Volunteer Spirit: FCA leader works to build character in young athletes

Ben Jeffries considers himself ‘something of a character coach’ as he works with area high school and middle school sports teams through the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

Bringing religion into public schools these days is a tricky proposition. There’s the fear someone will be offended, or a particular faith will be promoted over another.

Ben Jeffries, area representative of Fellowship of Christian Athletes, hasn’t found it to be much of a problem, however.

“Participation is all with permission of the coaches and acceptance by the student-athletes,” says Jeffries, 36, a part-time volunteer with FCA. “No one is forced to take part.”

Jeffries, who works full time as a training specialist at Eastern Kentucky University, started FCA activities at Frankfort High School in 2012. He now has FCA participation at all high schools and most middle schools.

“FCA is geared to help students and coaches grow in their faith,” he said. “During their season, if they are members of a church, about all they may be able to do is attend occasionally. They don’t have time for youth or other activities.”

Jeffries works primarily with football and soccer programs. Basketball, he says, is difficult because of the number of games and erratic practice schedules.

Again, with permission of coaches and volunteer student participation, Jeffries has prayer with the team before or after the game and may have devotional periods, too.

“I’m something of a character coach,” he said, “and that’s what FCA is about – building character. I offer them biblical examples and encourage the students to become leaders.”

Jeffries was gently nudged toward FCA while “hiding” at Southland Christian Church, the mega-congregation on the Jessamine County line.

“I had tried planting (starting) a church here” in Franklin County, he said. “That wasn’t the direction God wanted me to go in, so I gave that up and went to Southland, where you can do as much or little as you want. You can hide out!”

Each week during worship he sat next to Rusty Parks, who asked if he’d be interested in working with FCA.

“Rusty has a great heart and is a great role model. He had just taken over FCA responsibilities in the area and said he needed someone to work with Frankfort High. I agreed and have just finished my seventh year working with Coach (Craig) Foley at FHS.”

Jeffries says it’s important to coaches, students and parents to understand that participation in FCA is completely optional. He finds out what the coach and team would be interested in – if interested at all – and tailors a program accordingly.

Groups meet in what’s called “huddles” for devotion and prayer. Sometimes, Jeffries says, there may be just one or two, other times several.

“It depends on their interest and time constraints. I share my faith and see if they want to know more. I do what they want and encourage the students to become leaders.”

An ordained minister with some seminary experience at Asbury, Jeffries is a graduate of the University of Louisville and is working on a master’s degree from Western Kentucky University. A native of Taylorsville in Spencer County, he lives in Frankfort.

FCA is a national program that’s present on the college level, too. A FCA representative was with the University of Kentucky football team at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando this week.

“I’m very excited about where we’ve come from to where we are now with 23 huddles at several schools,” Jeffries said. “I’d like to get that number into the 30s or 40s. I think FCA offers a good way for students to grow.”

For more information, visit my.fca.org\benjeffries.

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