The Columbus Rotary Club hosted the Mississippi State University Fellowship of Christian Athletes at its luncheon on Tuesday at Lion Hills Golf Club.
Bill Buckley is the FCA director for Mississippi State. He and his team cover the entire eastern part of the state on behalf of FCA; they offer support to high schools and middle schools in the area.
“There are 13 counties that we cover, including East Mississippi Community College,” said Buckley, “So that’s about 55 schools that my staff covers.”
Buckley’s team is comprised of his wife and former Mississippi State athletes from baseball, basketball and football. Each member of the staff covers three counties.
Tyson Lee, a former Bulldog receiver, and Tyson Cunningham, a basketball player, are both graduates of Columbus High School.
Lee covers Lowndes county and said that there has been interest and excitement expressed from within Columbus High. FCA is focused on being inclusive of all types of athletes.
“I think the biggest thing is letting coaches know it’s not a football organization,” Lee said.
Buckley said that the goal going into these schools is not to immediately start an FCA bible study, known as a “huddle”. Rather, the group reaches out to local coaches and teachers to see what their needs are and if FCA can help in anyway. All FCA clubs on middle and high school campuses must be student led in accordance with Equal Access laws.
At the college level, Buckley is determined to help keep student-athletes focused when they enter school, and, after graduation, help make them successful. Each member of the staff is responsible for two sports teams at Mississippi State.
Literature was passed out on two programs that the group has developed. “Life After Football” tries to help players on their way out. “Freshman Transitions: The College Battleground” tries to adjust athletes to the limelight of the Southeastern Conference. This attention is what makes Christianity so relevant to many athletes, Buckley said.
“They experience great moments of fear, doubt and insecurity and if we can help them meet a loving God who wants them to succeed that’s great,” he said.
Buckley spoke on connecting with athletes that come from poverty. He said that particularly football and basketball are affected by poverty, and that it can be hard for those from wealthier backgrounds to understand where those students are coming from financially. It spills over into setting long-term goals.
“If you’re out of true poverty, setting goals is ridiculous, because you want to make it to Friday,” said Buckley.
Buckley and his staff said they feel that having a good faith relationship can help keep these young people focused and help them stay on the path to success.