Faith, Family, and FCA

by Micah McDaniel

Life as a student-athlete involves a unique set of challenges, and multiple studies have shown that more than half of all athletes experience heavy stress related to their sport in the form of pressure to win, extreme anxiety, and fear of failure. These add to the stressors common to all students: time management, relationships, finances, and academic performance. Today, because the athlete part of the student-athlete equation often carries a disproportionate amount of weight, it can be easy for student-athletes to lose sight of who they are and why they do what they do, resulting in burnout.

Siblings Cayla ’19 and CJ ’17 Broussard, however, have kept their focus and learned to navigate the pitfalls inherent in their choice to compete in college. Cayla, an all-conference softball player, and CJ, an All-American football player, have earned individual honors and been part of team championships. They credit their ability to stay on top of their game to their relationship with each other, their support system, their deep-rooted faith, and their lifelong connection with Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA).

Their participation with the national organization that challenges coaches and athletes to impact the world for Christ goes back to their childhood, when their parents, Joe and Faythe, were full-time FCA staff members. The family attended summer camps each year, and CJ and Cayla look back on those days as playing a key role in their faith development. The two carry on the tradition, serving as leaders in Azusa Pacific’s FCA program. The group meets weekly to talk about their struggles, how to deal with temptations, how to balance the demands on their time, and how to impact their fellow athletes and the world at large. “While APU has had a longstanding relationship with FCA that stretches back nearly 40 years, the past 3 years have seen a renewed commitment to that relationship,” said Gary Pine ’84, MBA ’03, director of athletics. “CJ’s and Cayla’s leadership has been vital to FCA’s new growth and expanded impact at the university.”

Although leaders, CJ and Cayla also reap the benefits of belonging to the supportive community. “FCA is my safety net, and this group has become my second family,” said Cayla. “Our meetings give me a chance to step away from the struggles of being a student-athlete and spend time in an environment with people who understand what I go through, and that is what helps me get through the challenges—knowing there are others walking in my shoes. We grow together and support each other, and there’s something special about knowing I’m not alone.”

Cayla takes that feeling with her onto the playing field. “I learned at FCA camp last summer to play with God and envision Him on the field with me,” she said. “When the pressure ramps up, I remember He’s with me and thank Him for the opportunity to play. That’s when the pressure fades away and the game becomes more fun. I remember making an error that cost my team a couple of runs and put us behind. Some might crumble, but because of the foundation I have, I took a deep breath and remembered there’s more to life than this one mistake.”

That is the same footing that keeps CJ upright in difficult moments. Whether he gets flagged for a penalty or misses a coverage or tackle, he knows the reason he is on the field in the first place. “Coach Victor Santa Cruz always talks about building champions while pursuing championships. I grew up in that environment and around those types of Christian athletes. I got to see what that looked like firsthand, and I learned that they work just as hard as everyone else, but they’re different, because they work for the Lord and try to glorify Him with everything they do. That’s something I strive to do now, and it’s why I can make a mistake on the field and get up and make the next play— because I know who I am in Christ.”

That perspective and foundation, hallmarks of all successful Christian athletes, give meaning and purpose to every bat swing, every tackle, every moment devoted to their sport. It turns an enjoyable game into a life-changing ministry. The Broussards, like so many other faithful student-athletes aspiring to God-honoring excellence, see beyond the temporal accolades this world offers, realizing that regardless of the name on the jersey, it is the name written on their hearts that makes a difference in this world.