“I can’t tell you how much I look forward to our ‘God Space’ group. It gives me something to look forward to during the week and keeps me accountable in so many ways. I love that I can be real and receive godly advice from these women.” ~ Sidney (Italy)
As a student athletic trainer at Cal State Fullerton, the head trainer lead me to Christ. This opened my eyes to the powerful impact athletic trainers and other sports medicine professionals can have for eternity within their athletic departments. In 1997 I came on staff with Athletes in Action Basketball, as an athletic trainer, with a vision to reach out to sports medicine professionals.
After several years of working with AIA Basketball and taking care of the medical needs of various teams, I started to phase out of my athletic training responsibilities. And then about four years ago, I was left as the sole member of AIA’s women’s basketball. I wondered how we would see spiritual movements everywhere in this sport.
The Lord soon gave me a vision to reach out to American women’s professional basketball players who compete in the European league from September through April. Many of them are Christ followers and desire to use their platform as professional athletes to make an impact for eternity.
It’s my vision to come alongside these athletes and encourage, equip, and empower them to make an impact for Christ in the countries where they are playing basketball. One huge obstacle kept me from fulfilling this vision, I didn’t know any professional women’s basketball players! However, within a couple of weeks, I was asked to be on the leadership team of the volunteer chaplains who serve the teams of the WNBA. All of a sudden, the door flung wide open to build relationships with professional women’s basketball players.
An eMail Ministry
As the WNBA ladies started going overseas for their European season, I wrote devotionals for them and sent them via email every other week. The WNBA chaplains helped distribute these to players with interest; some of these players were forwarding the devotionals to other players they knew. What started as a devotional for six players is now reaching over forty!
As I’ve gotten to know the players, I’ve learned what a lonely lifestyle it is for professional athletes. They need fellowship since they are far from home and don’t speak the local language. They may be the only Christian (also, there may only be one other American on the team). Many of these athletes play in atheistic and Muslim countries.
Hoping to meet some of these needs, I started a small group of four players living in Turkey, Italy, and Switzerland. We met on Skype as often as we could, and read through the book, God Space, which teaches how to start spiritual conversations in a natural way. It was fun hearing the creative ways they were reaching out to their teammates and the spiritual conversations that resulted. The group also became closer as we shared personal struggles and prayer requests.
Since the first group was going so well and other athletes were interested to be a part of a small group, I launched another Skype group with two players living in Greece and China and a mutual friend in Detroit.
The most challenging part of facilitating these groups has been organizing a meeting time with three to four people living in different countries and time zones, but it’s been worth it! These women are awesome ambassadors for the Lord and it’s been a blessing getting to know them on a deeper level!
Guest post by Shannon Kaney
Shannon grew up in Palm Springs, California, and graduated from Cal State Fullerton with a degree in kinesiology and athletic training.
As the director of women’s basketball for Athletes in Action (AIA), she’s discipling American professional women’s basketball players, planning for AIA basketball tours around the globe, and encouraging college coaches across the United States; most of this is done from her office at the AIA Headquarters in Xenia, Ohio. She usually takes one international ministry trip annually.