The proper pace: reaching student-athletes amidst their frantic schedules
Most of us have heard the phrase, “It’s not a sprint. It’s a marathon.” This saying applies to many areas of our life and ministry. I find it to be particularly true when reaching out to student-athletes.
If you’ve ever ran or watched long distance racing you know there are certain moments during that race when runners keep a steady pace and other times when they pick up the pace to gain a more strategic position. This strategy can be effective when working around a student-athlete’s hectic seasonal demands.
Here are a few tips to help with your pace.
Once you have established a friendship with a student athlete, it’s important to understand their seasonal demands. A key to any relationship is availability. When working with student athletes it helps to think of their seasonal availability as the “pace setter” for your discipleship strategy.
In-Season: Steady Pace
When a student-athlete is at the peak of their sport’s season, their availability for meetings, Bible studies or social events will be at a minimum. However, your ministry momentum doesn’t have to stop with them—you just need to be more strategic.
Rather than trying to find windows of extended time to spend with them consider looking for several short bursts throughout the week on campus. A quick lunch, walk to class, an encouraging handwritten note on a locker, a few words of encouragement at the bus before a road trip, a drop-in at a library study session are a few suggestions.
Also, attending competitions may seem trivial, but it goes a long way especially for those athletes whose sport is not spectator heavy. I have found that some of my most impactful encounters with student-athletes have been along the cold trails of our cross country course. Highly visible and encouragement clearly heard, smaller attended athletic events should not be overlooked when reaching student-athletes.
Off-season: Pick up the pace
When a student-athlete is out of season that is usually the time to pick up the pace and use the connection you’ve made during season. This is an opportune time to connect as many as possible to Bible studies, campus events, retreats and conferences—activities that student athletes often long for as soon as their season is over. Inviting them into your daily life of errands and hobbies can be fruitful as well. Model the Gospel not only in formal settings, but also in everyday life.
Whatever the season may be in your life or in the life of a student athlete we must preach the Gospel. Giving account to God’s Word when it says,
“Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season, correct rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching.”
– 2 Timothy 4:2
At the end of the day, people make time for what they value most. As ministry leaders we play a vital part in helping show the Kingdom life as a worthy pursuit, no matter the pace of life our students find themselves in.