With New and Exciting Camps Season Just Around the Corner, Fellowship of Christian Athletes Looks Back on Years of ‘Inspiration and Perspiration’
This Summer, Upwards of 100,000 Coaches and Athletes Will Strengthen Their Skills and Faith at 750+ Camps in Nearly Every State and 50 Countries
KANSAS CITY, Mo.—Sixty-five years ago, Don McClanen founded the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA, www.fca.org), and just two years later, the first FCA Camp, initially called “Conference,” took place in picturesque Estes Park, Colorado.
Today, that first FCA Camp with 256 attendees has grown by leaps and bounds into 771 FCA Camps in the summer of 2018, reaching more than 88,000 campers in 43 states and 50 countries.
Still true to the original goal, FCA Camps combine some of the best attributes of an athletic camp and a spiritual camp into an experience like none other. FCA Camps help coaches and athletes step away from their routines, as they enter environments created for training and encouraging them both in their sports and their relationships with Christ.
“For over six decades, FCA Camps have run under a unified theme,” said Jeff Martin, FCA Executive Director of Ministry Advancement. “The first Camp theme was ‘I Am the Way, the Truth and the Life,’ and other popular themes have included, ‘Let Us Run the Race,’ ‘The Goal and the Glory,’ ‘The Life That Wins’ and ‘Run To Win the Prize.’ The label of ‘inspiration and perspiration’ summed up the FCA Conferences early on, and it’s a phrase we still use today.”
This year, FCA is focusing on the 2019 ministry theme of “Let’s Go.” The theme based on Mathew 28:18-20 is meant to be said with emphasis because it’s not only the rally cry for many athletes, coaches and teams, but it also should be the goal of Christians when they consider Christ’s call to the Great Commission.
“As we seek to make disciples who make disciples, we engage, equip and empower coaches and athletes to know and grow in Christ and to lead others to do the same,” said FCA President and CEO Shane Williamson. “We do this through many different ways and environments—by identifying spaces and places to cultivate relationships, individually or in groups, and by using Christ-centered Camps, events, Huddles, training, resources and ongoing support to help fulfill the FCA vision to transform the world for Jesus Christ through the influence of coaches and athletes.”
Though somewhat small by comparison to today’s large events, the first Estes Park Camp was mighty, with President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Secretary of State John Foster Dulles sending personal messages to the campers. Likewise, Life Magazine, Newsweek, Sports Illustrated and Guideposts covered this historic meeting of Christian coaches and athletes. And the opening night keynote speaker was Branch Rickey, known as the “Founder of Modern Baseball.” Once this initial FCA Conference took place, the sports ministry began to soar, and joy spread.
Early FCA Conferences drew some of the top athletes and coaches in America. Sports heroes like Carl Erskine, Otto Graham, Bob Feller, Rafer Johnson, Doak Walker, Robin Roberts, Alvin Dark and Amos Alonzo Stagg skyrocketed the FCA movement.
Music was, and still is, an integral part of worship at FCA Camps. For the first several years, athletes and coaches sang hymns like “How Great Thou Art,” “The Old Rugged Cross” and “All Hail The Power of Jesus’ Name” at FCA Conferences. In 1967, pop artist Ray Hildebrand began to write songs and added other popular choruses.
As for guest speakers, individuals including Bill Glass, Jerry Stovall, Prentice Gautt, Tom Landry, Roger Staubach, Paul Anderson, Jesse Owens, Bobby Bowden, John Wooden, Tom Osborne, Clebe McClary and Bill Leach, along with leading pastors across America, drew thousands of attendees to put their faith in Jesus Christ. In 1965, legendary evangelist Billy Graham, who has said that “a coach will impact more people in one year than the average person will in an entire lifetime,” spoke at Black Mountain, North Carolina—one of the first Camps still going strong today.
One NFL pro once said of FCA Camp, “If I could give one birthday gift, it would be an FCA Conference experience for everyone in the country.” A high school athlete back then expressed it another way. “All my life, I ain’t been that good in sports—always second and third team—but now that I’ve found Jesus here, I’m
really on the first team.”
FCA offers six types of Camps in the U.S. and around the world.
- Sports Camps: Bring coaches and athletes together with instruction, skill development and competition to prepare athletes physically, mentally and spiritually for future competition.
- Leadership Camps: Train student-athletes, Huddle coaches and volunteers to be spiritual leaders in their personal lives, on their teams, on their campuses and in their communities.
- Coaches Camps: Equip, encourage and minister to coaches in their faith and family life.
- Power Camps: Develop younger athletes, typically ages 8 through 12, in their faith and sport.
- Team Camps: Equip teams with spiritual principles through competition.
- Partnership Camps: Develop relationships with existing camps to provide the spiritual or athletic program elements.
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.