Approaching their tenth year this winter, Athletes in Action on the University of Washington in Seattle, WA, continues to “boldly proclaim the love and truth of Jesus Christ to those uniquely impacted by sport worldwide by winning, building, and sending athletic influencers,” as stated on the ministry’s website.
Some may argue that faith and sports do not mix but that’s not what Gary Shavey, AIA director and UW football alumnus, and his wife, associate director Pam Shavey believe.
"We're a resource for them," Pam said. "If that means answering their questions, [telling them] where a good church is or if it means they want to talk to someone who is not their teammates or coaches but is still someone involved in the athletic department."
AIA, founded in 1966 as a sports ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ, has grown internationally and helps college athletes keep their true identity as people of God.
"It's a support group with all different sports, with athletes who all have the same ambition -- they want to glorify God through good performance," said Pam. "And it's fun. It's community. It's family."
"It helps [athletes] understand that their significance is not what the papers say about them, or what their coaches say about them. Their significance is what God thinks of them," said Pam. "They understand that they are Christians first and athletes second, so identity is not so wrapped up in their sport," said Pam.
One way is to broaden the perspective of UW’s athletes, AIA builds a community of students who not only share their interest in sports but also more importantly in Jesus. Activities to promote unity include student-led Bible studies, lectures, barbeques, holiday parties, and of course, UW’s athletic ministry would not be complete without a trip to the Mariners' games.
“They start to see purpose in life and start to realize that sports aren't all there is," said Pam.
Junior Lindsey Egerdahl, who's on UW’s cross country and track team, has discovered how faith and sports do go hand in hand.
"I feel like God has placed me in the unique and awesome opportunity running collegiately at this level," Egerdahl said. "Part of being a complete athlete is developing physically, mentally and spiritually. AIA is designed to help all athletes zone in on the spiritual aspect of being an athlete."
The bonus to Egerdahl’s involvement with AIA has been the great friendships.
"I have developed some amazing friends with girls from other sports and my own," Egerdahl said.
Even though so many types of sports and people participate in AIA at UW, Egerdahl says AIA’s strength is that it accommodates the student, whether it be their schedule or faith.
"Lots of people participate on several different levels. AIA meets athletes where they are in their faith," Egerdahl said. "The door is never closed and opportunities to be involved are constant."
When Pam looks at the 50 members of UW’s AIA, which is responsible for 70 percent of the campus’s athletic programs, she sees the future of faith being revealed through their lives as athletes.
"Athletes have a real platform; people watch them," said Pam. "[AIA] tries to help athletes keep perspective and motivation in their sport so the community has good role models."