New National Campus Director, Kevin Cuz, in ready position
As an offensive lineman for the Western Mustangs, Kevin Cuz had a heavy responsibility — protect his quarterback from the onslaught of 250+ pound defensive linemen on the other side of the line of scrimmage. But that pales in comparison to his new task as the National Campus Director of Athletes in Action Canada.
As students stream back to school this September, Cuz will be responsible for ministries on 22 campuses across Canada while they work to connect with student-athletes and share the gospel. On top of all that, he and his wife, Christine, just added a newborn baby to the mix.
He laughs: “You can understand the chaos right now.”
“It’s a bit crazy,” he says about his current situation, but Cuz is more than ready to tackle the challenge after seven years of working for Athletes in Action at the University of Ottawa. It’s still hard, however, to step back from working more directly with athletes. Laughing ruefully, he says, “I think I’m still trying to fight it a little bit.”
“It’s just trying to figure out the balance of being on campus doing that thing I love so much with now having to oversee a lot more of our staff and keep everyone on track.”
Cuz knows exactly how much Athletes in Action can mean in an athlete’s life. Ten years ago, Cuz was one of those student-athletes, trying to balance playing football with a heavy course load.
“I had gone to Western with the hopes of becoming a doctor,” says Cuz, “so I was involved in quite a lot of school, classes, and it was stressful.”
One of his teammates noticed his struggles and reached out to him. “I think that on the surface I was trying to make it seem like everything was fine and I was really coping well,” he says, “but he noticed that in reality I wasn’t.”
“He met up with me,” Cuz continues, “and just shared his faith and the journey that God had brought him on and then invited me into this relationship with Jesus. That was the moment I gave my life to God and really never looked back.”
Cuz experienced what many student-athletes struggle with: a lack of community. “We had about 130 guys on our football team,” Cuz explains, “but despite being surrounded by a team, I just felt totally alone and disconnected from others.”
“When I meet with athletes,” he says, “it’s always my suspicion that there are others experiencing the same thing. You spend so much time with your teammates and yet you feel like you can’t always talk about those deep and important things going on in your life.”
“It’s okay to talk about sports and relationships and fun stuff, but as soon as there’s something a little more significant, those conversations don’t tend to happen.”
Cuz also came to a realization that his plan to become a doctor stemmed from something selfish. “The desire that I had to go to medical school,” he says, “it wasn’t always for the greatest of reasons. The biggest one was that I wanted to be rich and successful.”
He laughs and continues, “Yes, there was still the desire to help people, that was the root of it, but a lot of unhealthy things surrounding that.”
Through Athletes in Action, God flipped his plans upside down, but he found that he was truly just refocusing on his underlying goal to help others: “I sometimes tell people it felt like I went from this desire to heal people physically, to understanding that there are even deeper spiritual hurts and fewer ‘doctors’ that are willing to deal with that.”
He then jokes, “I sometimes now say I’m a ‘spiritual athletic therapist,’ just to get people to think about it a bit.”
Now Cuz is confident that God has him in the right place, largely thanks to the mentors that have helped him along the way.
“One of the challenges in my life has been not having a great relationship with my own dad,” Cuz says. “It’s been hard for me to find men in my life that I’ve been able to trust, so Athletes in Action has given me so much.”
When asked who has helped him along the way, Cuz eagerly provides names: Adam Rumball, the Athletes in Action staff at Western University when he became a Christian, Paul Huggins, the Campus Director at University of Ottawa when he joined staff, Ryan Dawson and Kari Yli-Renko — both former National Directors for Athletes in Action — and Trevor Froehlich, the current National Director.
“I’ve gotten really great pieces from each one of those guys that has gone a long way to shape me into the man I am today.”
Now, Cuz is eager to provide that kind of mentoring and leadership to his staff. “I feel like we’ve had two or three years now with this great, high-functioning team without a coach,” he explains. “The team’s showing up for practice, people are doing the things they should be doing, but there just hasn’t been that same kind of direction and guidance and correction.”
“I don’t feel there’s a great need to revamp everything we’re doing and make huge changes,” he says, “but I think that we have this great vision that just needs to be chased after a little bit more.”
That vision is an ambitious one: “The main vision that we’ve really embraced,” he says, “is this idea of seeing a spiritual multiplier on every team on every campus across Canada.”
Cuz connects the idea of spiritual multiplication to the Great Commission — Matthew 28:19. “It’s the idea that I can take what God has given me and bring that to someone else,” he says. “Our passion isn’t that we want to have a whole army of staff across the country, but how can we see God change the heart of each athlete, so that they would go on and take that same Great Commission and reach out to others.”
As Cuz looks to the future, he’s thankful for everything people have done for him in the past: “As I reflect back, I’m just so thankful for the investment from the churches that have stood by me, those guys in my life, and all our ministry partners.”
“I really feel there’s no way I would have made it to this place without the support of those people in my life.