The Total Athlete

AIA is committed to helping student-athletes reach their potential as “Total Athletes.” Such an athlete is one who is committed to success physically, mentally and spiritually in the context of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. And by success, we do not mean achieving championships and breaking records–although we still strive for that–rather we mean living a life that seeks to honor God in sport and life. The Total Athletes is one who is able to fully implement the 5 Principles of Sport on and off the field. Such an athlete is marked by character, integrity, radical humility, sacrificial service, and unconditional love–basically, we want our lives to look like Jesus Christ. It’s a life that reflects the glory of God, and a life that deflects all glory to God.

This Total Athlete is not a perfect athlete, but rather a whole athlete, one who was (and is still being) made whole by the person, words, and works of Jesus Christ. A Total Athlete works hard during the day and sleeps peacefully at night because s/he knows that God loves  him/her as His own child. God accepts us where we’re at, but loves us too much let us stay that way.

The Gospel for Athletes

God is like the perfect coach. Imagine you are like a fledgling, ignorant, and arrogant athlete (I know, hard to imagine). God relentlessly recruits you because He sees potential in you (made in God’s image) and knows that you could be a huge asset to His team (the Church). You have lots of other offers (religions, philosophies, your own worldview, etc.), but God is promising huge benefits of joining His team (eternal life, gifts/fruits of the Spirit. etc.), not to mention guaranteeing the World Championship (heaven). At first glance that sounds arrogant, but since God hasn’t failed to back any of the promises He’s ever made, it seems this one could also come true. And there’s something more about Him that you can’t quite put your finger on–He really believes in you and really wants you on His team, and it’s as if He already knows you (Creator). In fact, He’s apparently paid a huge sacrifice just to be in this position to offer a spot on His team (sacrifice of Jesus Christ). In some sense, it’s like you’re a free agent, eligible and able to leave your current team and join God’s team. But His team and how He runs things is very different from what you’re used to, so this is not an easy decision…

Let’s say you accept God’s offer (salvation) and you join His team (justification). Now, just like any coach on any team, God is going to train, discipline, equip, educate, and motivate you to be all that you can be (sanctification). You’ll have to do things His way, learn His plays, understand His strategies and schemes, and trust that He knows what’s best (submission). He’ll give you the playbook (the Bible) which you’ll need to read and study a lot, since most of what He’s going to be teaching and showing you is already in that book. And you’ll have practice with your teammates (church, small groups) to figure out how to best work together–however, neither of you will be competing against one another because the MVP has already been awarded (to Jesus Christ).

What’s awesome about being on God’s team is that you’ll never get cut or traded (assurance of salvation) because God really wants you on His team and has already paid your contract in full (atonement)–so you won’t have the pressure of wondering whether or not you’ll be on the team, and you’ll then have the freedom to fail as you learn to implement God’s plays (justification). The challenge will be for you to not revert back to your old ways, running plays from your former team, and going back to bad habits. The challenge will be to accept your particular role, and not try to take on other roles. The challenge will be to realize that you’re not the star but just a role player. Fortunately, God not only tells you what to do (The Bible) and shows you how to do it (Jesus Christ), but He also helps you do it (Holy Spirit)!