This article appears in the Fall 2021 edition of the FCA Donor Publication. The FCA publication is a gift from our FCA staff to all donors giving $50 or more annually. For more information about giving, visit here.
For more than 39 years, Janie Mueller has made an impact in the schools she’s served. As a chemistry teacher and girls’ basketball coach, she has walked the halls praying for her students and poured into their lives. As one of FCA’s greatest advocates in her area, she’s also helped start Huddles at multiple schools and incorporated 3Dimensional Coaching principles into her approach with her basketball teams. She and husband Dean serve as board members of FCA Colorado Springs and she has been the Huddle sponsor at Cheyenne Mountain High School for the past 21 years. Janie was recently awarded the FCA Branch Rickey Service Award.
How and why did you connect with FCA?
When I was in high school, shortly after I gave my life to Jesus, long-time FCA Colorado supporter Paul Lewan and his wife invited my dad and me to an FCA gala in Denver. I met many of the then-Denver Nuggets and other professional athletes who had an interest in FCA. That introduction never left my mind, which is what made me think of starting an FCA Huddle when I began to teach and coach. I wanted to give my high school students a chance to experience “doing all they do for the Lord and not for men,” (Col 3:23). I looked into FCA and knew Fountain-Fort Carson High School was ripe for an FCA Huddle, which we started in 1982. When I moved to Cheyenne Mountain High School 21 years ago, I sponsored the Huddle there.
What’s been an experience that’s opened your eyes to the impact your life can have on others?
During my first year at Colorado State University, the campus newspaper, The Collegian, decided they wanted to follow a freshman female basketball player through all four years of playing, and by the grace of God, they chose me. Several times a year, I shared how my faith was impacting my basketball game and my life. There were many students who read the paper who were impacted by the power of Christ in me.
How did your playing experience influence your faith?
I was the 12th woman on the team, but I would draw crosses on the toes of my basketball shoes to bring my mind back to why I was playing. Colossians 3:23 would come to mind, to always do my very best work for God and not men. Midway through my freshman year, I had become a starter for the team and was named to the All-Tournament Team at the Shocker Classic in Kansas. I ended that season being the top rebounder and one of the top scorers for the team. That was all the Lord working in and through me.
Each succeeding year I continued to get better as a player and still hold some rebounding and scoring records at CSU. The Lord does use the foolish things of the world (a gangly girl who loved Jesus) to confound the wise.
How does your relationship with Christ impact the way you coach?
It is hard to go from being a player to being a coach. I quickly learned that just because you can play a sport, it does not mean you can coach it. I have learned many lessons about coaching; the biggest one is that Christ gives us love for everyone who comes into our lives. His love is infinite and He, through His Holy Spirit, will give us love to spread to others. And sometimes, this takes a lot of prayer.
"Christ gives us love for everyone who comes into our lives."
How do you lead your team in a way that encourages them to think about the impact they’re making?
I tell my girls that they are being role models for others, and I expect them to be good role models! I instruct them to clean up their bench after a game—win or lose—and to not argue with the referees. My job is to coach and encourage them in practices and games, and their job is to be kind to one another, even when they are mad at one another. Everyone goes through the line to shake hands with the other team, no matter how they played and how they feel. For both my students and my players, I take time to talk to them, to know them, and support them in and out of class, on and off the court. I love the students and athletes as I love myself, and it’s through Christ’s love that these young people quickly figure out that I’m different from other coaches and teachers. Then, they begin to explore why.
Do you use any FCA resources?
I love the Coaches Bible and the devotionals in the back! We always use FCA Bibles in our Huddle so we can call out a page number and everyone can quickly find the Scripture we’re talking about. We have used numerous ice breaker games from FCA and our Huddle leaders have gleaned a great deal from Leadership Locker Room and Leadership Camps.
What has God been teaching you about Himself in this season of your life?
God never stops teaching me about Himself if I will watch and listen to Him. I keep my nose in my Bible and study, pray and learn nearly every morning. God continues to show me His desire for fellowship with Him and with His church. He never ceases to remind me of His love for every person and that He can change others we think will never turn to Him. His faithfulness is overwhelming, as is His care for the smallest things as well as gigantic problems. Every day I look at Pikes Peak and it reminds me of my thankfulness and my awe at what a mighty God we serve. There is always more to glean from His Word.
Photos courtesy of Erik Carlson