2018 Newsmakers: Bob Nations

Thursday, August 23, 2018
Bob Nations, team captain of Sports World Ministries
Photograph by Fred Lynch

Thirty-two years ago, Bob Nations realized the gravity of the issues facing high school students. He wanted to do something to help guide students to make positive choices, but wasn’t sure how he could help.

That was when a man from Sports World drove into Cape Girardeau needing directions. He happened to stop at Nations’ business, Nations Starter and Alternator, which was then located on Sprigg Street in downtown Cape Girardeau. The two conversed about their professions, and Nations decided to get involved with Sports World.

Since then, Sports World has been bringing professional athletes into more than 15 Southeast Missouri and Southern Illinois junior high and high schools, each time speaking at nine school assemblies over three-day periods. The athletes have also shared their stories with church youth groups, Teen Challenge, Southeast Missouri State University athletes and adults at prayer breakfasts.

“The humor and personality these speakers possess, and their heart to help youth around the many pitfalls of growing up make the assemblies entertaining, as well as informative,” Nations says.

The speakers often include unconventional antics in their talks: “One year our speaker picked up a boy at the middle school and carried him draped over his shoulder as he talked about how bad choices can stay with you for years, becoming a burden that has to be carried,” Nations recalls.

The athletes are trained in how to present their testimonies and how best to encourage the various age groups they speak to. Nations says the athletes speak about decisions that have set them back personally, challenging the students to choose a higher calling for their lives. Many of the athletes’ stories address drugs, alcohol and bullying.

Nations has shared this program with bankers, businessmen and civic groups in the community who have supported Sports World, so schools do not have to finance these assemblies.

At the close of the assemblies, students are given a card on which to write their thoughts about the speaker’s impact. Nations says many have made written decisions to change their choices and forgive those who have hurt them. Sometimes, their decision is not to take their own life as they had planned.

“Where there is an opportunity to make a difference in a life, we want to be on that front line, and this organization allows that to happen,” Nations says. “It’s been quite a blessing.”