This past weekend, Uncommon Sports Group (USG) joined the 2023 Annual AD’s 4 Christ Event in Nashville, TN, on the campus of Belmont University. The mission of AD’s 4 Christ is to connect, encourage, and equip current and aspiring athletics directors who love Jesus and are committed to making an impact for Him through college athletics. Each summer, the ministry comes together for an in-person gathering in Nashville to grow spiritually from some incredible speakers and develop new and existing relationships with other Christians working in the college athletics administration industry.
Along with three of its staff members joining the event, USG was able to fund four of its members pursuing careers in college athletics administration to be able to attend the gathering. The members in attendance included Preston Manthei, presently a Revenue Generation and Development Associate at Purdue University; Paolo Fridman, presently the Assistant to Athletics Administration at the University of Virginia; James Sherman, presently the Assistant AD/Director of Football Operations at Texas State University; and Eli Rowland, presently an Athletic Communications Graduate Assistant at Howard Payne University.
The gathering officially began on the afternoon of July 14th with a time of worship through song and the first speaker of the event, Jimmy Dykes, who presently is a sportscaster for ESPN and the SEC Network. Jimmy shared the importance of getting back to the basics of the Christian walk. It can be tempting to forget the value of the fundamentals in our walks with Christ, including consistent devotional time, focused prayer times, and leading a life that is filled with grace for those around us. After Jimmy gave the group a powerful message, the group was able to hear from the Athletic Director at Abilene Christian University, Zack Lassiter. Zack shared his career journey and some of the key lessons that he learned along the way. A highlight of Zack’s story was his transition from Oregon State University to Abilene Christian. He decided to make the transition because he felt that it was the best move for not just his career but, more importantly, his family. Friday was capped off with small groups to discuss the messages delivered by the speakers and a social event at the Hilton Green Hills hotel.
The second day of the gathering began early on the morning of July 15th with a time of breakfast and fellowship before diving into a time of worship through song once again. The first speaker of the day was the Athletic Director at the University of Memphis, Laird Veatch. Laird discussed the reality that there is a spiritual enemy at work in all things, specifically college athletics, and the importance of using disruption in the present difficulties in the industry to cause positive change as Jesus once did. The second speaker of the second day of the gathering was the Vice President of Athletics at California Baptist University, Dr. Micah Parker. Micah discussed the importance of trust in our relationship with Christ, and specifically, two kinds of trust: praise trust and adversity trust. Two highlights from Micah’s message were that we are the cups that God uses to overflow into the lives of others and that God is more concerned with your character than your comfort.
After Micah’s message, the group fellowshipped over lunch that was provided by Uncommon Sports Group. It is an honor for USG to be a part of sponsoring such a powerful movement that God is using for His glory. After lunch, the group was able to hear from the Athletic Director at Fort Valley State University, Dr. Renae Myles Payne. Renae shared on being the salt and the light (Matthew 5:13-16) in the college athletics space, including the importance of our conduct towards unbelievers in our workplace (Colossians 4:5-6). The final session of the second day was a couples panel discussion featuring the Associate Athletic Director of Strategic Marketing at the University of Alabama, Dan Heck, and his wife Courtney, and the Associate AD for Operations and Facilities at Lipscomb University, Bryan Engle and his wife, Keri. The panel was moderated by former Executive Associate Athletics Director of External Affairs at the University of Florida Jay Jacobs, who led the group in a conversation about balancing the responsibilities of marriage and family alongside the challenges and pressures that come with a career in college athletics administration.
Each year, the ministry at AD’s 4 Christ continues to inspire and encourage Christians working in college athletics to be the hands and feet of Jesus within their department. For Uncommon Sports Group, it is encouraging to see present leaders of the sport industry not only growing in their personal walks with Jesus but also giving their time to pour into the next generation of college athletics administrators. USG looks forward to continuing its partnership with the incredible ministry going on through AD’s 4 Christ.
If you would like to learn more about AD’s 4 Christ, click here to visit their website and get connected!
If you're interested in learning more about Uncommon Sports Group and how we can come alongside you as a Christian in the sport industry, click here to get in contact with us, or click here to apply to join the USG Academy!