Christian Athlete of the Week: Clint Dempsey

The USA team tied with Portugal 2-2 last night in a heartbreaking effort. A win would have put the U.S. in the World Cup knockout stage. History could have been made, but it was all for naught when Portugal scored on a header in the 94th minute. Clint Dempsey, the team’s captain and starting striker, scored what could have been the game-winner in the 81st minute. His performance in the World Cup right now is inspiring. However, the one thing that inspires Dempsey is Jesus Christ.

Dempsey was born and raised in Texas where he played for one of the best youth soccer clubs in the state, the Dallas Texans. He played for Furman University and ended up getting drafted by the New England Revolution in the 2004 MLS Draft. From there, Dempsey has been a superstar soccer player. He is the second American player to score a goal in two different World Cups and the first to score in three World Cups. The 31-year-old has now scored 39 international goals in 107 appearances for the U.S. National team. The attacking midfielder has always credited his success on the field to the One who gave him his incredible talents.

“I play to the best of my abilities and am thankful for the many opportunities and amazing success God has given me,” Dempsey said. “Through it all, I want to do right, not make mistakes, and live a life that is pleasing to Him.”

Dempsey grew up as a Roman Catholic and knew about Christ through his grandmother. He also said that there have been times where God has tested his faith, including the loss of his 16-year-old sister.

“My parents had started me in the sport to help me learn good people skills,” said Dempsey to Sports Spectrum, “Little did I know that the sport I loved and the skills I learned would later play a role in my relationship with God. I grew up in a Catholic family and would go to church with my grandmother every Sunday. Through her, I learned that faith was important. When I was 12 years old, my life took a turn that would change me forever. My sister, Jennifer, died from a brain aneurysm and I was faced with questions about why things happen and what role God played in it all. For a number of years, I struggled and put distance between God and me. But He was faithful and patient and provided gradual healing and strength.”

When Dempsey attended Furman, he joined a Bible study and it was there where he gave his life to Christ.

“God’s Word brought me peace and a desire for a relationship with Him,” said Dempsey. “I found that questioning Him and searching for answers through Scripture helped me grow and gave me direction. Now my faith in Christ is what gives me confidence for the future. I know that through both good times and bad, He is faithful and will watch over me.”

Dempsey’s life has been a great testimony to what God has done for him. He has been blessed with the abilities of a superstar soccer player and now he will lead his team against Germany this Thursday. He is going to need a lot of prayer!

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Spain Eliminated from the World Cup

After losing to Chile 2-0, Spain has been knocked out of contention for the World Cup. The defending champions were considered a dominant soccer powerhouse entering this tournament, but after getting blown out of the water by Netherlands 5-1 last Friday, it will be impossible for them to bounce back in their Group Stage. This is not the first time a defending champ has been knocked out of the group stage. Italy suffered in the last World Cup in 2010 and France did not make the knockout stage of the tournament in 2002. However, this is the first time in World Cup history where the defending champion is eliminated after just two games.

This travesty happened when Eduardo Vargas scored early in the 20th minute and then Charles Aranguiz closed out the first half with another goal in the 43rd minute for Chile. From there, Spain’s offense couldn’t recover and the team was devastated by the loss. Head coach Vicente del Bosque had led Spain to glory at the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012, but this year he couldn’t garner any success. Spain will have to wait four more years for their chance, but by that time, veteran players like Andres Iniesta and Xavi might retire. World Cup fans will be excited to see who will take the crown this year, now that the defending champs are no longer in contention.

Christian Athlete of the Week: Alfred Morris

The Washington Redskins recently wrapped up their OTAs and are now getting ready for the upcoming training camp. Running back Alfred Morris is one of those Redskins looking to make an impact this season. In his rookie year, Morris carried the ball 335 times for 1,613 yards and 13 touchdowns. Those yards were third-most by a rookie running back in NFL history! That year was also the best performance by a Redskins running back in the franchise history! Clinton Portis had 1,516 yards rushing back in 2005 for Washington. Morris has already established himself as an elite back with 1,275 yards and 7 touchdowns last season. With him and Robert Griffin III, the Redskins have one of the best rushing offenses in the NFL.

While Morris has done so many great things on the football field, he still stays humble and true to Jesus Christ. Here is a video below on why Morris is a believer:

Morris is so humble, that he still drives a 1991 Mazda. It shows that he knows where he came from and he’s not ashamed of it. As Christians, we should never be ashamed of who we came from, which is God. He has given us life and it is our duty to live it out how He wants us to.

Born in Pensacola, Florida, Morris grew up with almost nothing. His family was living in poverty and Morris had to endure a lot of hardships during his childhood.

“My family didn’t have much, but we had each other, and that was really all we needed,” Morris said. “My six brothers and I loved to be outside playing every sport imaginable, sometimes even inventing our own games. I can still remember playing football in the yard with my brothers and cousins, dreaming of one day playing in the NFL.” (Credit: crossmap.christianpost.com)

His bond with his family was all that Morris had. Fortunately, he was able to perform well enough in high school to get a full-ride scholarship to Florida Atlantic University. Morris was also a big supporter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes in high school and immediately joined a college group as soon as school started. In his sophomore year in 2009, Morris had 1,392 yards and 11 touchdowns. That year put him on the radar for NFL scouts and he finished his collegiate career with 3,529 yards and 31 total touchdowns.

Morris fell all the way to the 6th round where he was drafted by Coach Mike Shanahan and the Washington Redskins. From there, things took off for Morris and his career has jumped to a great start. Not only that, but his work off the field has garnered positive attention as well. He’s been known to handing out free toys to kids before Christmas and hand out free coats to kids in local hospitals. His heart is truly supported by a passion for God.

“Anytime I get an opportunity to give back, I give back,” Morris said in an interview during the Marine toy giveaway. “My heart for giving was shaped by others who gave to my family. I saw how selfless they were. It is not always about receiving, but giving, so every time they have some type of event to give, I am always there.” (Credit: Washington Post)

Morris is truly a great role model to look up to. He has a servant’s heart for Christ and is very humble about how he lives his life.

USA wins first World Cup Group Stage Match against Ghana

The United States started their World Cup journey with a bang, beating Ghana 2-1 in the Group G Stage match. Team Captain Clint Dempsey scored the first goal in under a minute to put USA up 1-0. It goes down as the fastest goal scored by an American in World Cup history! Then for the rest of the match, it was pretty much USA playing great defense until the 82nd minute when Andre Ayew of Ghana scored, breaking the hearts of almost every American fan. He was assisted by Asamoah Gyan on the play. However, the United States’ team would not go down lightly. Four minutes later, American substitute Graham Zusi found fellow substitute John Brooks on a corner kick that Brooks’ headed in the middle of the box. The 21-year-old defender scored his first World Cup goal and what a goal it was! The United States would hang on for the last several minutes, clinching their first victory.

USA did a horrible job of possessing the ball and had too many fouls, but they were able to overcome all of those mistakes to beat Ghana. The United States will play Portugal on June 22 at 6 p.m. while Ghana will have to take on Germany the day before at 3 p.m. Both matches will be tough to handle, but if the Americans can believe that they can win, then they will do just that.

 

Spurs Beat Heat in NBA Finals

The San Antonio Spurs won their 5th NBA Finals against the Miami Heat last night, winning 104-87 in Game Five. 22-year-old small forward Kawhi Leonard took home the Finals MVP Award. He is the youngest player to win the award since his teammate Tim Duncan did it back in 1999. Magic Johnson was the youngest, winning the Finals MVP his rookie year in 1980. Leonard proved to everyone that he is a force to be reckoned with for years to come. In the first two games of the series, he put up average numbers. But in Game Three, he flipped a switch and became a dominant player! In the series, Leonard averaged 17.8 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.6 steals a game and shot 61 percent from the field. His best game was Game Four where he scored 20 points, racked in 14 rebounds and had three steals and three blocks. Leonard is going to be a superstar in the NBA for a very long time if he keeps playing with his aggressive style.

Tim Duncan and Coach Gregg Popovich won their 5th championship together at 38 and 65 respectively. Duncan becomes the second player in NBA history to win three championships in three different decades. John Salley was the first when he won with the Detroit Pistons in 1989, the Chicago Bulls in 1996 and the Los Angeles Lakers in 2000. No one is absolutely sure if Duncan is going to retire, but if he does, he’ll look back on his career with no regrets. Riding off into the sunset is the way to go in professional sports (just ask John Elway and Ray Lewis)!

As for the San Antonio team, they broke NBA Finals records with their demolition of the Heat. They now hold the Finals record for highest field goal percentage, shooting 56 percent from the field and had the best average points per game differential with +14. This was truly a great win for the Spurs franchise. Congratulations to San Antonio and better luck next time Miami!

Kawhi Leonard Lifts San Antonio Spurs in Game Three

The San Antonio Spurs took Game Three over the Miami Heat last night, winning 111-92. That gives them the series lead at 2-1. The Spurs’ first half was one of the most phenomenal performances in NBA Finals history. The offense was so team-oriented that it left the Heat disoriented at halftime. The first quarter ended with the Spurs leading 41-25, an 86 field goal percentage performance, and then at halftime, the score was 71-50. The Spurs ended up shooting 76 percent on the field in the first half, an NBA Finals record that Coach Gregg Popovich said would never happen “ever again.” San Antonio did everything better than the Heat. They had a better field goal percentage (59.4), better free-throw percentage (81.2), had more rebounds (29) and less turnovers (12).

The only thing the Heat did right was through LeBron James. The two-time champ lead his team in points (22), rebounds (5) and assists (7). Miami also did well behind the three-point line, hitting 47.6 percent. James, Rashard Lewis and Ray Allen did their part in that category, but the Heat couldn’t dig themselves out of the hole that they had put themselves in.

The biggest star of the night was 22-year-old Kawhi Leonard. He shot a career-high 29 points, had four rebounds, two assists and two steals. The last time he scored that many points was his senior year in high school! He was also the only player on the court that made double-digit field goals and he made six out of seven free-throws. Leonard was considered the X-Factor coming into this game. If he played well, the Spurs would win. Well he’s playing well and the Spurs are winning! If San Antonio wants to continue winning, Leonard will have to play his heart out every night and stay consistently aggressive on the court. Coach Popovich even called Leonard “the future of the franchise.” He’s playing like it right now.

So where exactly did Leonard come from? Well he was born in Los Angeles and attended Martin Luther King High School in Riverside, California. In 2009, he was named Mr. Basketball California his senior year, making him the 48th overall best prospect coming out of high school. He ended up going to San Diego State where he averaged 12.7 points and 9.9 rebounds his freshman year while also shooting 45.5 percent from the field. He won the Mountain West Conference Freshman of the Year Award and was the conference tournament’s MVP.

Leonard came out of college his sophomore year after averaging 15.7 points and 10.4 rebounds a game. He was originally drafted by the Indiana Pacers with the 15th overall pick, but was almost immediately traded to the Spurs. The Pacers would end up getting George Hill through that trade. Since then, Leonard has been a solid player for the Spurs, but now he’s starting to turn into a great one. Keep an eye out on him as the NBA Finals Series continues this tomorrow night.

Halfway Point of 2014 MLS Season

We are almost halfway through the MLS regular season and teams are starting to show their worth in the league. On top of the Eastern Conference is the New England Revolution and then Sporting Kansas City right on their tails. In the West, there is the Seattle Sounders dominating the competition and the entire league with 10 wins, 3 losses and 2 ties. They are the only team in the league with double-digit wins. They are also the only team in the league averaging more than 2 goals a game.

Leading the Sounders are Obafemi Martins and U.S.A. superstar Clint Dempsey. Martins has played and started in all 15 games and has 8 goals with 6 assists. Dempsey has only started 8 games, but yet he has 8 goals also as well as 3 assists credited to his name. This one-two punch of Martins and Dempsey is the reason why Seattle is dominating the league in scoring goals. For defense, goalkeeper Stefan Frel is 7th in the league in saves, 7th in shutouts and 12th in goals allowed. They might not be incredible stats, but Seattle’s offense is the main reason why they have been winning so many games.

As far as the best striker in the game, Bradley Wright-Phillips of New York is tied with Dom Dwyer of Kansas City for the most goals with 11. Diego Valeri of Portland leads the league in assists with 8. The midfielder from Argentina also has two goals to his name.

The Eastern Conference still looks to be the weaker region in the league. Six teams have losing records while the West only has three teams that are below .500. Toronto F.C. has the best defense in the league, allowing only 13 goals scored against them. The problem is that their offense has not very productive as they are second to last in goals scored. That has given them the result of a 6-4-1 record.

Goalkeeper Luis Robles of the New York Red Bulls leads the league in saves with 53 and Jon Busch of San Jose looks to be a dominant keeper as well with 49 saves and only 14 goals scored against him. He also has four shutouts to his name. The only problem for Busch is his Earthquakes’ offense. They have only scored 15 goals this entire season which has put them at second-to-last in the Western Conference standings.

The player to watch out for is Obafemi Martins. When Dempsey is not on the field, Martins becomes the ultimate play-maker for Seattle. If he keeps playing like he is now, the Sounders could go as far as the championship game. Keep your eyes peeled on teams like D.C. United, New York and Portland who are right on the cusp of making the playoffs. The rest of this season will definitely be fun to watch for these reasons listed above.

Christian Athlete of the Week: Troy Polamalu

The return of football season is coming along with OTAs starting back up this week. That’s why we’re going to focus on a football player for Christian Athlete of the Week. This athlete is Troy Polamalu, the future Hall-of-Fame safety for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Polamalu is of American Samoan descent, in case you couldn’t notice by his last name and his long hair. Polamalu is actually his mother’s maiden name and he was raised by his mother’s brother in southern Oregon. Polamalu played at USC and was drafted 16th overall by the Steelers in the 2003 NFL Draft. He hardly saw the field his rookie year, but in 2004, he started every game and intercepted five passes, returning one of them for a touchdown.

The year 2005 was when Polamalu really came on the scene. He tied an NFL record with three sacks in a single game by a safety and finished with 91 total tackles. He was also part of the Super Bowl-winning team that beat Seattle 21-10 that year. 2008 was probably Polamalu’s most memorable year. He finished the regular season with 17 passes defended and seven interceptions. Not only that, but he helped guide the Steelers to another Super Bowl title when they beat the Arizona Cardinals that year. In 2010, Polamalu won Defensive Player of the Year Award for defending 11 passes, intercepting seven of them, returning one of them for a touchdown and recording a sack as well. That year didn’t work out for him and his team in postseason when they lost to Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers in the Super Bowl. As of right now, Polamalu has 32 career interceptions and 12 sacks. He has been the backbone of Pittsburgh’s defense for many years and still has some good years left in him at the age of 33.

In 2007, Polamalu and his wife dedicated their lives to Christ by converting to Orthodox Christianity. That same year, he took a pilgrimage to Orthodox Christian sites in Greece and Turkey. He seldom gives interviews, but when he does, he often speaks of the role his spirituality plays in his life. Polamalu has said that he tries to separate himself from his profession as much as possible, including not watching football games at home. He prays after each play and on the sidelines. Here is a video that better explains his spiritual walk with Christ:

A soft spoken man who has dealt with the issue of pride, Polamalu has tried his best to live his life for Christ on and off the football field. Some people say that Orthodox Christianity is not necessarily the same as the Christian faith theologically and Biblically, but Polamalu disagrees.

“Orthodoxy is like an abyss of beauty that’s just endless,” Polamalu said. “I have read the Bible many times. But after fasting, and being baptized Orthodox, it’s like reading a whole new Bible. You see the depth behind the words so much more clearly.” (Credit: Patheos.com)

As long as your lifestyle is pleasing to God, it does not matter what denomination you follow. Speaking of lifestyle, Polamalu does lead an interesting one. During his free time, he surfs, grows flowers, makes furniture and plays the piano. Talk about the most interesting man in the world! All jokes aside, Polamalu lives his life with a passion for Jesus Christ, which is something all young athletes can look up to.

 

The Washington Redskins Release Reed Doughty

Veteran safety Reed Doughty was released by the Washington Redskins on Wednesday. The safety position in Washington is the most crowded and competitive spot on the roster. Doughty could not make the cut with players like Brandon Meriweather, Ryan Clark, Tanard Jackson and Phillip Thomas competing for the starting spot.

Doughty was drafted by the Redskins in the sixth round of the 2006 NFL Draft out of the University of Northern Colorado. He started out playing on special teams. Doughty made his first start against the Dallas Cowboys on Week 11 of the 2007 season and ended up starting the rest of the season after the passing of Sean Taylor. In 2009, he made his first career interception against the Cowboys in Week 16. The following season, he recorded a career-high 93 tackles as well as one sack and a forced fumble. He finished his eight-year career with the Redskins with 506 tackles, 3.5 sacks, three interceptions and three forced fumbles.

Doughty has faced a lot of trials and tribulations throughout his NFL career. He has a severe hearing impairment that makes him almost deaf and his first son, Micah, was born prematurely and suffered kidney failure as a baby. Doughty also had the duty of replacing the late and great Sean Taylor during the 2007 season.

Throughout his eight-year career with Washington, Doughty has always played to the best of his abilities on every play. Former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams called him an “overachiever” and “one of the smartest football players he has ever seen.” However, injuries had plagued Doughty for many years and has led him to his release by the team. He looks to continue his public work with supporting organ donation through his son’s story.

As a Christian, Doughty has always been a big help to the Northern Virginia community through his outreach with his wife Katie. This was his farewell address to the Washington Redskins via Instagram:

“Been a good 8-year run with the @redskins. Want to thank the Redskins organization, especially HOF coach Joe Gibbs. He valued character, hardwork and special teams. He believed in me enough to take a chance on me and draft me.”

“Thanks to my family, friends, coaches, teammates, fans, trainers, equipment managers, and all the people inside the redskins building who I have interacted with for 8 years. Thanks to the people at @VSI_spinemd and @thevtfc for getting me healthy after I thought my career was over prematurely. Most of all I am thankful for the relationships I have built over the last 8 years.”

“Thanks to my church @cfcwired and our small group bible study. This group has encouraged me and my family, prayed for us, and have become lifelong friends. God never ceases to amaze me. I pray that my life will be a living testimony of his faithfulness, mercy, grace and love. Whether I continue on my NFL journey or transition into a new career, I am thankful. I have my best friend, my wife Katie Deters Doughty, to share life with and raise our boys together. God Bless!” (Credit: The Washington Post)

 

Christian Athlete of the Week: Chris Kaman

The Los Angeles Lakers’ season is over, but one player still deserves some recognition. Chris Kaman plays center for the team and stands at 7 feet tall and weighs 265 pounds. His career started with the Los Angeles Clippers when he was selected sixth overall in the 2003 NBA Draft out of Central Michigan University. Kaman’s great-grandparents are German, but he was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He is a dual citizen with both the United States and Germany, allowing him to play on the German national team.

During his rookie year with the Clippers, Kaman played in all 82 games, becoming only the second rookie player in franchise history to accomplish that feat. He made the All-Star Rookie Team and was eventually named an NBA All-Star in 2010, averaging a career-high 18.5 points and 9.3 rebounds per game. In 2011, Kaman was part of the monster trade with the New Orleans Hornets to acquire Chris Paul. He had a good start with the Hornets, but his play dwindled down towards the end of the season. In 2012 he signed with the Dallas Mavericks, joining German teammate Dirk Nowitzki. Unfortunately, the Mavericks missed the playoffs that year for the first time since the 1999-2000 season. Kaman signed with the Lakers in 2013 and the 32-year-old veteran remains with the team so far.

Although it may not be that public, Kaman is also a Christian. He grew up in a Christian home, being raised by Christian parents and went to a Christian high school. Kids at a young age feel pressured to become a Christian because that’s what their parents believe or their parents tell them to, but Kaman was able to accept Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior on his own.

“Well, it started off just going to Bible classes and all that, but there was definitely a time when I realized I really wanted to do this,” Kaman said. “I don’t remember the exact moment, but I remember a period when I was probably 14 or 15, and I had to begin making the right decisions. There is a lot of peer pressure at that time in seventh and eighth grade. And I had to begin making the right decisions and just trying to live the right way. There was peer pressure to do some things that I probably shouldn’t do, but I just went the right way and chose not to.” (Credit: FCA.org)

Kaman has also been able to maintain that faith as a professional basketball player. His work with kids who have ADHD and his devotion to volunteer at basketball camps show that following Christ is something that he has personally chosen to do.

“I’ve matured so much in the last six years, so it’s a powerful thing to be in the NBA and be able to deliver a message to kids,” Kaman said.
“I do a lot of things with kids and basketball camps. And I always tell people that the hardest thing is trying to be a proper witness to people by my actions on the court, because the game is intense and fast-paced, and you’re just trying to play and be competitive. At the same time, you don’t want to say the wrong things or do the wrong things because there are people watching you.”

Kaman also has been a big contributor to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. His message to kids and everyone else around him is that staying a Christian for a long time is not easy. There are times when you get spiritually tired from serving God, but Kaman reminds us to lift our spirits and be happy that we serve an Almighty God.

“I think there are times when you don’t want to do things like your devotions, or you’re tired, or whatever,” Kaman said.  “But you push yourself the same way you do with basketball on and off the court. In the off-season when you’re working hard, you’re pushing yourself to become better, and I think with Christianity, you never want to be satisfied with where you’re at. You always want to have more. And I think that the extra time spent between you and God and reading your Bible and doing your devotions, that’s going to help your relationship with Christ even more.”