Published on May 1, 2017 by Philip Poole  

by Olivia Williams 

Samford University’s sport administration program recently hosted a panel presentation titled “Christian Leadership in Sport.” 

Students listened and engaged with five panelists as they spoke about the benefits and challenges of pursuing Christ in the world of sports. 

The panelists included Jason Anderson, director of annual giving for the University of Alabama at Birmingham athletics (Blazer Boosters); Paige Mathis, Samford’s director of student-athlete academic service; Ralph Gold Jr., associate professor of kinesiology at Samford; Mark Whitworth, chief operating officer, Knight-Eady Sports Group, Birmingham; and Matt Wilson, Gulf South Conference commissioner, Birmingham. 

Joe Pederson, Samford assistant professor of kinesiology, served as the event moderator. 

“Dr. Pederson did a great job moderating the event and guiding the questions,” said Nathan Kirkpatrick, sport administration program coordinator and event organizer. “We were so grateful to assemble a special group of Christian men and women who lead in sports through their faith and trust in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.” 

Throughout the presentation, the panelists stressed the underlying importance of Christian leadership through every aspect of their professional lives. 

“I don’t see a difference for Christian leadership and leadership; they go hand-in-hand,” said Wilson. “When you look at the life of Christ and what he modeled for us, you can see clearly in the gospels that it is a great reflective style of a how a leader should react.” 

Gold echoed Wilson’s sentiments. “It begins through the prism of Christ. Everything goes through him and through the Holy Spirit.” 

The panelists shared about their individual experiences of climbing the ladder in their career, in addition to offering students advice about how to chase their dreams. 

“I wish someone had told me not to be afraid to go after what your passion is,” said Anderson. “It may be a journey for you, wherever you decide you want to go, but enjoy that journey simply because it’s going to prepare you for wherever it is you’re supposed to end up. It’s going to put you in a position to accomplish all that you want to accomplish. Embrace it, hit it head on and keep working.” 

“I wish someone with a significant amount of grace told me you’re not always right,” said Wilson. “One thing I hope I’ve learned in three years as a commissioner is that it’s okay not to have the answer, and it’s okay to let people lead you to a solution.” 

The event concluded with time set aside for students to ask the panelists questions. 

Kirkpatrick is hopeful that there will be more events like this in the future. “It was a very special and powerful time, and I was so grateful that the students, faculty and staff who attended got to hear heart-level sharing about how to stand boldly and lovingly for Jesus Christ in the current sport industry. Most importantly, it was a conversation, sharing and prayer that was grounded in God’s Word, and that is the best type of event we could have on our campus.” 

Olivia Williams is a journalism and mass communication major and a news and feature writer in the Division of Marketing and Communication.

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.