Fellowship of Christian Athletes Lacrosse Reflects on 25th Anniversary of ‘Miracle’ in Vail
FCA Lacrosse Continues to Impact Hundreds of Athletes Each Year, Glorifying God on the Playing Field and in the Lives of Players
KANSAS CITY, Mo.—Does God show up on a lacrosse field? Some might say He has better things to do, but a former Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA, www.fca.org) lacrosse team knows He was there 25 years ago this month at a tournament in Vail, Colo.
The FCA team wasn’t even supposed to be a part of the tourney in July 1992. In fact, just a few players were lined up when the team found out there was space in the extremely competitive event. But, on faith, Frank Kelly III and his wife, Gayle, booked 20 plane tickets, not even knowing who would fill them—a $6,000 expense on a personal credit card. Eventually, the seats were filled and the players made up the first-ever FCA Lacrosse team, slated to compete in the prestigious Vail Lacrosse Shootout.
The vision to be a part of the tournament, and the first designs for FCA Lacrosse, began a summer earlier among some lacrosse players at an FCA Sports Camp at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania.
Among those visionaries were Kelly and Dan Britton, now FCA’s executive director of international ministry. Britton called to register in the Shootout but was put on a long waiting list. Amazingly, after being told that “no one ever drops out,” space opened up the following May, just one month before competition began. The wrinkle was that tournament directors needed an answer the next day, so flights were booked and “recruiting” began with plane seats still empty.
“We’d tell guys, ‘We’re going to Colorado for a retreat, and by the way, bring your lacrosse equipment,’” Kelly remembered.
Kelly and Britton enlisted Kelly’s lacrosse-playing brothers, Bryan, David and John, and soon, others filled out the roster. While the FCA team had some star power, it lacked depth. And when FCA arrived in Vail, they marveled at the talent at the tournament, certain they would be crushed in the first round. But the team advanced to the quarterfinals to face No. 1 seed and returning champions—Greene Turtle.
FCA defied the odds, and shocked the gallery of fans, by winning 9-8 in double overtime. FCA’s run—dubbed the “Miracle in the Mountains”—continued with a semifinal victory over Team Colorado. The opponent in the championship was Mount Washington, a historic powerhouse. The game ended 10-7 in Mount Washington’s favor, but FCA had made its mark. Even fans of the opposing teams saw how the FCA players conducted themselves and knew there was something different about them. And it made these fans want to know more about Jesus.
“God really moved, not just on the field, but more importantly off the field, relationally,” Bryan Kelly said. “We got to share our hearts and really challenge each other spiritually and in how we grow in our walk with the Lord.”
A quarter-century later, these goals remain for FCA Lacrosse, which serves hundreds each summer through Camps. Frank Kelly III is still a stalwart presence as a coach, encourager and leader.
“The amazing experience 25 years ago in Vail was not only a way for a group of lacrosse players to glorify God, but also to share our faith with others through the common language of sports,” said Frank Kelly III, who was inducted into the FCA Hall of Champions in 2013. “Today, FCA Lacrosse has touched many lives, and we are thankful for the doors the Lord opened on that playing field in Colorado so many years ago.
“God can do immeasurably more than you could ask or imagine if you give your life to Him,” he added. “When I look at what God’s done, I’m blown away. It’s not like I had a clear vision for FCA Lacrosse, and we went and accomplished it. The Holy Spirit has led the whole thing.”
FCA Lacrosse teams now number more than 100 in the states and internationally. The quality of players drawn to FCA Lacrosse teams remain high as well, and the idea of them contending at national tournaments is not as farfetched as it seemed back in 1992.
“The ‘Miracle in the Mountains’ story of FCA Lacrosse is an awesome example of how God shows up in the middle of sports to bring glory to His kingdom and truly change lives,” said Ryan Horanburg, current executive director of FCA Lacrosse. “Building on the vision of the Kellys and Dan Britton, FCA Lacrosse helps both coaches and athletes become closer to the Savior through the sport they love.”
Last week, FCA Lacrosse hosted an annual Camp in central Pennsylvania that welcomed more than 500 coaches and athletes. It was just one of more than 700 FCA Camps in the U.S. and internationally that will reach upwards of 100,000 coaches and athletes. FCA’s 2017 Camps theme is “ONE,” based on the Bible verse Philippians 1:27: “… I will know that you are standing together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News” (NLT). Seven types of FCA Camps include: Coaches Camps, Leadership Camps, Partnership Camps, Power Camps, Sports Camps, Team Camps and International Camps.
Those who still want to be a part of FCA Camps in July and August can find Camps by sport, day or location through FCA’s easy-to-use Camps site. Last summer, new attendance records were set as more than 100,000 coaches and athletes converged at 720 Camp events in 40 states and in 45 countries around the world, where 8,788 coaches and athletes made first-time commitments to Christ and 11,256 recommitted their lives to Christ. The 2016 attendance was an increase of more than 10,000 over 2015.
To find FCA Camps in specific areas, visit www.fcacamps.org. Read more about Fellowship of Christian Athletes here, visit FCA’s web site at www.fca.org, its Facebook page at www.facebook.com/fcafans or its Twitter feed @fcanews.