This story appears in FCA Magazine’s May/June 2017 issue. Subscribe today!
In the book of Exodus, frogs were sent as a sovereign sign from God. The second of the famous Ten Plagues In Egypt, the amphibious animals covered every inch of Pharoah’s land.
That occurrence, of course, came and went thousands of years ago. Today, a different swarm of frogs blankets the campus of Texas Christian University, and this time there’s no end in sight. Horned Frog student-athletes and coaches are being transformed in their faith through FCA Huddles, chapels, Bible studies and outreach, boldly proclaiming Christ to those around them in Fort Worth.
To see where this story started, you have to rewind to 2010, when TCU’s athletic director connected with an FCA area representative to talk about bringing a full-time life and character coach into the TCU family.
Chauncey Franks, who at the time was leading FCA at nearby Southern Methodist University, came aboard as the Horned Frogs’ football team chaplain in 2010.
TCU’s first FCA meeting attracted four people. Regardless, Franks was stoked.
“One of the biggest things I wanted to do was create an environment where it was safe for students to grow in their faith,” Franks said. “An environment where we could challenge students to do life with each other, encourage one another and grow in their walk.”
With time, the Monday night FCA Huddle grew. Outreach exploded. Today, TCU FCA reaches more than 300 student-athletes through weekly Bible studies, pregame chapels, one-on-one discipleship and mentorships all over campus. The staff has also expanded; Coleman Maxwell joined in 2014, and Natalie Mayo in 2016.
TCU FCA Staff: Coleman Maxwell, Natalie Mayo and Chauncey Franks
“A particular Scripture I love to look back on in regards to TCU FCA is Ephesians 3:20,” Franks said. “‘Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.’ I see God displaying that in front of me here at TCU.”
A key factor in FCA’s success, he said, is just being present—serving the student-athletes in their element and getting to know them on campus. As character coaches, Franks, Maxwell and Mayo each play a vital role within the TCU athletics department. They’re backed by a shared vision to help each student-athlete and coach grow in their character, faith and walk with the Lord.
“These student-athletes have different coaches in different roles to help them grow specific skills,” Franks said. “The time that we have with them through chapel, one-on-ones, Huddles, and even text messages of encouragement—those things are intentionally designed for every coach and student-athlete. God loves them, He has a plan for them, and He has a great purpose for their lives.”
Although TCU has seen a number of high-profile athletes turn pro, the community aspect of FCA’s mission helps them stay focused on their true purpose within the community. Athletes are regularly put on a pedestal and expected to perform, but that same pedestal can become a blessing too.
Bibles, Books And Baseball: Members of the 2017 TCU Baseball team pose with their new FCA Bibles and devotional books courtesy of TCU FCA.
“At TCU FCA, we help remind them that they’re not playing the game for themselves; they’re playing the game to glorify Christ,” Franks said. “We want them to be good stewards of the platform God has given them, to grow and to know who God is, and to understand their purpose in life.”
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FCA’s presence at TCU is no more evident than within the nationally ranked baseball program. At the beginning of each season, every person on the roster—coaches included—receives an FCA Bible and devotional book.
Franks started a voluntary chapel service for the baseball team four seasons ago. Today, that service sees roughly 80 percent of Horned Frogs players attend. In addition, Franks recently kicked off a coaches’ Bible study.
“All four coaches attend,” he said. “It’s been a real blessing for us to be able to meet with them twice a month, to encourage them in their faith and walk with the Lord.”
Over the past few seasons, Franks and head coach Jim Schlossnagle have formed a tight bond built on the foundation of Christ and a shared desire to model his teachings on campus and beyond.
“Coach Schlossnagle loves FCA,” Franks said. (Schlossnagle is a longtime FCA supporter and former member of the Fort Worth-area advisory board.) “He’s been a great friend to FCA and to me personally. It’s been so much fun watching him grow in his faith—as well as in his leadership—as he serves his players and coaching staff.”
Schlossnagle, Baseball America’s 2016 Coach of the Year, has led the Horned Frogs to four College World Series appearances, including in each of the past three seasons. He has a beyond-the-diamond perspective on the role he plays in his players’ lives.
“Baseball is the avenue that allows coaches like ours to help young people mature both on and off the field,” Schlossnagle said. “At the end of the day, I’m in the character and leadership development business—through the sport of baseball. And a big part of that can be helping someone grow in their faith.”
Now in his 14th year with the program, Schlossnagle said FCA is an essential part of TCU campus life. It’s invaluable to his players and other student-athletes, especially when considering how difficult the transition from high school athletics to NCAA competition can be.
For those young adults who do struggle, especially if they’re away from home for the first time, he said FCA provides a much-needed circle of support and friendship that can truly be a saving grace.
“I don’t think there’s a more important organization on any campus than FCA,” Schlossnagle said. “This is a time that is so crucial in a young person’s development, and as athletes it might also be the first time they fail on the field.
“If they already have a strong faith, there will be times they have it questioned or maybe even question it themselves. FCA helps them deal with these new experiences and keep everything in perspective.”
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For heralded TCU pitcher Mitchell Traver, the roller-coaster ride of success and setback could have been devastating if not for his faith in God and the relationships he built through FCA.
“I don’t think there’s a more important organization on any campus than FCA.”
Despite missing parts of this season and the bulk of 2016 with back injuries (as well as the majority of the 2014 season following Tommy John surgery), Traver remains confident in God’s plan for him.
“Through every disappointment, injury, trial and challenge, the Lord has helped me know Him more,” said Traver, who was selected in each of the 2012, 2015 and 2016 MLB Drafts. “He hasn’t wasted a single second.
“The Lord is good. He is faithful. He is sovereign. He is gracious. He is compassionate. He is wise. He is mighty. He is merciful. The Lord is for me,” Traver continued. “All of these things are Biblically backed up, and they’ve all been put on display in my journey.”
Traver came to TCU as the 37th-ranked freshman nationally in 2013. He quickly became involved with FCA after hearing Franks speak at Ignite, another campus ministry. For his integrity upheld in baseball, academics and volunteer service, Traver was named the 2014 TCU FCA Bob Lilly Athlete of the Year.
Since August 2015, the high-profile pitcher has served as president of TCU FCA, giving him a unique opportunity to lead, teach and share his story with all who will listen to it.
“We all have platforms,” Traver said. “They vary in shapes and sizes, but we all have them. Whether it’s talking to the couple living next door or other students on campus, we’ve been appointed to our own specific platform for a reason—to glorify God.”
Traver and his brother, Spencer, run traverbrothers.com and a quartet of “traverbros” social media profiles on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. Under the tagline, “Two sons, one Gospel,” the brothers blog, share their testimonies and encourage followers to look to Christ for answers every day.
“I want others to know and enjoy Him just as He’s allowed me to,” Traver said. “I want others to know who Jesus is and how much He loves them. The Lord brings purpose. He knows us fully, yet loves us wholly.
Competitor For Christ: Mitchell Traver has served as the president of TCU FCA since August 2015.
“How could I not focus all my efforts on making that truth known, regardless of the platform I have? It’s not about me. It’s about Him.”
Traver, a redshirt senior, will soon throw his last pitch for the Horned Frogs, but Franks said his impact will be felt within TCU FCA for years to come. He’s been an example of a TCU student-athlete who lives his life for something greater than himself or individual goals and statistics.
“I don’t think our relationship with the baseball team would be as strong if it weren’t for Mitchell Traver,” Franks said. “It’s so important that guys like Mitchell live out their faith publicly. When you see a guy who’s a great athlete with a 90-mile-per-hour fastball, but then can turn around and walk you through the book of Romans—man, that’s powerful.”
Franks said (only half-jokingly) that he’s never actually seen Traver without a smile on his face, despite the adversity he’s faced.
“It’s amazing to watch Mitchell’s love for the Lord, and just see how he’s growing and how he’s been such an influencer on his team,” he said. “I’ve seen so many guys on the team over the last four years say they want to be like Mitchell. They respect who he is, his faith, his character.”
Traver envisions a career in professional baseball, but he views the opportunity to keep impacting the lives of everyone he comes in contact with as a far more worthwhile venture, regardless of his baseball future.
“Baseball has an expiration date, but people never forget the way they’re treated,” he said. “To just be there for whoever—however they may need me—that’s the greatest concern to me.
“I don’t have all the answers, but I know the One who does. I just want to love people well, period.”
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Through the Lord’s provision and guidance, FCA has prospered on the campus of TCU and plans to do so for years to come. Its sights continually set on impacting coaches like Schlossnagle and others, and sending out scores of Horned Frogs like Traver to change the lives of those they encounter, in Fort Worth and beyond.
Watch these highlights of the 2017 TCU FCA Night of Champions Banquet featuring interviews with past FCA Magazine features Andy Dalton and Coach Jim Schlossnagle. Learn more about TCU FCA at www.tcufca.org.
TCU FCA Banquet Feature from Agapé Filmworks on Vimeo.
Photos courtesy of Chauncey Franks and TCU Athletics