Don McClanen was a young, college basketball coach when he persisted and persisted to have a meeting with Branch Rickey. Rickey, who is most known today as the Brooklyn Dodgers executive, who broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball, by signing Jackie Robinson, finally met with McClanen for an historic five hour meeting. It was out of this meeting that the vision for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) was born in 1954.
I was not much of an athlete in college, but when the track and field coach of the local high school and a student called me to find out if I would play guitar at their local FCA meetings, I accepted. FCA meets in groups called “huddles,” and I was impressed by the fact that on many campuses, FCA was often the only interdenominational Christian fellowship group encouraging young people to grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ through prayer, Bible study and worship.
It is quite common now for professional athletes to make bold proclamations of their faith in public, but this would be hard to imagine if it had not been for Don McClanen’s commitment to reach young people for Jesus. McClanen’s personal vision for FCA was in response to reading that at least 17 million American youth in the early 1950s had no church experience or exposure to the Gospel.