This week Noah and Bjorn continued their clothing series by speaking with Eric Czubaj of Winged Foot Printing, a screen printing company based in Buffalo, New York, that does work for many local churches, BFLO and many other companies, along with a major sports team from the other side of the country that Eric talks about in the episode.
Eric attended John F. Kennedy High School in Cheektowaga, New York, where he ran cross country and track. After receiving several Division I offers Eric ended up at the University at Buffalo, where he ran track and set several UB men’s records.
Eric spent several years as a high school cross country coach, coaching both boys and girls. He won ECIC girls Coach of the Year in 2011 while coaching at JFK High School.
How Did Eric’s Faith Affect His Running?
“All of my journey is connected with my faith. When I was at the top of running the thing that motivated me, even during a race, was Christ”--Eric Czubaj
A common thing for athletes to do is trying to hype themselves up before their sporting event. They might listen to up-tempo music, give themselves a motivating speech or listen to a teammate’s speech. This isn’t what Eric did though.
An hour or two before a race started Eric would find himself listening to praise music while stretching. Eric says that instead of trying to hype himself up, doing this was a way for him to calm down.
On top of this, listening to praise music got Eric into the state of mind that he found helped him perform best - giving everything over to God.
On the podcast Eric talks about how running is painful. Even though some people might look good while doing it, he promises that it’s just as painful for professional runners as it is for everyone else. When you reach a high level of running, a big part of who is successful is who can deal with pain the best.
Eric found that giving himself over to God and thinking about Jesus was a way for him to deal with this pain. In the episode Eric talks about a specific Bible verse that he would repeat to himself throughout a race in order to keep going.
On top of his mindset when running, Eric also found that his faith affected the way he approached competition.
A lot of athletes approach competition with the mindset that in order to win, their opponent has to fail. Instead, Eric was merely focused on his own performance.
Eric says that when he was praying to God before and during competitions it wasn’t for the person in front of him to do bad. Instead, he was asking God for the strength to do the best he could.
If his best meant winning the competition, then great. But if Eric performed at his absolute best and it still wasn’t enough to win, he was still satisfied with his performance and thankful to God for giving him the strength to give his all.
Eric has seen the approach he took with his running and his faith apply to his life outside of sports. On the podcast, Eric talks about this connection and how he sees sports and faith going together.
What is Eric’s Faith Journey?
“I think the greatest spiritual gift I’ve had in my life is the idea that my faith has been very hard to shake”--Eric Czubaj
Eric grew up in a Christian household, with both his mom and dad being people of faith. Because of this, faith has been a part of his life as long as he can remember.
In the episode Eric talks about remembering a prayer that his mom said with him when he was only 3. He feels that it was at this moment that God took his heart.
While he still had a lot of learning to do as he grew up, Eric says that God kept him from a lot of pitfalls that can happen in life. Because of this, he doesn’t have a testimony of a big life change like some people do.
Still, Eric faced a turning point in his faith as an early adult.
At some point during his first few years of marriage, Eric and his wife were talking about their faith and the way their life had gone so far. During this talk, Eric and his wife both realized that they had developed a certain pride that was sinful. This realization changed the way Eric viewed his faith and his relationship with God
On the podcast Eric talks about this discussion he and his wife had, the pride they had developed and how it changed the way he lived his life and his faith.
What is God Teaching You?
Eric’s discussion about how he prepared for track meets is an interesting point. In some ways, it goes against what is typically expected of an athlete before a sporting event.
We’ve likely all seen professional athletes give motivational speeches in order to get themselves and their teammates excited for the game and in the frame of mind for competition. This is something that’s seen as normal.
If this is something you need to do to get yourself ready for a game or meet, there’s nothing wrong with that. We’re all motivated in our own ways.
What isn’t as typical though is what Eric did. Trying to get in a frame of mind of relaxation before a game might seem counterintuitive.
However, what Eric did is something we should all find time to do before a sporting event - praise and pray to God before competition. We should thank God for the gifts He has blessed us with and thank Him for allowing us to do something we love.
Additionally, we should not pray to God asking for our competition to fail or for ourselves to win. Instead, we should approach competition as Eric did and ask God to give us the strength to perform to the best of our abilities.
This echoes Bob Schindler’s feelings on competition, which he shared on episode 41.
Bob talked about striving with our competition instead of striving against. Instead of striving to win, we should strive to bring the best out of our competition.
God is being glorified when all members are using their God-given abilities at the highest level they’re capable of in a way that honors Him. Eric demonstrated this by not ultimately caring whether he won or lost but caring about whether he performed as best he could and brought the best out of others at the same time.
Eric also brought up an important point when talking about his testimony.
Not everyone is going to have a story about a big change in their way of life or some big revelation they had. This is not God’s plan for everyone.
God’s plan for Eric was one of faith from an early beginning. Because of the strength God provided Eric, he was able to avoid many potential pitfalls in life.
If this is similar to what God’s plan was for us, it can be easy to start feeling better than those around us or those who do have a testimony of going through a big life change.
When we hear a testimony of a big life change or see people around us struggling, we might think “I would never make that mistake,” but this is not a result of our own doing. It is because of the strength and wisdom that God provides us that we are able to avoid certain temptations and obstacles.
The correct answer to this is not to develop a feeling of superiority, but to realize we have God to thank for blessing us with the strength to avoid life's many potential pitfalls. In addition, we shouldn’t judge those who do.
While we of course should be there to help those in need and to offer some guidance, God has a different plan for everyone. The plan God chose for us doesn’t make us any better than those around us.
Do you take time to praise and thank God before competition? Do you care about winning or do you care about performing to the best of your God-given abilities?
How do you approach competition? Are you striving with or against?
Are you humble in your faith? Do you recognize and praise God for the ways he has blessed your life?
1 Corinthians 9:24
1 Peter 5:5
To hear the conversation that Noah and Bjorn had with Eric about how faith affected his running, his testimony, what UB records he set, what it’s like being a coach and what he misses about it, if he thinks Josh Allen is the Buffalo Bills’ long-term answer, what screen printing is, and much more, check out “The Sweat Room: Sports and Faith” episode 45.