With new book, GCU athletic trainer goes 'Beyond the Game'

GCU athletic trainer Chris Elliott works on basketball player Lok Wur during a game as part of the job he has done for two years while working on a book.

Devotional features contributions from 364 co-authors

Photos by David Kadlubowski

For any athlete of any age or level, each day might range from repeat hits of the snooze button to a brisk workout.

But how would each day develop and where would life lead if each day began with an athlete’s devotional of lessons learned from his/her trials and tribulations?

"Beyond the Game" is available on Amazon. (Photo by Paul Coro)

That was the framework of a self-published book that Grand Canyon University athletic trainer Chris Elliott imagined in 2020. After his wife’s urging and three years of collecting inspiring words from 364 co-authors, the book “Beyond the Game” has sold thousands of copies on Amazon for a benefit to readers and charity.

“The Lord put this idea on my heart to do a devotional, specifically for athletes,” said Elliott, 30, who played basketball at Division II Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville. “When I played in college, I wanted something that could last throughout the year. I’m not a writer at all. I never dreamed of doing a book. So when the idea popped in my head, I thought I was the wrong person with the right idea.”

But he has the right wife, Molly.

Elliott was working as a Stephen F. Austin athletic trainer in the spring of 2020 when athletics seasons ceased for COVID-19. The book idea came to him, and he prayed about it for two weeks before mentioning it to Molly, a former Lipscomb University soccer player.

“What are you waiting for?” she told him, providing the nudge he needed when he first shared the idea over dinner.

Elliott began reaching out to a small group of athletes that he knew and let referrals take over from there. The request was for each athlete to choose a scripture verse and write fewer than 250 words on a struggle the athlete had experienced or a reflection on something the athlete realized later. The brevity of the devotional was intentional, to provide a quick, applicable daily read.

This was 100% the Lord's thing. And I'm just the first person He used to get the ball rolling.

Chris Elliott, GCU athletic trainer

Each athlete’s page, marked by date, ends with a related prompt for prayer, thought or journaling.

The participants ranged from MLB pitcher R.A. Dickey, the 2012 Cy Young Award winner, and NFL safety Bernard Pollard, a 2013 Super Bowl champion, to several GCU student-athletes and other college athletes of various levels and eras.

Dickey shared how God was ever-present in his life through his low times of youth trauma and the joys of a 15-year MLB career that ended in 2017.

“There is so much peace in surrendering to a God who cares about every detail of my life,” Dickey wrote.

Pollard reflected on a career-ending Achilles tendon injury after playing nine NFL seasons (2006-14)

“God’s plan for your life is perfect whether we see it at the time or not,” Pollard wrote. “Allow Him to show you where your true purpose is.”

In the first two days after the book’s Dec. 16 debut on Amazon, “Beyond the Game” was the No. 1 new release in three categories: self-help, devotional and sports.

Chris Elliott is the GCU athletic trainer for the men's basketball and men's golf teams.

“When the work was done and it was finally out there, there was a bit of anxiety like, ‘My mom’s probably going to buy it, but I don’t know who else,’" said Elliott, who has worked with WAC championship teams in men’s basketball and men’s golf over two years at GCU.

“Seeing how well it did so fast blew my mind because I don’t feel like I was someone qualified to do this at all, obviously. The Lord’s faithfulness through the process was like, ‘Watch this.’"

Former Texas Tech golfer Emma Springer was one of his first co-authors when she and husband, Hayden, were expecting a daughter, Emma Elyse, who was diagnosed with Trisomy 18 (Edwards Syndrome).

The developmental disorder’s extra chromosome causes half of Trisomy 18-afflicted babies to be delivered stillborn. The median life is a matter of days, and 90% survive less than a year.

Sage Elyse turned 3 before passing away on Nov. 13, 2023, just weeks before Hayden earned a PGA Tour card and Elliott published the book. Elliott pledged to have 100% of the $11.99 book’s proceeds benefit Extra to Love, the Springers’ foundation that assists parents of babies born with Trisomy 18 and Trisomy 13 (Patau syndrome) with costs, resources, education and spiritual encouragement.

Beyond helping the foundation, Elliot’s reward has been to hear and see the book’s impact. He saw GCU basketball players reading it on road trips, was told by a high school senior athlete how it matched his recent feelings and heard from a father who reads it nightly to his 8-year-old son. That boy asked to be baptized because the book made him realize he was focusing more on sports than faith.

“One of the other cool things was that I heard from the athletes who wrote for it about how therapeutic it was for them to open that area of their life and reflect on what they learned,” Elliott said. “They would say that it was way deeper than they expected to take it.”

Chris Elliott receives a 2023 WAC championship ring from coach Bryce Drew in November.

One morning in Global Credit Union Arena, Elliott ran into GCU President Brian Mueller and gave him a copy he had been saving for him. Later that day, Elliott received a call that Mueller wanted copies in the Lope Shop to sell.

The book reaches beyond athletes with Havocs, GCU employees and a Havoc House cook all sharing how they are being impacted daily by it.

Even with 365 athletes’ takes, some scripture surprised Elliott with how applicable it was in the context they shared and how repeated verses were diversified by having varied interpretations or applications.

GCU Director of Student-Athlete Development Katy Keenan, a former Texas Tech volleyball player, shared a Book of Matthew story about a house not falling amid rain, streams and wind because it was built on a foundation of rock, rather than another man’s house built on sand.

Chris Elliott works on GCU basketball player Duke Brennan's cut during a timeout.

“A foundation built on the Lord can withstand even the strongest of storms,” Keenan wrote. “Buying into Jesus has brought me so much joy and peace, something that stats and accolades never could.”

Athletes bear their struggling with identity and body image or advise on how to share the Lord with teammates and coaches. That approach has resonated worldwide. Books have sold to Australia, Canada, Germany and the United Kingdom.

“This was 100% the Lord’s thing, and I’m just the first person He used to get the ball rolling,” Elliott said. “This is as much my project as it is the other 364 athletes.”

GCU News senior writer Paul Coro can be reached at [email protected].

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Where to get the book: Amazon

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Bible Verse

God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

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