It’s a memorable year for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, as the international sports ministry will mark 62 years of impacting coaches and athletes for Christ on Nov. 10. FCA is also looking back on the life of its founder, Don McClanen, who passed away earlier this year.
At the same time, FCA is preparing for a leadership transition, as current President and CEO Les Steckel is retiring, and Shane Williamson, current Executive Director of Field Ministry, will take the helm as the eighth President and CEO of FCA on Jan. 1, 2017.
“This year marked the going home of our founder, Don McClanen, and on November 10, we celebrate 62 years of his dream,” Steckel said. “We remember his words that inspired this ministry: ‘For some time, I have had the idea of forming an organization of athletes and coaches in this hero-worshiping nation of ours. If athletes can endorse shaving cream, razor blades and cigarettes, surely they can endorse the Lord, too.’ Now, 62 years later, Don’s idea has become reality—in a huge way—perhaps bigger than even what his dreams held for FCA. Now, each year that we mark in this amazing ministry, we will look back on Don McClanen’s life and his vision, knowing that his unrelenting zeal for an organization that would reach millions in sports played a significant role in everything FCA is today.”
McClanen passed away on Feb. 16, 2016, at the age of 91. His dedicated vision for a sports ministry that would touch the lives of coaches and athletes around the world propelled FCA to what it is today. More than 62 years ago, it began with a spark of passion, deeply rooted in McClanen’s heart.
For seven years before the birth of FCA, McClanen prayed about what the organization would look like and whom it would serve. Eventually, he joined forces with the other FCA “Founding Fathers”—Dr. Louis H. Evans, Dr. Roe Johnston and Branch Rickey, among others—who made FCA come to life.
Evans had encouraged McClanen to write to Christian athletes who were strong in their faith—greats like football stars Doak Walker and Otto Graham; baseball players Carl Erskine, Robin Roberts and Alvin Dark; Olympians Bob Mathias and Bob Richards; coaching and front office legends Amos Alonzo Stagg, Bud Wilkinson and Clarence “Biggie” Munn; and even broadcasters Tom Harmon and Red Barber. In all, 19 letters were mailed, each carefully laying out McClanen’s God-given desire for what would become FCA.