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Power To Win
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From the little town of Defiance, Ohio, comes a big name in the world of racing: Sam Hornish, Jr. Like Defiance, Hornish is soft-spoken and reserved. But more importantly, Hornish characterizes a real genuine spirit born from his securely planted faith in Jesus Christ. This keeps him grounded in a racing world where he has, at times, consistently found himself near or at the top.
Even from the victory circle after winning the Indianapolis 500 in 2006, Hornish was still the same guy, deeply rooted in his small-town mentality. It is in that hometown where Hornish not only first developed his love for his, but also his relationship with his Savior. Hornish still attends the same church he's gone to his entire life, Poplar Ridge Church of the Brethren. Glen Whisler, the retired pastor there, has been impressed with Hornish's ability to allow his faith to shine. It affects even his driving style-aggressive, but not cheap. "That's a good testimony," says Whisler.
Hornish has a bright future in racing, but his future in the Lord is even brighter. "I feel like I've been very blessed," he says, "and there's no reason why I shouldn't continue to move forward with...Him."
From the time he was 3 years old, Shane Doan, now the captain of the Phoenix Coyotes, had donned his skates and taken to the ice every season. During the 2003-2004 season, Doan earned his first spot in the NHL All-Star Game. Doan's hockey had never been better- then the lockout hit the players and fans of hockey.
Last season's 10-month lockout brought something unexpected- the gift of time off. Professional hockey mounts a grueling schedule, and with Doan's solid relationship with Jesus Christ, the hockey travel schedule makes it difficult to get to church. That changed during the lockout as Shane and his wife attended church and Shane had time to attend a men's Bible study.
Now with Phoenix Coyote hockey back in full force, Doan feels invigorated about the game. Some people may wonder how Doan mixes his solid faith in Christ with the rough-and-tumble world of hockey. To Doan, it's no mystery at all. "My father was a hockey player, and he's one of the most godly Christian men I know," Doan says.
"Every person has a passion for their life and for me, it's Christ, hockey, and my family," Doan says.
Two women of God beginning their careers in the WNBA, Shanna Crossley and Sidney Spencer may be opponents in the sport of basketball, but they are close friends off the court. They built their friendship while playing college ball for the University of Tennessee. Now, Shanna's loyalty lies with the San Antonio Silver Stars, while Sidney's devotion is to the Los Angeles Sparks.
Both women have been through enough personal struggles to realize that their fulfillment is not found in basketball or in success, but rather in a real relationship with Jesus Christ. These hardships were when the two athletes encouraged each other most and truly drew close to the Lord.
After developing teamwork in the game, Crossley and Spencer are now teammates in faith, drawing upon one another's strengths to work in missions, give testimonies, and work camps. Their bond is an example to their teams and to fans of the strength God gives through Christian friendships. Shanna believes that the only reason God has given them the opportunity and talent to play professionally is to "reach people that others can't reach." And that is just what both of them are doing-using basketball to glorify God.
Whether Shaun Alexander spends his Sunday morning wearing a football jersey on a field or a suit in a pew, he's the same guy. "Shaun is a Christian 24/7," says close friend and teammate Mack Strong. "He's a great example. It's a testimony to him, to God."
Alexander has made a lasting name for himself in the NFL. The accomplishments and praises he's received are only dreams for many. He's not surprised by his success; he's always set lofty goals and worked hard. Now he's a household name, but he says, "This is no time to say, 'Look at me.'" That's because, for Alexander, it's not just about football. "I play football to make a difference in people's lives."
The difference he wants to make is a difference for Christ. He has a heart for providing hope, especially for youth, and giving to others as unto the Lord. That's the purpose of his foundation and the community center he started with his brother. "You can't outgive God," he says.
The best day in his life? Being valedictorian of his graduating class? Setting NFL records? Becoming 2005 MVP? No. "It was the first time I led someone to Christ," says Alexander. What else would we expect?
For Shelton Quarles, Michael Boulware, and Renaldo Wynn, playing on the defensive side of the ball allows them to demonstrate the toughness of men of faith.
Although undrafted, Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Shelton Quarles was an integral part of the team's victory in Super Bowl XXXVII. Nonetheless, he doesn't find lasting pleasure in bragging rights and trophies. "It's about eternity, and that's what I'm about," says Quarles.
Seattle safety Michael Boulware says his faith has sustained him whenever faced with difficulties that threaten his confidence. Michael says, "My favorite Scripture is 1 Corinthians 10:13. 'God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But, when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.'"
When the Washington Redskins signed Renaldo Wynn as a free agent in 2002, they got one of the most hard-working defensive ends in the NFL. "The most important thing with me is there aren't any surprises," he says. "You know what you're going to get. I pride myself on being accountable. My teammates depend on me, and I think you can take that back to Christian principles- being accountable to your brother."
She needed some time to be alone, the sports psychologist told her. And Siew-Ai Lim couldn't help but smile. "I remember thinking, That sounds familiar. That sounds like having a 'quiet time.' " Funny, the things God uses to get our attention. Quiet time. Such a basic thing that the golfer at the University of South Carolina wondered how she could forget.
And she was miserable.
"When you start to get full of yourself, you start to put God on the back burner, and that's what happened my senior year," Lim says.
Eight years later, the 30-year-old Lim is coming off her best season on the LPGA (Ladies Professional Golf Association) Tour. But make no mistake. The lesson of her senior year of college has not been forgotten: Golf is not the center of Lim's life. "Golf is not my life. That's for sure," she says. "And I think knowing there is a whole lot more to my life than golf is a very stabilizing thing."
Lim knows better than to assume she knows where her life is going to take her. That, Lim learned, is left up to God. She just makes sure she doesn't miss the daily appointment with Him.
So Taguchi knew to differences in language, foods, and customs in the United States. When he left his homeland of Japan, crossing oceans to chase a dream of American baseball, however, religion was not on his mind. There is much less religious influence in Japan than the US, so when Taguchi and his wife Emiko arrived in the country, seeing people going to church was a big change. Still, this did not make either of them less receptive to the person or message of Jesus.
Taguchi's story of coming to America becomes his story of coming to Christ. Of this experience he says, "I felt it in my heart. I know it...is real." God put the desire in his heart to play in the American major leagues; as a result, Taguchi met a Savior. He also excelled in baseball, inspired by the success of Hideo Nomo and Ichiro Suzuki, players native to Japan who found fame in America.
Now he can be found with a smile on his face, whether enjoying camaraderie with teammates, posing for pictures, or signing autographs. "Christian thinking really helps me," he says. "I like being able to [pray] to Jesus." A reason to smile even wider.
Life is different now for Stevie Waltrip. Now that her husband, three-time NASCAR Winston Cup champion Darrell, is out of a full-time ride in a stock car, her family no longer has to travel four out of seven days for 36 weeks every year. But one thing hasn't changed for Stevie: Her mission of telling as many people about the love and saving grace of Jesus Christ as possible.
It wasn't until the early 1980s that Stevie began to pursue a deeper relationship with God. She began attending Bible Study Fellowship classes, and she had the opportunity to study God's Word in depth. Out of that desire to study God's Word and to provide a sense of unity and community was born an organization called Motor Racing Outreach (MRO). Darrell and Stevie, who were founding partners in the organization, serve as chairpersons of the MRO Board of Directors. MRO is committed to introducing racing communities to a personal faith in Christ and growth in that faith.
Despite her insistence that life is different now, Stevie is certain her work for the Lord is not over. "I believe the Lord wants us to retire from what we do now, but not in our service to Him."
The phone call came at 3 a.m. "Coach, I have some bad news. They took Ronaldo to the hospital and she didn't make it," said her roommate, Florida State guard Alicia Gladden. How could this be, Florida State Women's Basketball Head Coach Sue Semrau wondered?
Now, as the Seminoles headed into what many believed would be a "make-or-break" season for Semrau and her staff, they would face it without the top six scorers from 2003-04. Hired in 1997 to rebuild Florida State's women's basketball team, she had enjoyed only two winning seasons so far. However, Semrau's faith did not waiver. Despite the record, the coach believed she was accomplishing what she set out to do. She felt that God had put her at FSU to build a national program despite the degree of difficulty involved.
While the skeptics wondered if FSU would even win a game in the tough ACC, the Seminoles would go on to finish 24-8, fourth on the ACC, and earn a trip to the NCAA tournament. "I think I realized that God's blessing is not in what we human beings always think is good. His blessing can also be a difficult thing for us," says Semrau.
The Super Bowl brings a nation of voyeurs to their television sets like nothing else. These are the stories of three of the players in this drama- a player, a chaplain, and a coach.
"It was a long two weeks," Jeremiah Trotter, linebacker for the Philadelphia Eagles, says of the weeks leading up to Super Bowl XXXIX. "There were no big spiritual challenges for me. When I wasn't practicing or game planning, I was with my family."
The types of pressures put on players in the Super Bowl were the reason Patriots chaplain Walt Day pursued the chance to become a team chaplain. "I loved sports and really had a burden for the people of New England and the Northeast, because there really isn't an emphasis on God up here at all."
Philadelphia Eagles running backs coach Ted Williams knows the attention that comes with the Super Bowl. "The players struggle with all the attention during Super Bowl week," he says. Williams gets a chance to be an influence on these very same players. "The players call me the storyteller...I don't preach to them, but I do remind them what the Bible says and what it calls us to."
Sylvester Croom grew up 5 minutes and one long cultural bridge from the University of Alabama. Just 5 years after going to his first integrated school, Croom crossed that bridge to become one of the first black men to play at Alabama. Now Croom has gone from crossing the bridge to being the bridge. He is the first black head football coach in the SEC.
Croom's destiny was surely this: A powerful position of cultural influence in a state undergoing slow-but-radical change, all in the name of Christ. What better position to continue advancing change from than head football coach at a major university.
He is well-trained. Forget the football resume, though it's plenty good (28 years coaching in the NFL, former All-America offensive lineman). The character resume is what tells you that Croom has what it takes. He openly proclaims Christ as Lord of his life: "Christ is my guard, my guide, and my comfort as I travel life's journey." Also, he has followed advice from his father well. "Do the right things, put your faith in God, and things will change," his father said. He has been doing things right and putting his faith in God. And things are changing.