Terry Boddie says it’s a calling.
For him, being a Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) minister, that makes sense for him to say. But when Boddie carries out his ministry at Alcovy High School, he uses the “calling” terminology in, perhaps a less conventional way.
As far as Boddie is concerned, calling is the best way to describe what he sees when the student-athletes he serves take the field in competition. It’s something he tries to convey every chance he gets.
“Here I am, some middle-aged guy trying to give wisdom to these kids, and they’re listening,” Boddie said. “Whether or not they follow through, I don’t know. Some will and some won’t, but that’s life. But for me it’s so impactful to have that opportunity to let them know someone’s gonna care for them. And when these kids open up to me, it’s just amazing.”
To be sure, Boddie’s role as an FCA leader at Alcovy is much more intentional than just being a passive sounding board and a listening ear.
“I’m a reflection of Jesus Christ’s love to them,” he said. “Far too often, people view religion and they view ministry as being religion and not relational. For me, to have it be recognized by some of these kids as being something relational, well that’s what it’s all about.”
Boddie has served Alcovy in this capacity since June 2016, shortly after he moved from Louisville to Covington. Before that, he spent three previous years as a FCA minister at the largest middle school in Jefferson County. It’s what he was used to. But that doesn’t mean he wasn’t open for something new.
“When I came here, I landed at Alcovy because that’s where (Newton County FCA director) Arthur Hawkins put me,” he said. “I knew there would be a little bit of a challenge in working with high schoolers in the public school setting, but what’s really exciting is how welcoming and open every body was at Alcovy. From Dr. Owens all the way down to Dr. Williams, coach Edgar and just everybody.”
He says that, partly because there’s sometimes a bit of truth to the stigma that public schools aren’t always readily rolling out the red carpet for religious organizations to come in. But FCA’s positive track record nationwide and in various places in the Atlanta metro area have given the organization more leeway in some places than some may expect.
It’s a perfect situation for Boddie, because his presence allows him to be an extension of the same faith principles that some of the coaches subscribe to, but sometimes can’t really go too far in depth with the way they express those principles.
Boddie knows it’s not his job to interfere or get in the way, but rather be a support piece for what Alcovy’s coaches are trying to accomplish in their respective programs.
“I think, for instance, when I look at Chris (Edgar)’s heart, I know his heart is for the students,” Bodie said. “He believes in them and wants them to succeed and grow in life outside of football. But where he maybe has some restrictions as a teacher in terms of what he can say or do, it still doesn’t take away from his core beliefs. I’m there to support in some of those ways where we’re helping change attitudes and be transformational in the lives of the student-athletes we serve.”
Boddie says he sees himself playing a role in the resetting of culture Edgar has tried to instill as he enters into his second year at the helm of the Tigers’ football program. And Boddie has had a front row seat to see the gradual change in attitudes, both on and off the field.
Case in point, Alcovy’s first win in the Edgar era — a 27-19 road win at Duluth. Bodie was actually a pawn in the team’s celebration plot.
“The guys came to me and said, ‘Terry. Coach T, you’ve gotta distract (Edgar), and we’re gonna go get the water buckets,” Bodie said as he recalled the waning moments of that first game.
“I walked up to Chris, and he knew it was coming,” Bodie continued. “He said, “They’re gonna dunk me, aren’t they?’ I said, ‘Yeah. So just enjoy it.’ So he handed me his wallet and things in his pocket so it wouldn’t get wet.”
It was one of those moments that provided a vital building block in both the team’s football psyche, but also in the non-football relationship the players would grow to have with the coaches and with Bodie.
“It was so cool to see,” he said. “You step back and watch how these coaches love on these kids, and you’ve got my place where you’re watching that whole ride, and you’re there in the wins and the losses, and you share with the joys and the frustrations. It’s awesome, because you watch the coaches begin to exemplify servant leadership, and you also see that rubbing off on the kids.”
Boddie has the opportunity to share with athletes during huddle meetings where he shares character principles couched with biblical context. He gets to share and pray with the football team before each game on Friday nights. He even has time to impart into the student-athletes in small group or one-on-one situations, with chances to connect with the student’s parents.
“That’s when relationships can really get deep,” he said. Even if there’s a little rebuke involved.
Boddie recalls a time when he challenged a couple of football players who weren’t exactly pleased with the way some things were going. It’s one of those moments when he reminded them about the calling aspect of their status as Alcovy football players.
“A couple of starters had missed practice,” he said, “And Chris had said they weren’t gonna start next game, and those guys kind of got mad and were gonna leave — just walk out. I grabbed them outside and told them that they could do what they want. They have a choice, but I said I’ll love you regardless of what you choose to do. Just remember that this here is what God has called you to do. It’s leadership. If you walk out, what does that say to that freshman or that eighth grader watching in the stands that wants to be where you are?
“You have a choice,” he told them. And Boddie said they ultimately made the choice to remain an integral part of the team.
Through his ministry, Boddie says he rejoices in the both tangible and spiritual fruit from his labor.
“Some of these kids end up giving their lives to Christ through what we do here, and that’s amazing,” he said. “And other times, you just hope that the seed is planted, and maybe something will grab onto them five years from now. More than anything, you just want them to know that there are some good, godly men in their lives, and good, godly women for the young ladies who are athletes, who aren’t just going to love you because you score the touchdown or because you made a play on the field.
“I love these guys when they’re scoring touchdowns and if they’re in (in school suspension). We build these relationships and let them know we’re not going to leave, no matter what kind of challenges or temptations or difficulties are going on in their lives.”
For now, it’s a job that doesn’t net Boddie a whole lot financially. But he understands that sometimes there are bigger dividends to be paid than dollars.
“I see my role as being the bumper rails on a bowling alley for these guys,” he said. “My job is to keep you in the lane and out of the gutter. You might bounce around and miss the pins sometimes, but if I can help it, you won’t get in the gutter. It’s my way of letting them know that God needs you and God sees you and God loves you enough to give you this gift of athletics. But he also loves you much farther beyond that gift.”