Thirty years ago, a college junior invited a freshman to play some basketball outside the dorms. That freshman was on his way from the music rehearsal hall where he just spent a couple hours practicing his music. Loaded down with a saxophone and a bunch of text books, he saw a couple of guys playing some basketball and he recognized the guys from the marching band that they were both a part of. The junior invited the freshman to play with them. The freshman knew the junior was into basketball so with his competitive self, he accepted the invite and balled up. While playing the junior trombone player started asking him questions about life and eventually about faith. That line of questioning led to an invite for dinner and a friendship that changed the life of the freshman and led him to deepening his relationship with God. The two guys are still connected today and the freshman was so impacted that he's spent the last 30 years paying it forward! As you guessed by now, I am that freshman and what Casey did for me over the course of our relationship was model for me how to use sports to build relationships and help others connect faith with life.
If you had to describe "The SportMentor" in one phrase it would simply be "Connecting Faith With Life" All of us have a language that we speak and I am not just talking about our mother tongue, but we all have a culture or lifestyle that we naturally gravitate to. For me, sports is one of the fluent and loudest languages that I speak. Casey picked up on that pretty early on as I would always show up to band practice in basketball shorts and a t-shirt looking like I was ready to ball someone up (don't think much has changed over the years lol)
Basketball was the initiator of our conversation and became a foundation for our relationship, but Casey was pretty intentional in what he did with me. He became a "spiritual mentor" for me as well as a friend. He took it upon himself to help me discover what I have been searching for which was a sense of direction in life. I was a 17 year old from suburban Chicago who loved basketball, music and had a desire to help others live a better life. Through our relationship, he helped me to see the bigger picture of life and he used sports as the way to make the initial connection. I could relate to basketball and sports. As our relationship grew, the other interests we shared in common began to serve as the driver for our talks about faith and life. I am so grateful he chose to deliberately use basketball to start a friendship that changed my life forever.
For a classic introvert like me, I discovered that basketball and sports gave me a voice that I could be comfortable using to meet people and build relationships. I had a desire to help others but I never knew how to initiate the conversation. What I did know about myself then was that any decent friends that I had made in my early school years came as a result of my love for basketball. Some of the closest friends I had came as a result of basketball. So it was natural that I gravitated towards friendships with other ballers. It served me well as Casey was just the first of a series of guys over the years who spoke into my life using the very game I loved and it stood to reason that I would in turn "pay it forward" by doing the same with others.
In 1994, that simple concept became the platform for the calling from God that I answered on that altar in Alexandria VA. As only God would do, it is that obsession for basketball that led to my first job in full time vocational ministry at the University of Alabama as I was connected to a campus pastor who was a basketball player and a disciple maker/mentor. I remember one of my first days on campus and he told me to grab my hoop gear and meet him at the campus rec center. There he introduced me to the guys he normally played with and we got after it with them. Afterwards he sat me down and said 'welcome to your mission field" and I have been running with that ever since. It was a confirmation of what I already knew but it took someone to bring it out of me. I am so grateful for the several men like Casey, and Al and the others who dared to use a little orange ball to help build into me. That is why I do what I do.
The SportMentor is all about using sports as a way to connect faith with life and helping others to discover their purpose in life. Throughout my professional career, sports has been that constant platform that has provided the foundation for building into the lives of thousands of people. It has taken may forms, but the one constant has always been the idea that sports is just the start of something bigger. The results can be seen in the lives of many of the guys I have invested in over the years. Click Here to check out some of the stories of life change through sports mentoring on my website (www.thesportmentor.com or www.jasonrobinson.online )
As I transition back to Campus Ministry with the Navigators, the foundation of "The SportMentor" is going with me. The motto of the Navigators is "To Know Christ, Make Him Know and Help Others Do The Same" and that is what I am going to do!!! There is a whole new generation of folks who are looking for direction in life just as I did when I was a freshman 30 years ago. Not only are they on the campus of the University of Minnesota, they're on my social media platform @thesportmentor on instagram or in the gyms. The one thing we have in common on the surface is they speak my language...sports and that sounds like a good start to a good relationship.
Stay Forever Strong