Nov 29, 2012, 10:04 AM EST
Notre Dame student-athletes work to be the best at everything they do. They work to be the best athletes. The work to be the best students. They work to be the best representatives of the University of Notre Dame. And they work to be the best people they can be.
Some of the student-athletes work toward the latter through Notre Dame Christian Athletes (NDCA), a subdivision of Student Welfare & Development (SWD). NDCA meets once a week and encourages athletes of any denomination to attend. At the meetings, the members read passages from Scripture, give devotional thoughts, listen to guest speakers, talk about what’s on their hearts and minds, and will even perform skits sometimes. The group includes students from every class and several sports.
Former baseball player and fifth-year senior Tommy Chase is the current president of NDCA. His duties as president include creating the meeting schedule, coordinating speakers, working with fellow athletes who will present talks, planning student-athlete retreats, and working with SWD, “which does a phenomenal job in supporting our group.” He says that he joined NDCA after an injury kept him out of baseball his sophomore year and he was looking to get more involved on campus. “After going to NDCA meetings weekly, I began to form some very real relationships. This coupled with beginning to develop a relationship with the Lord and beginning to see that plans that he had for my life and the man that he wanted me to become led to a dynamic change in me as an individual.”
Senior cheerleader David Jones says, “The reason I became involved with NDCA was because all throughout high school, I had been involved in prayer groups and other organizations and once I reached college, I wanted to share and grow in my faith with individuals who were on similar faith journeys of discovery. The way I became involved with NDCA was through the Athlete Retreat in November of my sophomore year. Once I took part in the retreat, I felt like it was a right fit and I loved the group of people who were involved….Even though we all play different sports and come from different regions of the country, we connect well and there is solidarity because of our interest in growing our faith.”
Sophomore football player Cam McDaniel began attending NDCA meetings the spring semester of his freshman year. He says that “Notre Dame Christian Athletes is a great community-based type of ministry that…gives me the opportunity to kind of step out of my little football bubble and interact with people from other sports and people that love Jesus. It’s a great place to get away, but also a really exciting place to be around because you see people that are wanting to be pro-active in their ministry.”
McDaniel takes his faith everywhere with him, including onto the football field.
“I like to think of it as almost like being a soldier for Christ. Ephesians 6…[says] our battle is not against flesh and blood but against powers and principalities, so I think of it as almost like a battle before I go out, even though…it’s football—it’s a game of football—but at the same time, I know I’m representing Christ in whatever I do, so I want to do it in an excellent manner.”
Just as McDaniel turns to Ephesians, freshman soccer player Crystal Thomas turns to Proverbs to keep herself grounded and focused. “A really good [scripture passage] is Proverbs 3: 5-6. ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your path straight.’ I like that one because, you know, life is always crazy, but you can always turn to God.”
Thomas may be one of the newer NDCA members, but she says she’s already forming great relationships with fellow athletes through it. “Some of my teammates go, and it’s just really cool to have that community…also with the greater scheme of Notre Dame athletes, like knowing that I’m about to have coffee with one of my friends on the baseball team that’s a Christian,” (in reference to Chase), “and just knowing that you have support, and you’re not alone in [anything].”
The members of Notre Dame Christian Athletes show that no matter how busy they are, they can always find time to stop and look at the big picture of their lives, re-ground themselves, and orient themselves toward a common purpose in life.
Thomas expressed, “I’m just going to try to live my life as joyfully as I can and be filled with the Holy Spirit, and hopefully [people] will see that’s a good way to live.”
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