This story appears in FCA Magazine’s January/February 2018.
North Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada Notes:
• Five-time WSHL Champions (2016, 2015, 2013, 2012, 2011)
• ECHL Champions (2004)
• Four-time WCHL Coach of the Year (2002, 2000, 1999, 1998)
• WCHL Champions (1999)
• BCJHI National Championship (1993)
“We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.” – 1 John 4:16
John Olver looks at his 36-year coaching career in three stages: 16 years without God, 15 years as a Christian, and the past five years as a believer with a personal relationship with Jesus. In each stage, Olver has been a different coach. With help from FCA, Olver no longer coaches with selfish ambitions, and he’s learned how impacting his players comes down to the state of his heart.
FCA: How did your faith journey begin?
JO: I was in Tacoma, Washington, in the West Coast Hockey League (WCHL). I remember thinking to myself, “I’ve become successful,” but I realized I still was not happy. I started asking the questions we all ask in life. “Why am I here?” “What is my purpose?” “Where do I go when I die?” I started having a desire to go to church. I went to a church for the first time, Life Center Church in Tacoma, and Pastor Fulton Buntain started his sermon by talking about his Canadian roots and his love for hockey.
There was just an instant connection, and we became good friends. He really helped me answer a lot of those questions. It wasn’t something where I was able to accept God on the spot. It took a long time for my heart to believe something my mind was telling me to have doubts about.
FCA: How have FCA Hockey and Director Rick Randazzo impacted your faith?
JO: Rick has become my friend, my mentor, and my role model. The more I got to know him, the more I admired him, the more I respected him, the more I wanted to emulate him.
I started to participate in weekly and monthly conference calls with other FCA coaches. I was able to gain spiritual wisdom and inspiration and motivation — just the fellowship of being with other men who were further along on their spiritual journeys than me. I’m so thankful for the change and the role FCA has played in helping me get to this point.
FCA: Do you see coaching as a ministry opportunity?
JO: I do share the gospel, but my main focus is seeking to meet the individual needs of my players. It could be athletically, or it could be academically, emotionally, financially, spiritually. By building meaningful relationships with my players, I’m able to understand their individual needs. I strive to be a servant leader.
I want to inspire my players to become champions in every aspect of their lives. I believe before they can reach their full athletic potential, they must first become the best versions of themselves, and that is why we emphasize the qualities of love, respect, commitment, selflessness, discipline and work ethic. Those are the same principles of success that Jesus taught throughout His ministry on earth.
FCA: What legacy do you hope you will leave behind?
JO: I hope my legacy would be that my family and friends watched me grow over time to become a follower of Jesus Christ. And through the gift of the Holy Spirit, they witnessed a transformational change within me. I hope that my players feel that I loved them and genuinely cared about them, and that it was not based on their performance.
I’ve learned that the only way we can reach our full potential as a spouse, parent, friend or coach is if we have the love of Jesus Christ at the center of our lives. When you live every aspect of your life in love, and live to help and serve others, your purpose, priorities, and perspective all fall naturally into place. JOY in my life stands for Jesus first, others second, and yourself last.
FCA Staff Quote:
“I have been truly blessed to walk alongside of Coach JO as he has grown in his relationship with Jesus over the past couple of years. I have watched as the Lord has used him to impact so many other coaches across the country, and I look forward to what God has in store for his future. He truly is a transformational coach.”
- Rick Randazzo
FCA Hockey Director
Photos courtesy of Gary Ertter/The Star-News.