God and Basketball.

For Katherine and Michelle Plouffe, God and basketball have always been a part of their lives.  For many years, however, God and basketball were segmented, disconnected and at times at odds with the other.  Like many athletes, the Plouffe’s struggled with value, worth, identity, pressure, and didn’t know how their faith in Jesus could free them from these challenges.

It was in college where both Michelle and Katherine began to understand that basketball was what they did, not who they are.  “Most athletes, we get wrapped up with ‘I am a basketball player’, ‘I am a runner’ and that’s’ it.  When there is no distinction between your worth and value and how you perform it’s devastating when you face injury, loss, or poor performance.  Having that distinction of basketball being something I do, not who I am, gives me more joy. I no longer have to prove my worth on the court every night.  It’s freed me up to learn more about what a child of God is all about.” said Katherine.  For Michelle, It was a journey that came with many bumps and challenges along the way, but was worth every step.  Michelle recalls, “In college, I found a new love for God, along a broken path, and I reinstated my passion for pursuing of God. Before that I just wanted God to help me win, make all my baskets, and perform well.”

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Michelle struggled with the pressure of winning and having her worth and value wrapped up in her performance. “In the past, if we lost it was all my fault. I didn’t know how to handle the pressure to win.  I would break down and beat myself up and I wasn’t connected with the Lord at that time like I am now.”  As Michelle grew in her relationship with the Lord, she learned how to handle a loss and it changed both her perspective and experience on the court. “With my identity rooted in Christ, I play with joy and freedom.”

The Plouffe’s represented more than Canada at the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto.  As they began to understand how to integrate sport and faith, their eyes were also opened to the idea that basketball was a gift they had been given by God.  “Inviting God into my sport means playing for God, representing God as an ambassador for Christ – it’s because of His strength and the abilities He has given me that I am able play hard and perform the way I do.” Katherine shared.  Michelle added, “In the last few years I have realized I can play for God.  I can use the gifts He has given me, to show how much I love him by playing for Him. This has helped me over the last year, to find a new love for the game and to not feel so much pressure. Basketball is a way I can worship God.”

”Look around the village. Be grateful for this opportunity and know that God has set and established you here for a purpose” was something AIA Chaplain, Dave Klassen, shared with the girls one day after Bible Study.  Klassen served as the team chaplain during the Pan Am Games and in addition to having worship in the multi-faith centre with other athletes, Klassen also performed game day chapels for the team.  It was not only uplifting, said Michelle, but it was also a great opportunity to connect with teammates. “It was cool to connect with teammates who are Christians. We were connecting with each other in a way would not have found by ourselves or on the court.”  Katherine added, “It was cool inviting teammates to chapel.  Even if they didn’t come, they would ask what we talked about and it was great to share what the message was at chapel.  We had the opportunity to share what we were doing, what God is doing in our life and how God fits into our sport.”

A historic gold medal for women’s basketball in Canada was a great honor, but the Plouffe’s know that they must keep their lives firmly rooted in Jesus; gold medals and victory in sport does not declare their worth but only what God says is true about them.

Experiencing victory beyond competition for Michelle means using your gifts and platform in sport to fulfill HIS mission. For Katherine, it means having a different perspective in sport and in life. It’s having gratefulness and joy as her motivation.

Athletes in Action is committed to helping athletes like Michelle and Katherine invite God into sport and begin to play with freedom. Is God welcome in your sport? #AIAnPANAM #goAIA #runNTC