Football and faith

Christian student athletes find common interest

In November 2011, Austin High School athlete Ryan Synoground took his friend’s advice and went to a Fellowship of Christian Athletes meeting — referred to as a “huddle.” He immediately felt at home.

Austin multi-sport athlete Ryan Synoground is a leader on the football field, but he's also a leader off with a prominent role in AHS' Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

Austin multi-sport athlete Ryan Synoground is a leader on the football field, but he’s also a leader off with a prominent role in AHS’ Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

“It was just awesome to see a bunch of Christians like me,” he said. “It was fun to be around like-minded people.”

Interested in athletics since kindergarten, Synoground was a junior in 2012, his first year playing varsity football as a quarterback for the Packers. He has been on the football and basketball teams for three years each, and runs track in the spring. The FCA’s huddles, which take place every two weeks and attract 20-30 students, opened the door for Synoground and other students to talk about their faith, play games or study.

Not long after joining, Synoground became Austin’s FCA captain. Now it’s up to him to encourage his fellow students to come to meetings, put posters up around the school and spread the word about FCA. He also leads Bible studies every Friday morning.

“I kind of took on that role toward the end of [2011],” he said.

Austin's Ryan Synoground steps up in the pocket to throw during the second quarter Friday night against Mankato West at Art Hass Stadium.

Austin’s Ryan Synoground steps up in the pocket to throw during the second quarter Friday night against Mankato West at Art Hass Stadium.

Math teacher Will Pazurek, huddle coach for Austin’s FCA chapter, said encouraging leadership and accountability is one of the group’s goals.

“That’s where FCA can really have a big influence,” Pazurek said. “It’s student driven. Ryan does a good job of keeping it going.”

The boys basketball team started FCA in Austin four years ago. Today, the group is split evenly between boys and girls, and students of all fields of interest.

“We have some people who aren’t athletes but just love to come,” Pazurek said.

During the fall 2012 semester, FCA became an official student group. The new designation makes it easier for the group to use school facilities, which Pazurek said could encourage growth.

“That’ll really help us explode,” he said.

The Austin chapter is also looking to help other areas start, he said. While there are already chapters in nearby communities like Rochester, Owatonna and Faribault, the Austin group has set its sights on helping Lake Mills, Iowa, get started. A chapter in Lyle might also be a possibility.

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