RENJE: Empowering young athletes goes far beyond the field of competition

Bill Renje

Bill Renje

The second column in a four-part series on How to Empower Young Black Men

Those of us involved in sports ministry are familiar with the quote by Billy Graham: “One coach will impact more young people in a year than the average person does in a lifetime.”

That sums up why ministries like the Fellowship of Christian Athletes put so much emphasis on ministering to coaches. We see coaches throughout South Metro Atlanta who are concerned more about the growth and development of young men than they are about wins and losses.

One of the aspects I love about sports, is that probably more so than any other aspect of our culture, the players, coaches and fans are color blind. Which is why we not only have black coaches leading young black men, we see white coaches investing in these young men as well, and we see the investments paying off.

One such school is Jonesboro High School with a highly successful athletic program headed by white Athletic Director Dan Maehlman. Maehlman, also the head basketball and baseball coach, was the Clayton News Daily’s 2012-13 Coach of the Year.

On the football field, head coach DeTimothy Floyd exerts his influence. But Floyd, an imposing but soft spoken man, doesn’t limit his influence to just the football field, but rather the entire campus.

Every Thursday morning, in season and out of season, Floyd can be found in the food line serving the 100+ students that attend Jonesboro’s bi-weekly Fellowship of Christian Athletes huddles. To illustrate the influence of coaches, Floyd’s commitment and presence to FCA has, in part, led to a tenfold increase in the students attending the huddles.

One of those students positively influenced by Floyd has been football player Marquise Murray. A Christian, Murray says his life has been much happier and less stressful since committing his life to Jesus. Along with crediting the influence of FCA on his life — from the weekly meetings to camp last summer — Murray perfectly sums up the kind of influence that coaches are capable of having on young people.

“Coach Floyd is like a father to me I look up to him as if he was my birth father,” Murray said. “Coach Floyd has always been there for me, even through my tough times dealing with my mom. He has taught me many life lessons, I’d say that if there was anyone in the world who has influenced me the most it would be Coach Floyd because he’s not only a coach to all of us. He’s a father.

“Honestly without Coach Floyd’s guidance I don’t know where I would be.”

There’s no doubt there’s something special going on at Jonesboro High School. But beyond the coaches and faculty, JHS also is an illustration on the role the community, black and white, can have on the influence of these young men.

A community volunteer named Joe Wilburn has taken the school under his wing. Wilburn graduated from Jonesboro in 1998. He stayed put as opposed to taking part of the “white flight” exodus out of Clayton County, while building a family and a business there as the operator of the Chick-fil-A Dwarf House.

“I love this school and community. I want to try and have a positive impact on the community where I live, worship, and work,” Wilburn said. “Working for Chick-fil-A and volunteering with FCA has opened a lot of doors for me to be able to get involved and serve. Matthew 28:19-20, the great commission, is also a driving force for me, and one way I can do that is by serving. Jesus came to serve, and not be served. If Jesus came to serve, then I think we should all be serving Him and others.”

I’ll leave it up to Murray to sum up Wilburn’s influence and hope this column provides a snap shot of how we can all come together to serve, equip and empower this tremendous young men in all of our schools and communities.

“Joe’s involvement with the team is more than most of us know. He has helped us in numerous ways with pregame meals and FCA. He has been there to show his support and been very beneficial to the success this program has had in recent years.”

Bill is on staff with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and a Deacon at Eagles Landing FBC in McDonough, GA. He lives in Locust Grove with his wife Amy and their three children. You can follow Bill on Facebook or Twitter @billrenje and learn more about him at his website www.achosenbullet.com