Inspiring Athletes Through Mentorship: A Case Study of a Fellowship of Christian Athletes Chaplaincy Ministry Program
Type of DegreeDissertation
Education Foundation, Leadership, and Technology
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The Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) was founded in the 1950s to aid in the spiritual development of middle and high school student athletes. During the late 1990s a paradigm shift occurred when intercollegiate football coaches started to hire full-time team chaplains to become the spiritual coordinators for their student athletes. Athletes across the nation and abroad are recruited by colleges and universities for a variety of sports ranging from football to hockey. These student athletes have basic developmental needs that have to be addressed while they attend college (Hamilton & Sina, Pascarella, 1999). When student athletes arrive on campus, they are often assigned a coordinator to assist with their academic achievement (academic coordinator), life skills development (social, emotional, mental coordinator) and athletic participation (defensive and offensive coordinator). All of these areas aid in meeting their developmental needs. However, the one area that is often neglected is their spiritual development. College is a time when students are searching to find meaning and purpose in their lives (Astin, Astin & Lindholm, 2010; Chickering, Dalton & Stamm, 2006; Parks, 2000). FCA believes that the journey of finding this meaning and purpose can be facilitated by a team chaplain (spiritual coordinator) who works with student athletes and can also help student athletes with the constant battle they face in balancing their roles, in dealing with competitive success, and in coping with other life responsibilities (Hyatt, 2003). This assistance helps to facilitate the development of the whole student athlete with emphasis on their spiritual development. Due to the limited research on this topic this study looked to document the participants of an FCA Chaplaincy Ministry Program strengths, weaknesses and outcomes in order to improve it and advance the literature in the field. The research also aimed at bringing awareness of the role of the team chaplain and how lessons learned might be applied when developing or seeking to improve similar programs in other settings. The FCA Chaplaincy Ministry Program was established to aid in the spiritual and personal development of football student athletes. The factors that facilitated its development and implementation were attributes of the chaplain, spiritual needs of college students and institutional support and expansion. Secondly, the primary barriers to developing and sustaining the program were separation of church and state, financial issues and time and commitment of student athletes. Lastly the individual and program outcomes consisted of six themes, which were enhanced spirituality, personal development, mentorship, attitude toward academics, athletic performance and team camaraderie. The findings from this qualitative study revealed that the FCA Chaplaincy Ministry Program meets a need that is often forgotten on college campuses which is spiritual and faith development.