How close have you ever been to a professional athlete?
Most of us have seen them on TV or perhaps in person when we attended a game but not too many people have seen them up close and heard the stories of their lives – stories that might be heart-breaking, challenging, or inspiring.
In addition to seeing them from a distance, did you ever have professional athletes come and visit your school when you were a student? Did you ever have the chance to actually compete against them in a school assembly in front of hundreds of students? Have you ever had the opportunity to attend – free of charge – a first class Grey Cup Breakfast where over 800 people attended? If you were some students at Master’s College, then you could answer ‘yes’ to all of those questions.
CFL Athletes Compete Against Master’s Athletes
On Wednesday November 20, four days before the 2019 Grey Cup Football championship was played this year in Calgary, about 350 Grade 6-12 students watched an athletic assembly in the College gym and cheered insanely for about 20 of their Eagles athletes as they took on CFL athletes in five sports. Seven players from the Calgary Stampeders and Ottawa REDBLACKS, four team chaplains from the Calgary Stampeders, Hamilton Tiger Cats, Ottawa REDBLACKS, and BC Lions, plus a coach from the BC Lions lined up against Master’s athletes in a volleyball game, a sit-up contest, a relay race, a tug of war, and a basketball game. All the students were ‘into it’. Master’s students blew away the Pros in volleyball, closely lost the sit-up contest, handily won the relay race (yes they did!), and predictably lost the tug of war (but it was close for the first 30 seconds, because some teachers joined in to help!). The teams were tied going into the basketball game but the athletic ability of the Pros overtook the students with the Pros eventually winning by 10 points.
CFL Pros Share Faith in God
But what made this athletic event unique was that three Pros spoke to the students between the events about their very real and personal life stories, including their faith journeys. You could hear a pin drop. Students heard about the hard work that was needed by the Pros to reach the top of their profession, and they also heard the personal life stories of their growing up years – both the hardships and the victories. Some grew up in Christian families where they just went through the motions of having faith in God, and one athlete spoke about his adolescent years being filled with gang violence and jail time. But they all brought their stories around to that time in their life when they decided to begin having a trust in God, and the resulting positive outcomes of that decision upon themselves and their families.
The chaplain for the Stampeders and Flames closed the assembly with a challenge to the students. He asked them to consider beginning a relationship with Jesus themselves, and there were students who chose to make that decision that afternoon. If the students wanted to talk further about life and faith questions, they were invited to join 30-35 other students who voluntarily attend a weekly Youth Alpha video series held each Thursday at lunch, along with some free pizza. After the assembly, the Pros stayed behind and had individual conversations with many students.
The Pros had these things to say about Master’s:
‘We love your school!’
‘If I had kids we’d want them to go to Master’s’
‘This was so much fun for us!’
‘Your kids are great!’
‘So great to hang out with the kids after the assembly!’
Here is what some of the students had to say about the assembly:
‘Really cool to play with my friends against some pro athletes’
‘Good to hear them being real about the tough parts of their backgrounds’
‘Great to have pro athletes come to our school and be that close to them’
‘I was so nervous going out there to compete against them, but it was fine because they were so nice!’
‘It was so fun to have so many students involved’
‘It was so good to hear their stories and see what they believe that makes them the way they are’
‘We only see them on TV and it was great to hear their stories about their hard work’
Master’s Students Attend Athletes in Action Grey Cup Breakfast
Then on the morning before the Grey Cup game, Saturday November 23, eight Master’s athletes joined our athletic directors for an early morning ride on the Master’s bus to sit together at a table for the annual Athletes In Action Grey Cup Breakfast, held each year in the Grey Cup host city. Over 800 people met at the Big Four Roadhouse in downtown Calgary for a full breakfast and program, which included interviews and talks with over 20 professional athletes from both teams who would be competing in the Grey Cup game the next day. The athletes spoke about their preparation for the game as well as their Christian faith. The Grey Cup was present and our students got a group picture with the trophy. Other athletes and their wives spoke on the breakfast theme of ‘Let’s Get Real’, and they commented on the hard work involved in their personal athletic journeys, their professional football lives, their marriages, their life hardships, and their decisions to invite Jesus Christ into their lives. They spoke about how faith in God is now the foundation of their lives and marriages, and how they want to live out a life on and off the field in a manner that positively reflects their faith. At the conclusion of the breakfast, people were challenged by a former Calgary Stampeder to begin a relationship with God by inviting Jesus Christ into their life. Our students heard player after player be real about life’s challenges and how their faith in God was now the foundation that they were building their life upon.
Here is what some of the students had to say about the breakfast:
‘I liked hearing them talk about their stories and how God has helped them in their life. It motivates you to keep close to God too’
‘Hearing the guy that was involved in gangs and how he changed his ways was really neat’
‘I recognized guys playing in the Grey Cup game that came to our school and who were at the breakfast’
‘It was special to be invited to go to the breakfast because not everybody gets the chance to hear all that’
Mentorship is Key to Childhood Development
It is important that our students receive opportunities to see generations ahead of them (including culturally relevant professional athletes) loving God and seeing older people not being afraid of openly living out their faith in front of their culture (at a Prayer Breakfast, a Grey Cup Breakfast, in their parents, in their teachers). Research studies validate the importance of intergenerational relationships and mentoring as critical pieces that support adolescents to have their faith stick with them into their adult years. More information on this can be found at Fuller Youth Institute.
In addition to getting up close to some pro athletes, our students will be able to say in the future that not only did pro athletes come to their school, but they also talked about real life issues and that a relationship with Jesus gave them a foundation that they could build their lives and marriages and destinies upon. Next time they see athletes at a game or on TV, they’ll know that there is more to them than just their athletic careers. What a great opportunity our students had! They’ll probably remember this for the rest of their lives.
You can find more highlights from the CFL’s visit to Master’s in our MAC vs CFL Instagram Highlight.
A list of the players and coaches at the event:
|Nick Arbuckle||Calgary Stampeders||Quarterback|
|Folarin Orimolade||Calgary Stampeders||Defensive Lineman|
|Andres Salgado||Calgary Stampeders||Wide receiver|
|DeQuin Evans||BC Lions||Defensive Lineman|
|DaShaun Amos||Calgary Stampeders||Defensive back|
|Kevin Francis||Ottawa Redblacks||Linebacker|
|Chris Boyko||BC Lions||Strength & Conditioning Trainer|