Playing for God’s team
One of the most physically intimidating people involved with the Athletics Department doesn’t even play sports.
At 6’3" and a weight "that will be left to be determined," Mikado Hinson seems every inch an athlete.
However, Hinson chooses to make his impact on Cougar athletics in another way. For the last three years, Hinson has served as the team chaplain for the University’s athletic department.
"I’m almost like a character coach," Hinson said. "I provide mentoring and counseling and prayer and Bible studies for individual athletes and teams, pre-game chapel services (and) things of that nature."
Hinson is employed by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, which has a partnership with UH. FCA is a "non-profit, interdenominational ministry," according to the organization’s Web site. It was founded by former University of Oklahoma assistant basketball coach Don McClanen in 1954.
"The whole premise behind FCA is if an athlete’s (environment) can promote and advertise for tobacco companies, alcohol companies and just different things of the world, then why can’t they promote Jesus Christ in a particular sport?" Hinson said. "We use the Bible as our resource, and when we have our meetings that’s our playbook. That’s how we learn the plays of life.
"We use Jesus Christ as the model and honestly, with a non-threatening approach, share the love of God with everyone."
Hinson’s focus at UH is to "build a relationship with the athletes and coaches" by becoming a part of their daily lives. He attends practices, training sessions and even travels with the football team to all of its away games.
He also leads the FCA’s weekly meetings, which are open to all athletes and students.
"We… either break into small groups or have someone come and give a testimony or message. One of our athletes always leads our praise and worship time," Hinson said.
Now in his tenth year with the FCA and his third full-time on the UH campus, Hinson has become a regular part of the Athletics Department. He leads pre-game chapel services for the football and men’s basketball teams in addition to his weekly FCA meetings. Hinson is on the sidelines during UH home games and has traveled with the football team to away games for eight years.
"I’m thankful for all the liberties that the University of Houston has allowed me. I don’t take it for granted or take it lightly. They don’t have to, and I don’t abuse the privileges," he said. "I’m not there coaching. I’m honestly there as a resource. I don’t try to butt in and say ‘We should do this.’ That’s not my job. I don’t get paid to do that, and if I did, honestly I’d get fired real quick. I understand my role, and it’s been a great partnership with the University."
Through his daily interactions and meetings, Hinson encourages the athletes, "even though they are away from home, to not forget what they may have been taught as a youth or things that may have been instilled in them as a child."
Hinson himself knows what it feels like to search for answers. He didn’t become a Christian until he was in college.
"I knew I had a hole in my life that only the Lord could fill. I grew up in a non-Christian home, and it wasn’t until my freshman year of college that someone really showed me that the way I was living, which I thought was a good way of living, was ultimately the wrong way of living. Someone introduced me to a personal relationship with Christ, and on Dec. 16, 1993 in my freshman year of college, I gave my life to the Lord."
After a year of junior college, Hinson attended Norfolk State University in Norfolk, Va., where he earned a degree in broadcasting. Although he played golf and baseball for his high school, Hinson did not make any college teams but remained involved in sports in another way.
"As I grew in my faith, I knew that I was called to go into full-time ministry. I was very involved in athletics in college through broadcasting and things of that nature, and I wanted to see how I could partner those things together, and FCA was the perfect fit."
Ironically, Hinson’s favorite memories with the Cougars do not involve Conference championships, or even winning games.
"It was a home game two years ago against UTEP. I was on the sideline and got (run into by a player) and broke my leg and twisted an ankle. But through it all, one of the athletes came into the locker room with tears in his eyes after the game and said ‘You know, I was in FCA last week, and I was too embarrassed to give my life to God, but I want to do it right now.’ And he did it in the locker room… and that was probably the most special moment.
"The players tell me ‘You know, we won six games after you broke your leg.’ And I say ‘If you’re thinking I’m going to break my other leg, you’re crazy.’ I took one for the team, but I tell them, ‘You do your job, and I’ll do mine, and we’ll be OK.’"
Even after the athletes graduate from college, many remain part of Hinson’s life.
"A lot of players that have come and gone continue to be friends of ours. (My wife and I). We babysit (their) kids, we’ve been fortunate to do the weddings of two of the athletes," Hinson said. "It’s all about building personal relationships. When I’m not in the office, I miss being on the field, on the court. I love being with the coaches and athletes and spending time with them. It’s not a job. I’m living the dream."