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Davis, California

Thursday, February 29, 2024

Athletes in Action combines sports, faith in campus Christian group


Northern California Christian group provides small group meetings, Bible studies, supportive atmosphere

For students and student-athletes alike, college can be a juggling act of activities and responsibilities; for religious students, faith may take a backseat to other priorities. Athletes in Action offers athletes and students the opportunity to meet new people, have a Christian fellowship on campus and learn to balance faith and college life.

Athletes in Action is a part of Campus Crusade for Christ, a Christian fellowship group found on most college campuses across the nation. The UC Davis chapter comprises Northern California athletes from a variety of schools.

AIA utilizes sports as a foundation for connecting a diverse range of people across campus with the ultimate goal of answering any faith-driven questions and directing students and community members towards becoming followers of Christ. AIA also makes time during the week to hold separate men’s and women’s Bible studies as well as time to pray as a group for its members and the UC Davis community. The group’s website describes its mission statement as “We want every athlete to know someone who truly follows Jesus and to work together toward the common goal of furthering God’s kingdom.”

Rachel Brennan, a third-year defensive midfielder for women’s lacrosse, shared how AIA brought her back to her faith while introducing her to new people and opportunities.

“Starting in middle school and high school, I started becoming less involved in my faith just because everything was starting to get so busy, and AIA helped me see that I could be involved in academics, sports as well as religion,” Brennan said. “AIA has opened my eyes a little bit from the ‘stereotypical athletes’ to see that there are so many different kind of people, aside from faith, that have different interests, passions and goals but all love sports. I think it’s awesome how accepting everyone is and how supportive people even if you’re not on the same team, don’t know each other or if you are new to AIA.”

Alisha Miller, a first-year diver for swim and dive, opened up about how AIA helped her get through a rough patch in her athletic career.

“To be honest, I had a rough first season here at Davis mentally, and after the diving season ended in February, I found myself looking for answers to why,” Miller said. “So I tried to renew my faith through AIA. Since joining, it has definitely had a positive impact on my mental state and given me a more optimistic approach when it comes to my sport. I don’t get as frustrated as I used to when a dive goes wrong, and it feels easier to ask God to help me with whatever trials and tribulations come with each practice. Hopefully with this new mindset comes better results in the future.”

Brennan agreed with these sentiments as she explained how AIA assisted her in working through her own trials in the form of athletic injuries.

“AIA [has] helped me get back to my faith, which has helped me in all aspects in my life, [and] I have seen effects in my athletic career,” Brennan said. “I have had three significant injuries and surgeries so it hasn’t necessarily affected my playing, but it has helped me with the fact that I was injured and couldn’t play and helped me keep faith that everything would be okay. It also kind of gave me an outlet.”

Miller shared her favorite aspects about being a part of AIA in addition to her future plans to stay involved in the group.

“People always told me before college that maintaining your faith away from home and at universities is really difficult, but by having this community of people telling you that I’m not alone in what I believe and that others have similar issues in sports, life, and faith is really comforting,” Miller said. They have been so welcoming to me so far in a way that is pure and beautiful, and I am so glad that I made the decision to join. I really hope to stay with AIA throughout my time here at Davis. I want to continue to grow, love and learn more about my faith with the wonderful athletes who make up this small community.”

Athletes in Action also provides jobs and internships for those interested in combining faith and sports in their career paths. Husband and wife Andrew Ahr (‘15) and Rachel Smith Ahr (‘16) met through AIA in their time as student athletes at UC Davis and both work for AIA as full-time staff members in Davis. Andrew explained some of the responsibilities that staff members hold.

“We meet regularly with a number of students, either one-on-one or in small groups, and we really try to reach out to the athletic department as a whole and different teams to be a resource for them [and] to serve them,” Ahr said. “We’ll meet with teams sometimes and just share about AIA, and then we have a large group meeting once a month where all of the AIA community comes together. We also help kind of coach students or we lead small groups –– we call them ‘total athlete groups’ –– that are catered to each team or multiple teams [where] people get in small groups and can meet regularly. That’s a lot of what our focus is.”

Smith Ahr shared how AIA has affected her life and her view of athletics in general.

“I think coming in as an athlete, I had been surrounded by athletics, it’s been my life, and now I see that even more so that athletes have this incredible influence and incredible platform, and how they use it is super impactful,” Smith Ahr said. “We see the brokenness in sport culture, and I love that we get to be a part of an organization and a group that tries to find a solution for that and uses their influence and platform in good ways and, ultimately, for the glory of God.”

Ahr rounded out his and his wife’s thoughts by stating some of his favorite elements about being involved in AIA inside and outside of college.

“I think that was one of my favorite experiences, just hanging out with great people and doing awesome things,” Ahr said. “AIA is international, so what’s cool is that there are people like us that are on college campuses all around the country and all around the world, and so it’s something that feels like a tight-knit community here that’s also part of a larger community across the world.”

On top of being invested in UC Davis’ Intercollegiate Athletics programs, AIA also forms and competes with its own intramural sports teams, and it organizes different bonfires and retreats for its members. AIA meets in a large group on the first Wednesday of each month at 8 pm in Hunt 100 and is open to including members outside of the athletic community. Students of all religious backgrounds and faiths are welcomed by the group.



Written by: Kennedy Walker — sports@theaggie.org


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