Starting a new chapter Fellowship of Christian Athletes this year at Park Rapids Area High School was a goal achieved by 12th grader Kamree Carlson.
The daughter of Karl and Stephanie Carlson is a volleyball player who looks forward to playing at the University of Jamestown (N.D.) next year.
“I’ve just been wanting to do something like this,” said Kamree, “because we don’t really have anything like this at all at our school. I wanted to create a place where athletes can openly express their faith and be comfortable doing that, and form a community of kids that are able to grow together.”
Stephanie confirmed that starting the chapter is mostly her daughter’s doing. “I’ve helped a little bit on the official paperwork,” she said, adding, “I bring the treats.”
As an officially recognized student activity, the FCA also has a club adviser – high school activities director Jeremy Nordick.
“I just allow them to use the room and give them the space that they need,” said Nordick. “I’m all for it.”
Kamree noted that there has been an FCA chapter at Park Rapids High before, “but it hasn’t been for quite a while.” She found help in reactivating it from Bill Adamson in Grand Rapids.
The overall FCA organization provides resources, including a magazine, devotionals, Bible studies, videos, camps, an online coaching academy, social media and a store.
There is also a vision statement – “to see the world transformed by Jesus Christ through the influence of coaches and athletes” – as well as a more detailed mission statement and a non-sectarian “Competitor’s Creed” that serves as a standard of faith.
Although school policy does not take a position on religious teachings, Nordick said he recognizes a benefit of having the club on campus.
“It brings kids together,” he said. “I think the message speaks well for those kids. I think it’s a positive message, and it brings kids together to communicate, talk about good, positive things.”
A brochure for the FCA quotes evangelist Billy Graham as saying, “A coach will impact more people in a year than most people will in a lifetime.”
As the person who prepares and leads devotions at the school club’s meetings, Kamree seems to serve in that coaching role.
“Kamree’s doing a nice job of working together with some of the other student athletes and talking about things that could help them move forward,” said Nordick. “Maybe some kids need some help outside of school. So, it gives them an extra branch, an extra area to reach out to, and somebody to talk to.”
About 12 or 13 students regularly attend the devotionals before school on the second and fourth Monday of each month, said Kamree.
“It’s open to anyone who wants to participate,” she said. “All the devotionals that we do are based on how we can connect our faith with our athletics, so that we can go to our practices for the next couple weeks with everything we talked about in mind – so that we can pursue our faith through the sports that we are doing.”
“There’s a big tie-in between faith and athletics,” said Nordick. “If you don’t have any faith in athletics, you’re just going to crumble. Whatever your belief is, it’s important to have faith, and to work on being a good person and a good student and a positive influence on the community.”
The FCA club plans to address community needs, for example, by putting up a giving tree in the school, hung with gift suggestions for local families in need.
“Hopefully, people will grab things from the tree and bring in items for that,” said Kamree.
Also, she said, “one day towards Christmas, we’re going to get a bunch of candy canes and attach a message about the real reason of Christmas, and hand those out to students around the school.”
In the spring, the club plans to have an event called Fields of Faith, “where we could go out on the football field, have some food, have a couple guest speakers in and just pray together,” she said.
The FCA has also worked a couple of evenings in the football concession stand, raising a little money to buy T-shirts, Bibles, and the giving tree.
“It’s not like they need a lot of money,” Stephanie hinted, “but obviously, to have events costs money.”
Interested organizations or churches can donate to the FCA via a Student Activities account at the school.
Kamree looks forward to participating in FCA-related activities in college. Meantime, she hopes to find an underclassman who will step up and continue leading the FCA next year. She said she is “definitely confident” she will find someone willing to take over the responsibility.
“I think, in the long run, it will be a special deal,” said Nordick.
“It just makes me feel good,” said Kamree. “Even if I can impact one person in this whole school positively with my faith, it’s worth my time.”