Owatonna, Austin athletes team up for dodge ball, pizza and prayers

Published 7:10 am Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Two schools were brought together by dodge ball, pizza and prayers Monday evening.

The Austin and Owatonna chapters of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) teamed up yesterday for a “huddle,” an event complete with speakers, games, faith-sharing and dinner at Austin High School.

More than 80 students — the majority being from AHS — turned out to the huddle, which FCA student leaders and coaches called a great success.

“This event is really going to help us expand, and help people to learn what we are all about,” said Michael Lindahl, an AHS junior and founding member of the FCA chapter.

FCA is a non-profit interdenominational Christian ministry that reaches out to young athletes on academic campuses.

AHS developed an FCA chapter this November, following the lead of Owatonna High School (OHS), which started a chapter during the previous school year.

The AHS group has about 40 students signed up so far, though only 10 to 20 show up consistently for the bi-monthly huddles, or meetings. More than 40 AHS students attended Monday night’s team huddle with OHS, which included the presentation of an FCA membership certificate to AHS athletic director Tim Hermann; gym games; pizza; and a presentation about FCA camps.

Southern Minnesota FCA staff person and AHS alum Steve Arnold explained that the purpose of the organization is to bring together students to link their athletic interests to their spirituality as well as to promote character-building.

“One of the biggest advantages is for students to meet others who have similar interests like sports, and then to be able to look at spirituality and talk about a relationship with God with their peers,” Arnold said.

FCA chapters are funded by area donations and lead by athletic coaches. Guest speakers are routinely brought in as well. Austin’s chapter is unique in that it has four coaches. Jens Levison, Jamie Boelter, Michelle Boelter and Will Pazurek are all AHS teachers and athletics coaches that have together taken on the FCA team.

“It’s just another way for students to encourage each other and learn about support and accountability,” Pazurek said of FCA. “So far it’s been growing at a pretty good pace and the students who are a part of it really enjoy it.”

AHS had a chapter of FCA in the past, coached by Ellis Middle School teacher Gordy Harder. The club dismantled when Harder retired several years ago, Arnold said.

“I think it is a great way to bring Christians together,” said Lindahl, stepping out of a heated dodge ball battle between AHS and OHS. “Some of us are in church youth groups, but FCA is larger than that and it bridges religions.”

Lindahl is a member of a youth group at Westminster Presbyterian. Fellow founding member Olivia Grev, AHS sophomore, agreed with Lindahl.

The member of Faith Evangelical Free Church said, “It’s a good experience and a good way to get involved with more people from school.”

Grev also said that her friends in her church youth group don’t all enjoy sports, so she appreciates a chance to share sports and prayer with the FCA huddle.

FCA chapters have been growing in recent years and across Minnesota more than 150 huddles will go on this year. Austin’s chapter marks the third in Arnold’s district, which he calls the “I-35 corridor.” Faribault and Owatonna have huddles and Albert Lea could develop one next fall.

More information about FCA can be found at www.fca.org.