‘If You’re Not Maximizing Your Gift, You’re Cheating Yourself and Your Team’
Abilene Christian Women’s Basketball Coach Julie Goodenough Works with Fellowship of Christian Athletes While Ensuring Her ‘Program Exists to Glorify God’
KANSAS CITY, Mo.—Coach Julie Goodenough and her Abilene Christian women’s basketball team know there’s a higher goal than winning games.
“Our program exists simply to glorify God,” Goodenough tells Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA, www.fca.org). “I’m one of the luckiest coaches in the country.”
Sure, the Wildcats would love to finish the 2018-19 season strong, especially just a few years into becoming a Division I squad. But there’s much more in the overall picture for life—and in the overarching plan from God for everyone’s life.
Through coaches like Goodenough, FCA is committed to the strategy of “To and Through the Coach,” which is part of the overall larger FCA vision to see the world transformed by Jesus Christ through the influence of coaches and athletes. FCA recognizes that one of the best ways to reach more athletes for Christ is to first reach the coach.
This “To and Through the Coach” commitment helps FCA passionately pursue its vision and mission by seeking ministries that impact coaches’ hearts, marriages and families. Those coaches are then engaged, equipped and empowered to impact their fellow coaches, teams and athlete leaders for God.
And Julie Goodenough is fully on board.
God has been alongside Goodenough throughout her life, guiding in His plan for her. Goodenough grew up in the small Texas town of Haskell, halfway between Fort Worth and Lubbock. Her parents ran a sporting goods store, and the family attended First Baptist Church; Julie accepted Jesus as her Savior in seventh grade at church camp. She excelled in basketball, golf and track in high school.
After a college career as a standout basketball player at Western Texas College and then Texas-Arlington, Goodenough got the call from Hardin-Simmons University to become the head coach—at the age of 24. She had the desire to coach and teach girls to become young women from the very beginning, and two decades later, the vision of coaching for Christ defines Goodenough more than her 400-plus victories.
After the first season at Hardin-Simmons, Julie married her husband, Rob. She is quick to say he has always been “an incredible support that’s allowed me to do this job that I love, that I call my ministry.” By 1996, the school moved up from NAIA to Division III, and over the next couple of years, Julie and Rob welcomed two daughters.
“It’s hard to be a head coach at any level. I think it’s harder to be a female head coach, especially when raising small kids,” says Steve Keenum, who coached at Hardin-Simmons then and now serves as the Multi-Area Director for Big Country FCA. “She’s a great mother, and she’s a great light in what could be considered, in some circles, a dark culture.”
Hardin-Simmons had a winning record in each of Goodenough’s nine seasons, winning at least 22 games five times. The Cowgirls also won seven conference championships. That resume drew the attention of Division I programs Oklahoma State (2002-05) and then Charleston Southern (2006-12). Eventually, Goodenough got the call to head home to Texas to build a Division I program. Starting in 2012, she navigated Abilene Christian University’s (ACU) transition from Division II to Division I. The program is predicated on “Godly women striving for excellence”—evident as the Wildcats have won 70 percent of their games in six seasons.
At ACU, Goodenough partners with FCA campus representative Aleah Dillard, as well as serves on the Big Country FCA leadership board that supports Keenum and his staff. Additionally, FCA honored Goodenough with the Kay Yow Heart of a Coach award in 2017. And even though she realizes there is something greater involved in coaching young women, Goodenough doesn’t shy away from hard work and intensity on the court. And it shows in the ‘W’ column.
This season, the Wildcats sit at a strong 16-8 record (9-4 in conference play). In 2017-18, ACU reached the quarterfinals of the Southland Conference Tournament, losing to Central Arkansas. The year before, ACU and Central Arkansas shared the regular season conference championship. Because the Wildcats were still in their Division I transition, they were ineligible for the NCAA Division I Women’s Tournament, but beat Oklahoma State in the WNIT, ultimately losing to SMU.
Goodenough’s is a career—really, a calling—that values relationships over championships and holds culture every bit as dear as competition. Therefore, long after the numbers are etched in the records, her players remember their coach for something more.
“She wanted us to use our God-given abilities to their fullest so that we were living Christ-like,” says Whitney Swinford, who played for ACU from 2012 through 2016 and previously worked for FCA.
Goodenough tells recruits they will be part of a family that loves one another—no matter what.
“We really feel an obligation to take care of our players and to help them understand God’s got a great plan for them,” Goodenough says. “Their giftedness is part of God’s plan, so how are they going to use that to enhance the Kingdom of God?
“If you’re not maximizing your gift, you’re cheating yourself, cheating your team, and basically not following the plan that God has for you.”
View the media page for FCA here. For more information about the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, visit FCA’s web site at www.fca.org, its Facebook page at www.facebook.com/fcafans or its Twitter feed @fcanews.