Excellence in athletics has become the pursuit of many Americans with sports stars like Michael Jordan, Tom Brady and Derek Jeter, but for California Baptist University professor, Todd Bates, sports has a greater impact than just great stats and lots of trophies.
Sports became a passion for Bates while growing up and encompassed the way that he saw himself through his athletic performance. After playing wide receiver at the University of Central Florida, Bates’ focus was altered drastically when he met his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
“I was not a believer when I was playing sports. So when I became a believer, suddenly the discipline, determination and sacrifice all now had a new goal. Interestingly enough it was steered toward academics; the pursuit of ideas,” Bates said.
While competing, Bates saw himself as an athlete first, with most of his focus being on performance on the field. With God becoming his passion in life, the pursuit of ideas led him to further his education and obtain a Master’s of Divinity at Samford University and a doctorate in philosophy at the University of Texas, Arlington.
As the Associate Professor of Philosophy at CBU since 2007, Bates is able to use skills developed in athletics in other areas of his life.
“God is using things that he built into me, even when I was not aware of His hand in my life. All things are brought about for a purpose,” Bates said.
Using football as a tool, Bates is able to teach the discipline and determination that players gain when participating to show them that this can be applied to all areas of life. Teaching young men the game of football is a passion that is fulfilled through coaching at clinics as well as for his children’s teams.
Bates believes that God gave him certain skills in the game of football so that he can use them to help others. With coaching being one of his ministry outlets, he is able to share with young men the truth that gangs, drugs and girls are not the only options for them. Sports become a positive outlet and an important tool for life skills to be developed and put into practice.
As a volunteer coach he is able to work with young men who may not have a father in their lives. Along with the other coaches that volunteer their time, Bates is able to use real life situations that pertain to these athletes and apply it to the messages of the Bible.
Bates and the other volunteers strive to show young athletes the potential that they are unable to see in themselves. Through pushing them beyond where they thought they could go, he delights in showing young men the benefits of pursuing excellence in all areas of life.
“You can kind of step into the role and help them understand that we are pushing you beyond what you think you can do,” Bates said. “Because we want you to know that you are capable of things that are beyond that which you think you are capable of. That’s the whole part of excellence; just pursuing that in mind, body and also spirit. And when you start seeing that, it is amazing.”