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story.lead_photo.caption MARK HUMPHREY ENTERPRISE-LEADER/Youth, who made a faith-based decision, are recognized during an Oct. 9, 2019 Fellowship of Christian Athletes "Fields of Faith" held at Farmington's Allen Holland Field.

FARMINGTON -- District head athletic trainer Malinda Rector grew up locally and graduated from Farmington High School before going on to the University of Arkansas, earning a Masters' degree in 2007.

Rector's duties include hands-on evaluation of sports injuries such as concussions, addressing wounds and illnesses. She also works to prevent further injury through the use of tape and braces, and even monitors weather conditions to guard against the dangers of exposing athletes to heat and lightning. Rector also helps student-athletes manage health-related conditions and makes referrals to specialty physicians when necessary.

Her task is simple: help the athlete reach his or her goal to compete in a sport they enjoy.

Rector feels the role of an athletic trainer is to make athletes feel comfortable when they reach out to her, knowing she supports their efforts to excel in athletics. The job becomes self-rewarding when she sees the fruits of their hard work as they get back in action.

She is also acutely aware of the need for mutual support and affirmation of faith which events such as "Fields of Faith" sponsored by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes provides. Rector helped organize FCA Fields of Faith events held in October 2018 and 2019 at Farmington's Allen Holland Field.

"I know that night there was about 28 people in our community who took the step just to increase their faith in one way or another and I know multiple people besides that asked for prayer, too, for different things," Rector said.

Rector hopes that becomes a building block in individual churches and youth, who don't have a place to go find other friends that they can trust and just kind of support one another and find a church home that can help them.

Rector said today's youth deal with a hard life and struggles that most adults didn't have to go through, including social media and pressures that adults put on them now and college pressures that are being put on them.

"They're just having to deal with so much that they need that support from their friends and that was a night that they could kind of see that they have a huge group of people that believe like them or that will help them to grow in that belief," Rector said.

Spillover From 2018

Rector said the 2019 event went really well, benefiting from a spillover from the initial 2018 Fields of Faith. Life Ministries, of Prairie Grove, brought volunteers. Cindy Dobbs helped reach out to area churches in obtaining donations of food as well as cooks and servers.

"We had a great time last year and I think everybody in the community saw that, so this year they wanted to get involved," Rector said. "We had most all the churches in Farmington help us prepare food and donations. We got 1,300 hamburgers this year along with 1,000 hot dogs and some chicken strips. So we were able to feed all the families that came out for it. We were also able to help out with some of the funds to provide for the speakers to give them a gift for their time and coming out and just pouring into the kids that were there."

One of the featured speakers, retired Harding University coach Ronnie Huckeba, traveled from Searcy, a distance of more than 200 miles and three or four hours drive time depending upon which route is taken. Rector compared and contrasted deliveries between Ronnie Huckeba and his son, 2018 speaker Jeb Huckeba, a former Razorback great who went on to play for the Seattle Seahawks.

"I was pleasantly kind of surprised. I thought his dad was going to be more of the soft-spoken dad," Rector said.

Ronnie Huckeba waded through the throng like he was supervising a practice, challenging individual student-athletes as well as collective teams and the group as a whole to embrace servanthood and take responsibility for their school culture. His passion spoke with clarity and authority.

"We got a lot of the football coach. He was so passionate," Rector said. "The passion just in both of them (father and son), more than just coaching they want to bring the best out of that individual."

During the 2018 event, Jeb Huckeba recalled success on the gridiron as an Arkansas Razorback, offering memories of glory days for fans starving for a conference win -- something that hasn't been accomplished since an Oct. 28, 2017, 38-37, victory over Ole Miss.

In 2019, Ronnie Huckeba told student-athletes they set the tone for their school culture and by paying attention to acknowledging students who feel isolated they can initiate positive change.

"I loved his perspective about just being a team-leader and what do y0u want the atmosphere to be like. You're going to change it. It's not what everybody else does, but you have to make the difference with the kids that are in your school and the kids around you that might need somebody to help uplift them. that's what I loved about his speech," Rector said.

Students led the worship, playing instruments and singing. Rector applauded them for working for months on the praise and worship.

"They've been practicing and working long and hard hours on that. It was so fun to see the kids be involved and do all of the work to put it together," Rector said. "It's been great that it's not only a Farmington event but it's turned into an area, community event, not only for Farmington but for the whole of northwest Arkansas area. We hope that next year we can have more churches become involved, and area FCA groups grow and bring their larger groups to the event next year."

Sports on 01/08/2020

Print Headline: Empowering Athletes Through Support and Affirmation

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