When SCCS assistant football coach Les Robinson says he believes in the power of high school athletics to help young Christian men and women grow in their relationship with Christ, he’s not being theoretical. He’s speaking from experience.
Robinson was preparing for his senior year in high school in 1973 when his football coach sent him to a sports camp in Ashland, Ore. Robinson, who grew up in Sacramento, Calif., had no idea what to expect.
“I got off the bus and there were 800 to 900 kids there from all over the country,” Robinson says. “They gave us a packet that had a Bible, a Bible study guide and all kinds of Christian literature tailored for athletes … I didn’t even know my coach was a Christian.”
The camp was a sports camp, but with a twist. It was hosted by The Fellowship for Christian Athletes (FCA), a non-denominational organizational started in 1954 to challenge coaches and athletes to use their positions of influence to make an impact for Christ.
“It was at that camp that I really made a solid commitment to God,” Robinson says. “I was raised in the church, but I was also the oldest of six children raised by a single mom. You have to be tough. I was struggling with how to be a tough athlete and have a love for God. I learned at camp that you could do both.”
Today, Robinson labors to bring God’s Word to student athletes through his work as the Director of the FCA branch in Santa Clarita – a branch he started in the 2008. Once a week at Saugus High School, Robinson shows up during the lunch hour with pizza and a group of about 50 athletes come for a 30-minute Bible study and time of prayer and fellowship.
Each summer, he raises money to send some of those kids to the FCA summer camp that meets at UCLA. In 2008 he sent two kids, six in 2009, eight in 2010, 12 in 2011 and this year he hopes to send 20.
Last fall, Robinson began hosting weekly FCA meetings at SCCS. They meet every Wednesday during lunch and 20-25 attend regularly. It’s an opportunity, he says, to extend his ministry to the athletes beyond the football field.
“There’s a parallel between athletics and the Christian walk,” Robinson says. “To be a great athlete, you have to be committed, devoted and consistent. It’s the same way in Christianity. If you want to walk with Christ, you have to be all in. It happens in your heart and mind. You have to put yourself in an environment where you can maintain that commitment.”
FCA helps foster that environment by adding components of discipleship, accountability and encouragement. With his help, that environment is now even more prevalent at SCCS. Its athletes can continue to spur one another to growth and good deeds, long after the season is over.
This is vital, Robinson will tell you. A life lived for Christ doesn’t include timeouts.