By Ursula Thomas Miller
Bachelor of Education, 1995
Chaplain, Fellowship of Christian Athletes
Spiritual Coach | Jill Perry figured one day she would coach for a living. Indeed, the former Xavier volleyball player and lifelong Southern Baptist never really left the gym. But the brand of coaching she practices isn’t what the average fan might expect. The one-time Musketeer is now a spiritual coach with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes for some 300 female athletes and their coaches at the University of Georgia.
What’s Important | “I gave up the idea of being a college coach a long time ago because I realized that biblical truth and information were a lot more important for me to pass along than teaching a girl how to pass a volleyball and win volleyball matches.”
The Good Play Book | Perry is content to work behind the scenes. She spends much of her time in training rooms and at practices on the Bulldog campus but with a Bible in hand, not a clipboard and whistle. “We call it a ministry of presence. At Georgia, we have tutors, a sports psychologist, academic advisers and the added component FCA provides—a spiritual component.”
Under Pressure | That spiritual component is meant to provide emotional support to the athletes and coaches who want it. Athletes often are consumed by self-doubt as they strive to meet the relentless and sometimes fickle expectations of fans. Coaches endure the same kind of pressure, she says.
A Reminder | “In the pressure-filled environment of sport—where the mentality is ‘What have you done for me lately?’—I like being the source of encouragement that lets players and coaches know, or reminds them, that they have access to a heavenly father who loves them unconditionally, regardless of their performance.”
The Message | “The majority of my time is spent leading student team leaders,” adds Perry, explaining the “discipleship” approach she uses to spread the Christian message that God remains ever present in our lives both on and off the court. “I multiply myself, as Christ empowered 11 or 12 men to do the same for him.”
In the Beginning | Perry was introduced to FCA in 1995 as a result of her first job after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in education from Xavier. She was a high school health and physical education teacher in North Carolina. The principal asked Perry to serve as the school’s teacher-sponsor for FCA.
The Revelation | “I’m not sure what prompted the principal to ask me if I was interested in the FCA sponsorship. I said, ‘What’s that? Are y’all allowed to have that at a public school?’ He said, ‘Oh, yes. The students initiate it and lead it. They meet in the mornings before school.’ I told the principal that I would love to do that. Little did I know that as the years went on, I would learn more about FCA and eventually work full time for the organization."