The Breakfast That Changed Basketball Coach's Life

Fred Quartlebaum learns how faith gives purpose to career and family life.

By Hayley Newsom   |  23 . January . 2009
legends-of-hardwood-465x280.jpg The Legends of the Hardwood Breakfast sponsored by Athletes in Action now stands as one of the premier events during the NCAA Final Four weekend.

When Fred Quartlebaum came to the Big 12 basketball tournament 5 years ago, he was making a name for himself as a top assistant coach and one of the country's best recruiters.

But while Fred was enjoying success in his career, he was struggling on the home team. Living the typical life of a coach, moving from state to state, and then leaving family to be on the road with the team, Fred longed to balance his career and family.

"In my career, sacrifices are made. You tend to lose focus on what's important. I felt that my professional life was really high, and like a see-saw, my family life was close to the ground."

Staff Member Challenges Fred to Faith

Fred remembers Eric Nelson (Athletes in Action basketball director), striking up a conversation with him and inviting him to the Legends of the Hardwood Breakfast, a faith-building event during Final Four weekend.

"We just kind of connected. I could see he had a strong faith."

Fred tells how God spoke to him through Eric. "I had to focus and find out who was going to help me, and Eric said, 'It's the Lord. You have to turn to the most important person in your life. More important than your wife or anyone, it's the Lord.'"

At the breakfast, Fred decided to trust Christ. "We always come to a pivotal time in our lives. So I stepped in with both feet and really started to focus on what's important and trusted Him to lead me."

Beyond this point of decision, the Legends breakfast also taught Fred that this was a lifelong pursuit. "[The Breakfast] was a completely new way of seeing the connection between faith and basketball. I saw what my purpose was as a coach as well as with other relationships in my life."
 
Fred's wife, Christy, recognized the change of heart. "I remember him coming home from the Breakfast peaceful and renewed," she says.

Applying Balance at Home

Since the Breakfast, Fred and Christy have relied on the Lord's guidance as they balance career and family. "With Fred's career taking him on the road for days at a time, it's not realistic to think 50/50," says Christy.

"Finding ways for him to spend time with the children when he is home has really helped. He takes the kids through their morning routine -- gets them ready for school and puts them on the bus. That way, he gets some time with them every day.

"We also make sure we make time for just the 2 of us and as a family," says Christy, "and we make sure that time together is quality time."

Coach Calls Breakfast a Highlight

Fred, now an assistant coach at St John's New York, continues to find spiritual refreshment at the annual breakfast. "Sitting in a room of individuals just like yourself, you hear how faith is the vehicle behind the success of these guys, whether they're coaches, commentators, players, whatever."

Just as he invited Fred, Eric encourages people to invite others to the breakfast. "It's a good opportunity to allow people to hear the gospel from faces they're familiar with, in a non-threatening environment. The 5 or 6 weeks leading up to the Final Four is exhausting, but that time during the Final Four weekend is a time of rejuvenation."

Fred experienced life-changing spiritual rejuvenation at the breakfast, so he in turn, enthusiastically invites others year after year. For all his love of college basketball, March Madness and the Final Four, Fred relishes the morning meeting sponsored by Athletes in Action.

"The Breakfast is the highlight of the week," he says.