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Top Level Teammates

Published on August 31, 2021

Sarah Freymuth

This article appears in the Fall 2021 edition of the FCA Donor Publication. The FCA publication is a gift from our FCA staff to all donors giving $50 or more annually. For more information about giving, visit here.

Three athletes from different backgrounds came together on the court to represent Team USA in sitting volleyball at the Paralympics in Tokyo. As a part of Team USA, Kaleo Kanahele Maclay, Jillian Williams and Nicky Nieves are some of the top athletes in their sport. As part of Team Jesus, these women showcase their heart for God on and off the court. Below is a Q&A with the three athletes as they share about their athletic and faith journeys.

 The Athletes


Name: Kaleo Kanahele Maclay

Hometown: Oklahoma City, OK

Position: Setter

How did you start playing volleyball?

My mom played volleyball in college and is very athletic. She wanted my sister and I to try as many sports as we could to see which ones we would like. We did ballet, gymnastics, basketball, softball and volleyball.

My first time playing volleyball, I tried out for Oklahoma Peak Performance and made the  12--2’s team as a 10-year-old!

How does your relationship with Christ impact the way you play?

My relationship with Jesus grounds me. It reminds me that I am not alone – in life or on the court. I play more confident knowing that God hasn’t made a mistake in me being on this team, and that I am not here by accident but for a purpose.

Kaleo ActionHow does it feel to be competing in the Paralympics?

This is my third Games, and I keep thinking that it will feel different, but I am just as excited, nervous, humbled and honored as I was the first time I went. Being a part of Team USA will always be one of my greatest honors.

How have you seen God at work in your life this past year?

I have seen God work MASSIVELY in my life this year. My husband and I opened a coffee, bakery  and flower shop in Oklahoma City last October. By ONLY the grace of God. I have seen God bring the finances, relationships and loads of grace to open this shop. We have prayed and prayed for blessing and I am so thankful God answered.

What are you looking forward to God doing at the Paralympics?

I am without a doubt believing for a Gold medal. But beyond that, I am praying that people can  see God through me at the Games. That may not look like me speaking, but I am praying that through my actions that people see the love of God through me.

What do you want others to know about God?

Nothing is too big or too small for God. I used to think God didn’t care about sports and He had bigger things to worry about, but I was told once that whatever is big or small enough for you to care about, God cares about too. So, don’t be afraid to pray over your sports goals, pray for favor, pray for your team and believe  God will come through!




Name: Jillian K Williams

Hometown: Odem, Tx 

Position: OH/MB 

How did you start playing volleyball?

I started playing volleyball in 3rd grade in the "Little Spikers" program our school hosted. After two years there, I began playing club then transitioned into school volleyball. 

When did you start a relationship with Jesus?

My relationship with Jesus started at a very young age. My family was very devout in our small-town church so I grew up knowing about Jesus. But it wasn’t until I was diagnosed with bone cancer that I really understood the miracles that He could work when. 

How did that experience open your eyes to the impact your life can have on others?

Being diagnosed with cancer at 19 years old while being a college athlete does a lot to you. I was at a point in my life that I felt like I was in control and knew what was best for myself. That experience taught me that God is who is actually in control and I had to learn how to turn ALL my worries and fears to Him. I had zero control of what my life was about to look like or even if I was going to make it another day. Because of this, I have learned how to help others be able to fully trust the Lord. We have no clue what tomorrow brings, so be grateful for the life you are living today. 

Team USA SignWho are some people who’ve impacted your life and your walk with God?

My walk with Christ has been impacted by so many people I've met and was raised by. My parents really encouraged me to keep my relationship with Christ strong, and now my husband reminds me daily to do the same. When I am down, he reminds me to pray about it or when I am not doing as well as I would like to on the court, both my parents and husband remind me to turn all that worry and fear unto Him and allow Jesus to handle things that are out of my control.

How did you get connected with FCA?

I went to a pretty small school that was very involved with FCA so I knew I wanted to be involved when I was old enough. 

How does FCA help your walk with the Lord?

FCA reminds me that I can be an athlete as well as a Christian AND I can be vocal about both of those things. In the world we live in today, not many athletes talk about their walk with Jesus Christ and sometimes are told they cannot talk about that with their platform. FCA taught me that I could do both, all the time.




Name: Nicky Nieves

Hometown: Kissimmee, Fla.

Position: Middle Blocker

When did you start playing volleyball? 

I started playing volleyball in the sixth grade. It had been a sport that I had started to admire in the fifth grade, but the rule in my private school at the time was that you had to be a sixth grader to try out. Once sixth grade came around, it was something that I knew I had to try! 

When did you start a relationship with Jesus? 

I’ve grown up in the church and always prayed and had faith, but when I came into my twenties I began to realize and recognize what a relationship with Jesus really looked like. I was finally starting to see our relationship as something that needed to be nurtured and fed just like any other relationship in my life. 

How does your relationship with Christ impact the way you play? 

Having a relationship with Christ goes hand in hand with my performance. It's a constant reminder of His grace, how much He has blessed me, and reminds me that it would be dishonorable to not give it my all every time I play. Christ has given me so much opportunity, the biggest being able to play and win a gold medal in Rio. How could I just show up and not give it my all?

My relationship with Christ also helps me to have grace for my teammates. The same way He has grace for me and accepts me for my flaws, understanding that I give my best effort to be my very best, I should do the same for those who play beside me. 

IMG-8079How does it feel to be competing in the Paralympics? 

IT FEELS SURREAL. To know that your hard work has paid off, your prayers have been heard and answered, to know that you were selected to represent your country on the biggest athletic stage in the world, is surreal. 

How have you seen God at work in your life this past year? 

I’ve seen Him keep me and my family in His arms. This year we have dealt with four deaths, three of them being my aunts, and two being the daughters of my grandparents (which were a year apart in passing). We dealt with burying family amidst COVID-19, grieving grandparents and the postponement of the Games.

Personally, I feel that this has been one of the hardest years of my life. Through it all I feel that God has drawn me closer and He has still blessed my family and me. Although we are still grieving, my family and I have needed for nothing, and I have seen family that I thought would never come to Christ accept Him and seek Him wholeheartedly.  

What are you looking forward to God doing at the Paralympics? 

Keeping my team focused and mentally healthy. There have been a lot of ups and downs, but I’ve been praying and fasting for a smooth tournament, success in defending our gold medal and for grace and His mercy. Tokyo 2021 will only serve as yet another testament of just how good God has been, and how good He still is, to me.





Photos courtesy of USA Volleyball, Sports Spectrum, Jillian Williams and Nicky Nieves/Limitless People Inc.