Faith is something that can guide people to live the way Jesus wants them to, and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) at San Jose State follows that belief.
Clay Elliott, an adviser to the FCA, said they are a group of like-minded athletes who come together to encourage each other in their own faith walk.
The group meets Monday nights for huddles, in which they discuss the Bible, and the impact it has on the athletes, in both inspirational and practical terms, according to Elliot.
Junior kinesiology major Ashlea Coski plays for the women’s water polo team and is the president of the group.
Coski said she grew up as a churchgoer, but didn’t make the faith her own until she got to college where she began to journal, or write things down on paper to communicate with Jesus.
“That’s where my relationship became deeper,” she said. “For me, journaling is the way that I like to spend time with God, and also interacting with other people. Especially people that aren’t religious. I feel like they make you question what it means to be a believer.”
She said this is important because it makes her reflect on her on faith and why religion is important to her.
“Just reading his word helps me understand him as a person, who Jesus was, the purpose of why he came here and everything,” she said. “And becoming more like him in terms of his characteristics, like being loving and caring.”
Coski said being a believer isn’t about being religious, but more about faith and having a relationship with God.
“It’s more about walking with God, and having that journey with him,” she said. “It’s not about the quantity; it’s more about the quality.”
Victoria Clark, a senior child development major, is treasurer of the group and has been a part of the SJSU gymnastics team for four years.
“I like the spiritual component to religion," she said. "I’m not too big on religious, going-to-church-every-Sunday type of thing. I love the spiritual connection that I have with the lord, and that’s something that’s really important to me. It helps me to get through my day, being connected with him on a daily basis.”
Clark said it helps her get through life, and puts value to her life, giving her purpose and passion.
“I turn to my belief and my faith to help me get through my sport," she said. "Whether it’s to comfort me, to give me the strength to do what I have to do. Whether it’s to inspire me and encourage me, I tend to turn to that more than anything. For me it’s comforting, and I believe in it, so it helps me get through.”
She said she spends mornings before a competition listening to praise music, and will pray talk to the lord while she is out on the floor.
“I definitely see other teams as well; they will pray together as a group,” she said. “They will pray before they get on the equipment.”
Ray Rodriguez, a fifth-year kinesiology sports management major, is the vice president of the group.
Rodriguez played football for five years at SJSU, and has been a part of the group for the last few years.
He said people may get the wrong impression when the word religious is used, as it is more about faith.
“My base between my practice and relationship with God is based on my relationship with Jesus,” he said. “That comes with going to church, and reading the Bible, and trying to live my life according to how that says.”
Rodriguez said his faith has an impact on his daily life, from the way that he talks to communicating with others.
“Having this relationship with Jesus gives me hope, as far as something further than just here on earth,” he said. “It’s kind of cool to live for something bigger than your everyday life.”
Rodriguez said the group helps athletes establish friendships and relationships with people who have the same mindset, and are going through the same things as athletes and college students.
“It’s tough at times, none of us are perfect, but it's cool to have somebody to lean on and to talk about those situations with. And also just to give you encouragement when you feel down," he said. "There’s so many Bible verses you could get into where it’s like you’re down and out, and you choose to lean on him to get you through those times of trouble.”
Rodriguez said the faith is shown in sports as well, with prayers before or after games.
“I won’t always get on my knees and start praying out there, but it’s more about being in conversation with God,” he said. “You tell him ‘All right man, this is tough, but I know I’m doing this for something bigger than myself. I’m doing this for you, and whatever I do out here it’s because of you, and I thank you for that.' Give him the glory in all that you do.
God is a huge motivator, and he feels blessed to have the fortune of playing with a scholarship and competing in every game without injury.
Travis Johnson, a senior kinesiology exercise and fitness major, played football for SJSU for four years, and said that joy is the one word that comes to his mind when discussing his religion.
“No matter what goes on either in sports or school or whatnot, things can go up, things can go down, but just remembering that God gave me the gift of eternal life and that I don’t need to worry about anything because he has taken care of it,” he said. “He’s already died on the cross — he’s done everything — and so no matter what struggles or joys or happiness comes. I’ve been blessed.”
Johnson said there are struggles no matter what sport you play, and people turn to God for help.
“I think sports use God a lot and I think each person does it differently,” he said. “Tim Tebow does this big thing where he shows it and everyone sees, but he’s not the only Christian out there. A lot of people will just do it because they have it in their heart; they don’t need to make a public display. It’s a private thing, not a public thing.”