Femi Alao’s introduction to FCA coincided with another new
beginning. As a forward on Grambling State University’s women’s soccer team,
Alao joined the program in its second year of existence and would be a part of
its early success.
“I absolutely loved my time there,” she said. “We won the
conference twice and made it to the NCAA tournament. As a new program, you
couldn’t be in the tournament until your third year and we were able to do
Added Alao, “It was a diverse group of folks from all over the
world, and, honestly, those were some of the best years of my life.”
FCA wound up being just as significant a part of her college
experience. A serious knee injury required two surgeries that took away her
sophomore season, but the support she received from teammates and FCA helped her
make it through.
“Tearing my ACL was one of the more pivotal moments in my life,” she
said. “We say ‘ball is life’ and that was the case for me. I had started a
successful sophomore year and kind of feel I needed to be humbled at that
point, and I was.”
In the end, it made Alao grateful for what she had and the
opportunity to play. The grind and perseverance to get back on the field brought
her best year as a senior, when she netted 15 goals to go with 14 assists. Due
to a redshirt year, Alao also played a fifth season with Southern Mississippi.
“I participated in FCA all four years at Grambling and then one
year at Southern Miss,” she said. “I had the time of my life. FCA was exciting,
popular and vibrant. Everyone wanted to be there. On Tuesday and Thursday
nights you knew where everyone was going to go.”
After graduate school at Ball State University, Alao moved back to
her hometown of Denver, Colorado and spent about a decade working in local
school systems in various athletic capacities including coach, teacher and
administration, but nothing directly involving FCA.
That changed in October 2019, when she moved to Rochester, N.Y.
after being named Assistant Director of Athletics at Roberts Wesleyan University.
“I love it here,” she said. “I can interact with students more and
be more involved with FCA on campus since this is a faith-based school. I’ve
partnered with FCA in various capacities and get in on some of the Huddles.
I’ve led a couple of devotionals for teams before their games.”
It had been at least ten years since FCA had a presence on RWU’s
campus, estimated Adrienne Cali, FCA’s Campus Representative. From the moment
they first met, she said Alao’s passion for FCA was evident.
“She loves it and it was obvious how it had impacted her life.
She’ll do anything to help it grow on campus,” said Cali.
One of those regular events for growth is Sunday Night Lights,
when all students gather for food, fellowship and fun once a month and hear a
guest speaker share the Gospel. In addition, a larger FCA Huddle meets that includes
all student-athletes, with a nine-member FCA student leadership team.
Although COVID-19 hindered many plans in 2020, school officials
wanted to give students positive social outlets as much as possible. Cali and
FCA proved to be key to that early strategy, as she was allowed to oversee team
Huddles while adhering to safety protocols.
Jessica Savage is one of those beneficiaries. Now a junior on the
soccer team, she is FCA president at Roberts Wesleyan and can testify to its
“It’s provided me with a faith-based community on campus with
other Christians. Through it, I’ve become firm in my faith and can lead others
to share about Christ,” she said.
FCA has sparked a curiosity for others who have stopped by a
meeting. When some of my teammates attended FCA events, I was able to explain
to them what my faith means to me and what Jesus can do in their lives,” she
said, acknowledging the leadership and influence of Alao around campus.
“Every time I come into contact with her, you can tell she cares
for others around her and wants to build connections between people,” she said.
Every new beginning requires a fresh start. That can apply to
someone’s faith as well as on the field of play. Three years after Grambling
State launched a soccer program, Alao and her teammates were in the NCAA
tournament. Last fall Savage and the Redhawks were winless after seven games.
Seven straight wins, however, put them in the playoffs.
FCA continues to be a place where student athletes can see a fresh
start for their faith.
“FCA is doing a lot here to meet students where they’re at and
incorporate the Christian experience to where students can be part of a social
environment,” Also said. “Here, they can hang out and have a good time, but
also get the Word. They’re getting fed with food, but also spiritually.
“I’ve seen a lot of students lead and grow. They bloom and
develop. They realize that they can love Jesus and love their sport.”
Support the work Upstate New York FCA is doing on campuses
like Roberts Wesleyan University and find out ways to get involved!
Photos courtesy of Femi Alao, Robert Wesleyan College and Adrienne Cali