By Megan Dickerson • Fellowship of Christian Athletes • Portland, Oregon
NOTE: This is one of the articles about “Challenge of the Sexes – Ministry to Guys and Girls” to which Youth Leaders Only members have free access. To read the other articles, join YLO!
For fifteen years I competed in sports of all kinds— I was an athlete. I was also a Christian. Yet those two aspects of my life seemed far apart from each other. Sports were my life six days a week, and church was where I went on Sundays to rest my muscles. It took me years, and ultimately God calling me to a sports ministry to figure out how faith and sports can and should be integrated.
Female athletes are faced with many challenges and difficult situations. Because of such, they have a great need to be acknowledged and valued. They want to be reached out to through an understanding that you care about who they are and what they do. Here’s how:
1. Value Her as an ATHLETE
Her sport is not just a game to her; it has great significance in her life. She needs you to understand her sport, to find out what she loves about playing, and what her goals are in the arena of sport. Be her cheering section—on and off the field!
Understand that she experiences criticism daily and is judged constantly on her performance. She needs to know that you, and God, do not judge her based on her wins, losses, or accolades—but that you love her in the midst of those things. Be a great teammate. “If one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.” (1 Corinthians 12:26) God has given her athletic talents, and she needs to be encouraged to know that she is honoring God through the platform of sports.
2. Value her as a FEMALE
Communication is the key. Females can be very emotional and may not always hear exactly what you say, but they need you to say it. Share openly and honestly about your faith and what the Word of God says. Help her to understand that she is going to feel struggles and hurts through her sport experiences, and that is okay. Give her a place to share her struggles, and ask her questions about such experiences—girls love to talk! Build a trust relationship through communication.
3. She is a CHILD OF GOD
Because the female athlete is constantly critiqued and criticized, she often begins to desire that which she doesn’t have—a more athletic or attractive body, better skills, more playing time, etc. She begins to envy others. She needs to be reminded that she is God’s beautiful creation—exactly the girl He intended her to be.
While I was growing up, I needed someone in my life to value me as an athlete, and at the same time show me the importance of my faith and how it could be played out through my sports. I needed someone to share in my successes and failures while pointing me to God. You can be that person to a female athlete you know.
Note: As in most ministries, reaching the heart of the female athlete is relational. Dealing with her struggles can go very deep. Let me suggest that if you are a male youth worker and need to reach out to a struggling female athlete, find a female co-worker or volunteer to be present and involved in this relationship.
Megan is the FCA Area Representative in Portland, Oregon. She is a graduate of Montana State University-Billings, and was an NCAA Division II Basketball All-American.