In the living room of San Francisco State baseball coach Tony Schifano, something bigger than any game is happening with a group of athletes from Gator athletics.
Each week, these athletes meet as the Fellowship of Christian Athletes club, or FCA. Since its founding in 1954, FCA has strived to combine two key elements: faith and sport. It is a non-denominational group that exists throughout the country for both high school and collegiate athletes.
For the first time at SF State, the club is entirely run and led by the athletes themselves.
Baseball player Zac Neumann is the first student-athlete leader of FCA at SF State. This provided him with a unique opportunity to share his knowledge of Christianity with his fellow athletes.
“This year, since we were trying to build a student-led fellowship, it kind of was being built from the ground up,” Neumann said. “So one of the biggest responsibilities was going and finding time to talk to teams about FCA and [recruiting] people to come. I also had to find other student athletes who wanted to be a part of our student leadership team, which was important because there’s a lot of planning for each week.”
One of the people that Neumann determined would be an important member of his leadership team is fellow baseball player Justin Cooney.
“FCA is where I can hang out with friends and share the love of God with each other. It’s almost like a second home,” Cooney said.
Cooney’s faith is something that is critical to his life both on and off the field. He feels that FCA is the perfect place for him to go and share in this with his fellow athletes.
Cooney keeps his faith close to him at all times, with the word “believe” tattooed on his right wrist.
“Life is never perfect … you’ll get events that will knock you down, but one simple word can keep your faith and happiness together and that’s ‘believe,’” he said. “I got it [believe] on my wrist because when I’m playing baseball I can always look down and know that I’m protected and it … acts as a motivational saying for me.”
Cooney is not the only one who has something as a part of his faith that motivates him before or during games.
Neumann draws a cross next to the batter’s box each time he comes up to the plate.
“I do this to remind myself that in my beliefs, I am not defined by what I do as a baseball player in this at bat, but by who I am as a follower of Christ,” Neumann said.
Simone Reynolds, a track and field athlete at SF State, is another student Neumann chose to be a part of the FCA student leadership team.
While she does not have any specific pregame rituals, she still feels blessed to be in her current position.
“I do thank Him everyday for being woken up, I thank Him for allowing me to be in the position I am in and I thank Him for always carrying me through the harder days,” Reynolds said. “Doing this daily … when it comes to meet days and even practice days, it calms my nerves and centers my thoughts and energy.”
This message rings clearly for all the athletes who are part of FCA and helps them to stay steadfast for each weekly meeting.
“FCA is more than a group that meets once a week; it is a community and a place that I feel so safe being in,” Reynolds said. “I look forward to Tuesdays, because no matter the mood I am in, FCA always brings me back to feeling centered, positive and ready to learn more about God and His word.”