For Immediate Release November 7, 2016
Beth Harrison, Hamilton Strategies, 610.584.1096, ext. 104, Media@HamiltonStrategies.com or Deborah Hamilton, 215.815.7716, 610.584.1096, ext. 102
Fellowship of Christian Athletes Marks 62 Years of Impacting Coaches and Athletes; Looks Back on Life of Founder Don McClanen
2016 a Memorable Year for FCA, with Exciting Leadership Transition Ahead
KANSAS CITY, Mo.—It’s a memorable year for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA, www.fca.org), as the international sports ministry will mark 62 years of impacting coaches and athletes for Christ this week on Nov. 10. FCA is also looking back on the life of its founder, Don McClanen, who passed away earlier this year.
At the same time, FCA is preparing for an exciting leadership transition, as current President and CEO Les Steckel is retiring, and Shane Williamson, current Executive Director of Field Ministry, will take the helm as the eighth President and CEO of FCA on Jan. 1, 2017.
“This year marked the going home of our founder, Don McClanen, and on November 10, we celebrate 62 years of his dream,” Steckel said. “We remember his words that inspired this ministry: ‘For some time, I have had the idea of forming an organization of athletes and coaches in this hero-worshiping nation of ours. If athletes can endorse shaving cream, razor blades and cigarettes, surely they can endorse the Lord, too.’ Now, 62 years later, Don’s idea has become reality—in a huge way—perhaps bigger than even what his dreams held for FCA. Now, each year that we mark in this amazing ministry, we will look back on Don McClanen’s life and his vision, knowing that his unrelenting zeal for an organization that would reach millions in sports played a significant role in everything FCA is today.”
McClanen passed away on Feb. 16, 2016, at the age of 91. His dedicated vision for a sports ministry that would touch the lives of coaches and athletes around the world propelled FCA to what it is today. More than 62 years ago, it began with a spark of passion, deeply rooted in McClanen’s heart.
For seven years before the birth of FCA, McClanen prayed about what the organization would look like and whom it would serve. Eventually, he joined forces with the other FCA “Founding Fathers”—Dr. Louis H. Evans, Dr. Roe Johnston and Branch Rickey, among others—who made FCA come to life.
Evans had encouraged McClanen to write to Christian athletes who were strong in their faith—greats like football stars Doak Walker and Otto Graham; baseball players Carl Erskine, Robin Roberts and Alvin Dark; Olympians Bob Mathias and Bob Richards; coaching and front office legends Amos Alonzo Stagg, Bud Wilkinson and Clarence “Biggie” Munn; and even broadcasters Tom Harmon and Red Barber. In all, 19 letters were mailed, each carefully laying out McClanen’s God-given desire for what would become FCA.
Fourteen of those 19 men told McClanen they were interested. But Rickey, the then-Pittsburgh Pirates General Manager who had signed Jackie Robinson when he led the Brooklyn Dodgers, didn’t answer the letter. McClanen, however, pressed on for a meeting with him. He promised to drive to Pittsburgh to meet with Rickey on his own dime for a five-minute face-to-face conversation. The meeting lasted five hours, and three months later and with a $10,000 gift from a Pittsburgh businessman, FCA became a reality, chartered in Oklahoma on Nov. 10, 1954.
A memorial service for McClanen was held this summer, where several from FCA paid their respects to the vision-filled founder, including Steckel, who offered the following words at the event:
“God chose to make Don a visionary servant. He was a husband, a father, a leader, an evangelist, the founder of FCA and a coach. He lived a life that was totally surrendered. He risked it all. At the meeting with Branch Rickey, Mr. Rickey said, ‘You must have a lot of money to start this program.’ Don said, ‘I have no money. That’s why I came to see you.’ So Mr. Rickey became our first check writer. This summer, we have over 100,000 athletes and coaches in Camps internationally. FCA is in 56 countries now. It is all because this man had a great dream, was obedient to God and that amazing dream lives on today. He was bold and courageous. He was a special kind of man.”
Wayne Atcheson of the Billy Graham Library wrote a tribute to McClanen’s life after the memorial, which was recently shared with FCA staff around the country. Atcheson is also the author of “Impact For Christ: 40-year history of FCA” and was a major contributor to “Sharing the Victory,” a coffee table book chronicling FCA’s 50th anniversary.
FCA recently announced that Steckel will retire at year-end, and Williamson will be his successor. Williamson has been involved with FCA for 24 years, and Steckel will depart FCA after 12 years of outstanding service and whole-hearted dedication to the ministry.
To interview a representative from Fellowship of Christian Athletes, contact Beth Harrison at 610-584-1096, ext. 104, Media@HamiltonStrategies.com, or Deborah Hamilton at 215-815-7716 or 610-584-1096, ext. 102.
The Fellowship of Christian Athletes’ (FCA) vision is to see the world impacted for Jesus Christ through the influence of coaches and athletes. Its mission is to present to coaches and athletes, and all whom they influence, the challenge and adventure of receiving Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord and serving Him in their relationships and in the fellowship of the church. FCA’s guiding values are integrity, serving, teamwork and excellence.
Since 1954, FCA has challenged coaches and athletes to impact the world for Jesus Christ. FCA is cultivating Christian principles in local communities nationwide by encouraging, equipping and empowering others to serve as examples and to make a difference. Reaching approximately two million people annually on the professional, college, high school, junior high and youth levels, FCA focuses its efforts on its Four Cs of Ministry: Coaches, Campus, Camps and Community.
- FCA Coaches Ministry focuses on ministering to the heart of the coach first, and then supporting coaches as they engage with FCA’s Four Cs through huddles, events, training and resources.
- The school campus is one of the most strategic mission fields with the vast majority of all youth passing through this portal. FCA Campus Ministry focuses on equipping, enabling, empowering and encouraging coaches, student athletes and adult leaders to impact and influence their campus for Christ.
- FCA Camps are a time of “inspiration and perspiration” for coaches and athletes to reach their potential by offering comprehensive athletic, spiritual, and leadership training through seven types of Camps: Sports, Leadership, Coaches, Power, Partnership, Team and International Camps.
- FCA Community Ministry is the off-campus opportunity to reach coaches and athletes for Christ through the club and recreation sport environment.