Virginia jurisdictions involved.

School officials responded they were unaware that the coaches were hosting the proselytizing, and immediately stopped it. The Roanoke County superintendent stated “Roanoke County Schools believes in the separation of church and state. We want to maintain and ensure that that practice is being followed.” A city of Roanoke spokesman said “When this information came to our attention, we responded immediately. We met with the appropriate people and made it very clear that separation of church and state is the law of the land. We feel the matter is under control and we will monitor this very closely.”[12]

Through its media office, FCA issued the following response, "Every student athlete has the right and the freedom to participate in activities according to their individual religious convictions. There are no repercussions for students who decline to participate in FCA activities."[12] The FFRF letters, however had noted that repercussions may take the form of pressure from peers and coaches, alienating non-Christian students, and usurping parents' authority.[15]

The FCA sexual purity statement has been criticized because it includes statements against homosexuality, which must be signed by FCA representatives of the ministry including staff, trustees and adult volunteer ministry leaders.[16] Student leaders sign a Student Leader Application when serving in leadership roles within the organization, which requires signing the sexual purity statement.[17]

Professional athletes[edit]

Since 1954, professional athletes and coaches have taken part in FCA through ministry events, speaking engagements, FCA camps, volunteer opportunities and ministry leadership roles.[3][18] For approximately six decades, athletes and coaches from both major and minor professional sports and top-tier college programs have engaged with FCA to communicate their Christian faith and participate in community outreach opportunities. Among those who pioneered the organization were former stars Otto Graham, Branch Rickey, Bobby Richards, Carl Erskine and Bill Krisher.[19] They would be followed by other influential sports figures including Bobby Bowden, Jim Ryun,[19] Betsy King,[19] Herschel Walker,[20] Reggie White, Tony Dungy, Shaun Alexander,[21] Tom Osborne[19] and Shanna Zolman, all of whom vocalized their Christian faith through FCA outlets such as banquets, camps and rallies.

Recent stars who have connected with FCA have included Adam Wainwright, Brian Roberts,[22] Tim Tebow,[23] Tamika Catchings,[24] John Harbaugh,[25] Leah O'Brien Amico,[20] Allyson Felix[26] Colt McCoy,[27] Andrew McCutchen[28] and a number of public figures outside the world of sports such as comedian Jeff Foxworthy,[29] and Duck Dynasty star Willie Robertson.[30]


FCA presents several national awards every year to athletes and coaches who have excelled in specific areas of competition, community service and Christian character.[31]

Bobby Bowden Award[edit]

Named after former Florida State University football coach Bobby Bowden, this award is presented annually to a Division I FBS football player who conducts himself as a faith model in the community, in the classroom and on the field.[31] Nominees must have 3.0 grade point average or higher and the backing of his school‚ athletic director, and head coach.

Winners of the Bobby Bowden Award
Year Athlete School Position
2003 Jason Wright[32] Northwestern Running back
2004 Billy Bajema[32] Oklahoma State Tight end
2005 D. J. Shockley[32] Georgia Quarterback
2006 Carl Pendleton[32] Oklahoma Defensive tackle
2007 Jacob Tamme[32] Kentucky Tight end
2008 Stephen McGee[32] Texas A&M Quarterback
2009 Colt McCoy[32] Texas
2010 Christian Ponder[32] Florida State
2011 Case Keenum[32] Houston
2012 Ashton Richardson[32] Auburn Linebacker
2013 Jake Matthews[32] Texas A&M Offensive tackle
2014 Bryce Petty[32] Baylor Quarterback
2015 Ty Darlington[32] Oklahoma Center
2016 Deshaun Watson[32] Clemson Quarterback
2017 Mason Rudolph[32] Oklahoma State
2018 Hunter Renfrow[33] Clemson Wide receiver
2019 Tua Tagovailoa[34] Alabama Quarterback
2020 Trevor Lawrence[35] Clemson
2021 Malik Willis[36] Liberty

Grant Teaff Coach of the Year[edit]

The Grant Teaff Coach of the Year Award is named after former Baylor University football coach Grant Teaff, who also served as the executive director of the American Football Coaches Association and member of the FCA National Board of Trustees.[31] The annual award recognizes a football coach who exemplifies Christian principles and maintains an active involvement with FCA. Previous winners include Iowa State's Matt Campbell (2018), Nebraska's Scott Frost (2017), Mike MacIntyre, Mike London, Tommy Bowden, Jerry Kill and Tommy Tuberville.[37]

Kay Yow Heart of a Coach Award[edit]

First presented in 2008, this award was established to honor former North Carolina State University women's basketball coach Kay Yow died after a nearly 22-year battle with cancer. The award recognizes a women's basketball coach who‚ over the course of his or her career, has coached according to Biblical principles‚ and has coached the heart of the athlete, as well as the body and mind.[31] Previous winners include Liberty's Carey Green (2019), University of Colorado Springs' Lynn Plett (2018), Abilene Christian's Julie Goodenough (2017), Sue Semrau, Deb Patterson, Sue Ramsey and Kay Yow.[38]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Mission and Vision". Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
  2. ^ "404" (PDF). www.fca.org. {{cite web}}: Cite uses generic title (help)
  3. ^ a b c "The Word According to Tom". SI.com.
  4. ^ "Rickey, Branch - Baseball Hall of Fame". Baseball Hall of Fame.
  5. ^ "Branch Rickey".
  6. ^ a b http://archives.fca.org/vsItemDisplay.lsp&objectID=C658F118-CB82-4DA8-A0CBD628E9B07F9C&method=display
  7. ^ a b c "FCA History - Fellowship of Christian Athletes". Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
  8. ^ "Statement of Faith". Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
  9. ^ "FCA Student Leader Application" (PDF). Retrieved 30 September 2018.
  10. ^ Whitehead, Jayson (27 March 2012). "Does practicing Christianity in UVA's locker rooms violate the Constitution? - C-VILLE Weekly". C-VILLE Weekly. Retrieved 30 September 2018.
  11. ^ Cruz, Maria (30 July 2018). "Torontonians threaten to boycott conservative fast-food chain Chick-fil-A - Womens Post". Womens Post.
  12. ^ a b c "Roanoke, Roanoke County schools end Christian ministry to football players". Roanoke Times. 30 September 2015. Retrieved 2 October 2015.
  13. ^ "Going " All-In " with the Watermelon Ministry". 10 August 2014.
  14. ^ "A Block, a Tackle and a Prayer . . . FCA Watermelon Ministry". 13 August 2009.
  15. ^ a b Elliott, Patrick. "Letter to Roanoke City School Superintendent, 9/17/2015, from Freedom from Religion Foundation" (PDF). Retrieved 2 October 2015.
  16. ^ Chandler, Diana. "Chick-fil-A to New York: 'no political agenda'". bpnews.net. Retrieved 8 April 2017.
  17. ^ "FCA Student Leader Application" (PDF).{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  18. ^ "Jenni Carlson's Q&: Fellowship of Christian Athletes founder Don McClanen". NewsOK.com. 27 June 2009.
  19. ^ a b c d FCA History. YouTube. 15 May 2007. Archived from the original on 16 March 2013.
  20. ^ a b "Walker among speakers at FCA spring banquet". hhjonline.com.
  21. ^ FCA 2007 Promo DVD: Shaun Alexander. YouTube. 26 April 2007. Archived from the original on 6 June 2014.
  22. ^ "Orioles' Roberts Is All Heart (washingtonpost.com)". www.washingtonpost.com.
  23. ^ Tim & Robbie Tebow Speak at an FCA Event In Lenox Georgia. YouTube. 8 April 2011. Archived from the original on 13 December 2021.
  24. ^ FCA Online Ministry/Fellowship of Christian Athletes. "FCA Knoxville".
  25. ^ John Harbaugh - Speaker at MD FCA Banquet 2013. YouTube. 8 April 2013. Archived from the original on 13 December 2021.
  26. ^ entertainment.accessatlanta.com https://web.archive.org/web/20131212003540/http://entertainment.accessatlanta.com/cartersville_ga/events/show/304097685-fca-banquet-guest-speaker-john-smoltz. Archived from the original on 12 December 2013. {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  27. ^ "Winningest FBS Quarterback, Colt McCoy, 2011 FCA Banquet speaker". The Amplifier.
  28. ^ Andrew McCutchen talks about his faith with FCA. YouTube. 9 July 2012. Archived from the original on 10 July 2012.
  29. ^ "Foxworthy shares 'gift God gave me' 101400 - The Augusta Chronicle". augusta.com.
  30. ^ "Duck Dynasty Star Willie Robertson Assist Fellowship of Christian Athletes". christianpost.com.
  31. ^ a b c d "Athlete Awards - Coach Awards - Fellowship of Christian Athletes". Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
  32. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o "Rudolph Wins Fellowship of Christian Athletes' Bobby Bowden Award". okstate.com. Archived from the original on 4 September 2020. Retrieved 18 August 2020.
  33. ^ Hickey, Anna. "Hunter Renfrow named winner of 2018 Bobby Bowden Award". 247 Sports. Retrieved 4 December 2020.
  34. ^ Walsh, Christopher. "Tua Tagovailoa Named Winner of the 2019 Bobby Bowden Award". SI.com. Retrieved 4 December 2020.
  35. ^ Blanco, Brian. "Lawrence adds Bowden Trophy to list of honors". The Times and Democrat. Associated Press. Retrieved 25 January 2021.
  36. ^ Henry, Jim. "Liberty quarterback Malik Willis honored with the 2021 Bobby Bowden Trophy". Tallahassee Democrat. Retrieved 24 May 2022.
  37. ^ "MacIntyre Named FCA National Coach of the Year". CUBuffs.com.
  38. ^ "FSU WBB Head Coach Sue Semrau Wins FCA Kay Yow Heart Coach of the Year - Seminoles Chant". typepad.com.

External links[edit]