There is no question that the competitiveness of youth sports is increasing. Children are starting to specialize in a sport as early as elementary school in hopes of securing future college scholarships, professional careers or Olympic medals. While this strategy may produce those outcomes, it also creates many young adults that feel defined by their sport.
Christopher Edward, newly appointed FCA Basketball Sports Director of Greater Portland, led one of those athletic careers where he felt defined by his sport.
“It wasn’t until I started attending FCA meetings in college where I learned that I am so much more than an athlete,” said the California native. “I grew up playing sports and love competing, but anyone who sees me as just an athlete is profoundly wrong.”
FCA offered Edward a full-time position after he graduated and, while he felt God calling him to a career in ministry, he wasn’t ready to give up basketball.
As an undrafted NBA free agent in 2018, Edward sought out a professional career in Germany. He was playing at the top of his game but at times felt something was missing.
“Being in a country where I didn’t know the language gave me a lot of one-on-one time with God,” Edward chuckles. “That can be a pretty scary thing because God uses that time to reveal His truths and He revealed to me that my identity was in Him, not my sport.”
While scoring career highs and playing his best, Edward’s professional career would be put on hold due to the pandemic. God worked through that time with Edward to bring him back to His ministry calling.
“He (God) laid it on my heart that I can use my sport of basketball to help shape the lives of other athletes in His name.”
Now back in the US, the opportunity to rejoin FCA staff presented itself again to Edward and this time he accepted the job offer with no hesitation. As a full-time FCA staff member, Edward has the ability to use his God-given platform of basketball to lead others to Christ which he does through a program called, Holistic Hoopers.
“Holistic Hoopers is a four-week long basketball clinic that will teach attendees that they are more than an athlete,” explains Edward. “Our identity isn’t defined on the court, it’s what we do and say that matters.”
The first Holistic Hooper clinic kicked-off this past February amidst the global pandemic and a chance to get children back into organized sports.
For two hours every Monday and Saturday, just over 20 clinic participants between the ages of seven to 10 practiced basketball skills and concluded each session with a 30-minute life lesson devotional. With a focus on teaching young athletes that they have a greater purpose beyond wins and losses, Edward and staff emphasized attitude, effort and how to treat others.
“We heard from parents that their kids were running around the house shouting our mantra,” explained Edward, a 2018 Concordia Oregon graduate. “That was very rewarding to hear that the kids are really listening and absorbing what we teach them about life and not just about basketball.”
At the conclusion of the clinic, awards were presented to select attendees, which provided the athletes with an opportunity to apply what the learned during the life application devotionals.
“Not everyone received an award and that is on purpose. It is a reminder to participants that their identity is not rooted in an award but in Christ,” said Edward.
Future Holistic Hooper clinics are in development and will expand into older age groups in order to connect with those at the high school level. The clinics are a way to impact the larger community and lead youth to Christ through sport.
“We want to build relationships and trust with our neighbors by loving on their children through sport,” said Edward. “It takes God’s timing and running with wisdom as we reach farther out into Portland.”
The Greater Portland FCA ministry team is in need of volunteers to assist in running future clinics and financial support would greatly be appreciated.
For those looking to support FCA’s Holistic Hoopers basketball ministry, please visit PDX FCA’s basketball website, donate here or contact Christopher Edward at email@example.com.
Photos courtesy of Christopher Edward