Sports biographies—detailing the sweat, grit, and sacrifice many athletes endure in order to succeed—are a perennial favorite at publishing houses, and religion publishers are no exception. New titles show how physical challenges, including debilitating afflictions, can test a person’s faith and ultimately strengthen one’s spirituality.
Catch a Star
In this story of success despite the odds, Catchings, a three-time Olympic gold medalist and nine-time WNBA all-star discusses her hearing loss, separation from family, overwhelming expectations, and the frustration that followed a serious injury. The basketball star also outlines the ways her faith influenced her career, and vice versa. “In basketball, for me, it was a leap of faith.... It’s challenging,” she writes. “But a leap of faith is when we jump and God says, ‘I’ve got you.’ ”
Isaiah Austin, with Matt Litton
“God gave me a dream of walking across the stage on draft night, and that meant it would come true,” writes Austin, who’d long hoped to play in the NBA. However, after making a name for himself on Baylor University’s NCAA Division 1 basketball team, and five days before the NBA draft, Austin was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder that prevented him from ever playing basketball again. He details his struggle, disappointment, and what he calls the miracle of becoming an honorary NBA draft pick.
Just Three Words
Not many people would call cancer a “gift of love,” but that’s how Newman describes her experience with the disease. The world-class triathlete was suffering from anorexia and bulimia, and on the brink of suicide, when she was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer in 2008. Her memoir details the consequences of eating disorders and chemotherapy on her body. Now fully recovered and competing once more, she writes, “Often the greatest trials in our lives are in fact our greatest opportunities to grow and be transformed. And as you stand victorious, may you find your God-given gifts, your purpose here on earth, and share love and your experience with the world.”
Greater than Gold
David Boudia, with Tim Ellsworth
Nelson Books, Aug.
Olympic diver Boudia uses the words failure and heartache to describe his first Olympics in Beijing, when he failed to win a single medal. In London four years later, however, the athlete had transformed his single-minded focus on glory for himself to a quest for God, and he won a gold and a bronze medal. “The ultimate satisfaction and joy in life is much greater than gold,” he writes. “It’s found in those treasures in Christ that last forever.”
Tony Nathan went from being the only African-American football player on his high school team in 1970s Birmingham, Ala., to being a running back for the Miami Dolphins, and later a coach for the Dolphins as well as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. His story, which inspired the 2015 film Woodlawn, features a strong faith in God that guided him to choose kindness over hatred while growing up in one of the most racially divided cities in the U.S. “I wanted to demonstrate a better way, and I hoped I showed them regardless of skin color, we could get along,” he writes. “I didn’t look at myself as a freedom fighter or civil rights movement leader. I was an athlete whom God had blessed with natural abilities.”