What It Means To Be a Christian Athlete: A reflection on how God’s glory and athletes’ faith shines through sports.

I wear a cross around my neck at all times. Not only is this an avowal of my identity as a Greek Orthodox Christian, but it’s a reminder that Christ is with me at all times, good and bad. As Christian athletes, our athletic abilities are given to us through God’s grace and power. Without His strength, the games we can win, the shots we can make, and the goals we can score are all unthinkable, undoable. Being a Christian athlete is uplifting and a constant showcase of the gifts that God gave us, individually and for our teams.

I Corinthians 10:23–33 has the very important theme of doing all you do for the glory of God. This mindset humbles the individualistic, competitive and prideful complex that some athletes embody. There is a difference between confidence and pride. God allows us to be confident in the abilities He has given to us. Using these abilities, we maximize our performance, but only because the grace and strength of God allows us to. A humble confidence is what we look for as Christian athletes, glorifying God by properly using his gifts to lift ourselves and our teammates during a competition or practice. The determination to do better, be stronger (physically and mentally) and play harder comes from our God-given talents.

Premier League football player, Olivier Giroud, who openly speaks about his Christian faith, points to God after scoring a goal. Reuters

Implementing faith into my golf game has been the turning point in my athletic mindset, and other athletes at Eastern University can probably say the same. Golf undoubtedly requires more mental strength than physical strength, although conditioning and endurance is necessary to carry a 25-pound bag with 14 clubs for 18 holes while keeping the technique and coordination of my swing. Calming the mind before each swing is imperative if I want to perform. Deep breaths, remembering the cross around my neck and looking down at my glove to see “Isaiah 40:31” written remind me that God’s presence will help me execute. If I have a bad hole and a bad round, God’s tough love reminds me that even though it’s not the end of the world, I have no excuse to let my head down and give up.

As Christian athletes, being on a team means more than just playing or practicing in a group setting. A team to a Christian athlete is a band of brothers and sisters who share their love of God and their love of the game. Team prayers before team meetings, dinners, practices, and tournaments lift up the minds and hearts of the players. Coming to a Christian university, I was excited to see this in more action because everyone on my team would share the same love of Christ that I do, and everyone would realize their success as a product of their God-given gifts. In my public high school, when the girls on my team were not very religiously involved, I still wanted to involve faith in my golf game. As captain of my team, I prayed before each big match. But, now, having several girls and guys that really take those prayers to heart makes a difference to our success as a team and utilizing God’s grace in the ways He intends.

Being an athlete is a commitment. Being a Christian is a commitment. Athletes love the game they play, and Christians love the one they worship. When combined, a love for showcasing the glorious gifts God has given us sports players is displayed. Being a Christian athlete is among the happiest things I am able to be. And I, and all Christian athletes, are beyond grateful.

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