I’ve wanted to try to put down this testimony of what God did on the campus of Randolph College and how He used me becoming the head coach of the men’s soccer program to gain a foothold back in that campus community.
I’ve written about my journey to that position here. But what God was going to do on the campus was beyond anything I could imagine.
Some context of the environment of Randolph College when I was appointed in March 2018. My appointment was not a popular one – a publicly Christian coach who had graduated from the largest Christian university in the world did not fit well with the liberal campus community at Randolph. I was even threatened by an alumni that if he found out I ever prayed with the team that he would have me fired. Just a small example of the hostility I experienced as I set about coaching this team.
Now, I didn’t set out to recruit Christian soccer players. But I am a Christian coach. Who I am and what I do are indivisible. If players come to me for advice, the answer will come through my Christian world view. But my goal was to build a championship level program which valued character above all else – again, character in my world view looks a lot like Christ. So I began to build the values of the program that aligned with the values I had as a person, and from those values began my recruiting of young men for the team.
There were glimpses God revealed to me that my players were aware of my faith and that they valued it. One incident I remember well was when a freshman on the team learned of his mother’s cancer diagnosis. He came to my office and said, “I just needed someone to pray with, and I knew you would”.
But it wasn’t until half way through my 4th and final season that He revealed the work He was beginning.
My process on game day was that I would come down to the locker room at a set time before the game and present our game plan again to the players. After that I would leave them for 20 minutes so that they could finish getting into their uniforms before I came back in to give the big motivational speech and head to the pitch.
On this occasion I left them after the game plan talk and headed back upstairs to my office only to realize I’d left my laptop in the locker room. So I shot back downstairs to grab it. As I entered the corridor just outside the locker room I was floored to see literally half of the team reading Scripture & praying together. I had absolutely no idea this was going on, it was moving. I took this photo of the moment because I really couldn’t quite believe what I was seeing.
I left the program about 8 months later. It was one of the hardest decisions of my life, but that’s another story. Fast forward to September 2022, just over a year after I left, and I received this text from one of the players now on the team – I recruited him as a 17-year old, he joined the team in January 2021, and here he was now a leader of the program:
“Hey coach! This is sort of random, but I wanted to share with you the impact that God has had at Randolph recently. While you may have come to Randolph for a specific intention that made sense to you (I know I sure did), God used you in a way no one can really even comprehend; but He has left fruit to show you why! First off, there are 32 guys on the team this year, and 30 of the them (all but two!) sat in, listened, read, or spoke at our pregame devotional to start the season. Even [NAME REDACTED], who as you probably remember is a pretty devout Muslim, sat in and listened to the Word of God being spoken before we played against Mary Baldwin. We even had a new transfer in the team ask if we could make the pregame fellowship a part of the culture. Something that Randolph does EVERY year! On top of that, there are 15 of the guys reading through the new testament and meeting weekly. It goes a little deeper than the pregame stuff, and the excitement surrounding it is one I have NEVER seen before. Separate from the team, the President herself came to me and [NAME REDACTED] and basically told us that she wants to do everything she can to make our school-wide bible study open and available to anyone that wants to come. Whether it's through becoming a club or her own personal endorsement (I am pretty sure she's not even a follower of Jesus). The chief diversity officer called us in and told us that she sees a revival happening and she wants to help in any way to sustain it! The spiritual resurgence at Randolph is so unbelievable that I can't keep up, and I wanted to reach out to you and say thank you for the work you were and are willing to do for The Kingdom. I hope the results here can be an encouragement for you at Florida, and that what you're doing there is so much bigger than just soccer. Sorry for the lengthy message, just wanted to make sure you were aware of what was going on.”
I share this story not to take any credit for it. I wasn’t this great evangelical leader banging down the door of the diversity office demanding Bible studies. But I was unapologetically me, I led my program from the most genuine part of me and that is that I am a Christian man, husband, father, and coach. It is indivisible. And as Christians if we can lead with respect for our environment but fearlessly in terms of how we live out of daily faith then God can use that immeasurably.
I didn’t set out to create a revival at Randolph. Based on my welcome, I actually didn’t believe that was even possible. But God used me to crack the door open on that campus and to bring young men passionate about Him to lead a revival. I’ll leave you with a 10 minute video of three of the team members sharing their testimony at the RECON ’24 event. In 2018 I don’t think it would be possible for Randolph students to think and speak like this, but with God nothing is impossible.
“Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to the whole house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven”. Matthew 5:14-16