Sitting behind a modest desk in donated space at First General Baptist, her words flowed quickly and enthusiastically from the first mention of her calling with Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
Strong in her belief and confident in her cause, Erica Houston tirelessly serves as FCA’s Area Representative for a 9-county region. FCA’s vision: To see the world impacted for Jesus Christ through the influence of coaches and athletes.
It began with recognition that coaching a team, being an athlete, and being a coach’s wife can be highly stressful. In 2008, Erica and husband Todd attended their first Coaches’ Clinic, recommended by another Danville coach, who himself had tapped into the invaluable resource. “I was honestly in tears most of the time, because all these other ladies were talking about bringing their friends because their husbands were on staff together . . . they talked about encouraging one another—wife after wife,” Erica said. The tears flowed from her realization that she didn’t have that and she didn’t do that for others. “It was an eye-opening experience. It was a great reminder to my husband [head football coach at Ohio County at that time] why he does what he does, because these men would talk about the ways they made sure to add character to the middle of coaching offense, for example,” she said. They came home and listed all the things they wanted to do differently as a coaching family. Todd became a member of the FCA board and Erica began volunteering with FCA.
Erica’s role is to oversee the ministry of FCA, which consists of four C’s: Coaches, Campus, Camp and Community. First and foremost is the intentional support of coaches, who receive a Coach’s Bible with specific devotions tailored for a coach, reminding them that their purpose and worth is found beyond a scoreboard. “You coach very differently when an athlete is a product to get you a win versus coaching the heart of the athlete,” Erica said. FCA’s hope is that the encouragement and values reinforced in coaches spill out onto their players.
The second C, “Campus,” provides an emphasis on local school “huddles,” which range from elementary school to college campuses. “The elementary school huddles are the ones growing by leaps and bounds; at the end of this year, we will have started five elementary school huddles, so it’s very exciting,” Erica said. The most recent huddle began at Sutton Elementary School, where 25 students enjoyed Christian music and listened as Erica talked about FCA and led a short Bible story about kindness and using words of encouragement toward one another. School huddles have staff sponsors and student leaders, who have been equipped, through FCA training, to lead the meetings. Additionally, at least 40 Character Coaches volunteer with middle and high school teams, providing weekly “character clinics,” 10-15 minute sessions about teamwork, integrity, commitment, honesty and other positive character traits. According to an FCA flyer, “These clinics are grounded by stories from the Bible, helping athletes to apply these truths to their everyday lives and especially to their team.”
The third C, “Camp,” involves taking an average of 30 students to Campbellsville University for a leadership camp each summer. Coaches and school sponsors recommend potential leaders who would benefit from attending camp. “It’s a pretty powerful experience for the students who attend,” Erica said. This year’s camp, July 6-9, features testimonies from Stephen Johnson, UK quarterback; Katy Downing, WKU softball; Avery Jones, Tennessee State basketball; and Jerry Ramirez, U of L soccer. A local Coaches’ Clinic will be held in Bowling Green, April 29, where attendees will not only share some X’s and O’s, but also their testimonies and encouragement to pour character and values into their athletes. The monies raised from this clinic will be used to send kids to FCA camp this summer.
“Community,” the 4th C, includes Character Clinics for the Owensboro-Daviess County Youth Football League, Kids’ Football League and cheerleaders. A coach, assistant coach or parent volunteers to lead weekly character clinics which focus on a key value (teamwork, integrity, etc.). FCA hopes to expand this to any team / coach interested in teaching and reinforcing these values to their athletes. Devotions are also available for various teams traveling on weekends and unable to attend worship services.
FCA’s presence and programs are growing exponentially throughout Owensboro and worldwide. As for Erica’s devotion to, passion for, and role with FCA, she said, “I couldn’t NOT do it.”