The face of today’s FCA barely resembles that of just three or four decades ago. Like many long-standing organizations, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes has had to grow and expand along with the changing world. This expansion began in 1963. Highland Park Middle School had been pushing for three years to receive an official sanction for its FCA Huddle, but to no avail. Organization officials maintained that faith could not be taken seriously at such an early age. But Huddle Coaches Al Dudley and Kellis White thought differently. They knew that their students were mature enough to have an authentic relationship with Christ, but it took some convincing before FCA would agree. Through a series of timely contacts and events, White was able to spend a weekend with then-FCA President James Jeffrey, where White did his best to sell the idea of a junior high Huddle. “I spent the weekend with him and just shared our situation and our vision,” White said. “It wasn’t long after that that we received our sanction. And I’m so appreciative of him, because he went to bat for us. He caught sight of our vision.” Eleven years after adopting Highland Park as the first junior high Huddle, FCA once again expanded its roster of participants. With the 1973 introduction of Title IX – legislation requiring all Federally funded schools to provide equal opportunity for women in sports – the FCA Board of Trustees recognized a need to reach out to a growing population of female athletes. Just two years later, FCA was ready to begin a new ministry. The first official action was to hold two national women’s Camps at the National Conference Center in Indiana. In 1975, the first all-girls’ Huddles (briefly referred to as “Cuddles”) became official. And just one year later in 1976, FCA hired Cindy Smith as its first national women’s director. “In my opinion, the women’s ministry is not there for equal rights or women’s lib. It’s there out of our desire for young ladies to be presented with the Gospel and to grow in Christ,” said former FCA staff member Debbie Wall-Larson in Wayne Atcheson’s book Impact for Christ. “I know God has great things in store for FCA’s ministry to women. When He is in control, we will be blessed beyond our highest expectations.” Today, more than 50 percent of Huddle leaders are females. Junior high Huddles account for more than 10 percent of all Huddles nationwide. Barbara Shealy, wife of FCA President/CEO Dal Shealy, also has a ministry to coaches’ wives. Behind the Bench, which started as a newsletter to 300 wives, now has a circulation of about 12,000.
This article originally appeared in FCA’s 50th Anniversary commemorative book, Sharing the Victory, published in 2004.