The Call
How Dr. Steve Lucey provides physical and spirtual aid to Cat Whitehill and Team USA

By Susie Magill
(Article originally appeared in the August/September 2007 issue of STV.)

Dr. Lucey with U.S. Women's National Team defensive player Cat Whitehill.
It was the winter of 2003. Outside the temperature was cold, but Dr. Steve Lucey’s spirit felt even colder. He was at a loss. Sitting in his Greensboro, N.C., home, he believed God had anointed him to use his sports medicine training on the national level, and he could no longer ignore the burden within. It had consumed him for too long, and now he was certain of its meaning: there was something more that God wanted him to accomplish.

“I felt like I wasn’t using what God had developed in me professionally,” said Lucey of his burden. “I’d had this great training and had anticipated being a team doctor for a big university, but that wasn’t the position I was in.”

His spiritual unrest compelled Lucey to act. Right there in his house he surrendered his desires to Christ and prayed, “Lord, I really would like to use my sports medicine training to make an impact for You. It seems that soccer would be a natural fit—perhaps even with our national team. I give my desire to You, Lord…”

There was no audible voice, no beam of light, no direct response to confirm that his prayer was heard; but three months later, there was a phone call.

Whitehill had felt the calling but had needed an extra push. She took action the very next day. A team Bible study was organized in “Doc’s” room, and, by the week’s end, six players were attending.

Lucey picked up the receiver to the voice of Dr. Bill Garrett Jr., who had been the one to administer the test Lucey took to pass the N.C. boards in 2000. Garrett was serving as the U.S. men’s soccer team doctor, and the reason for his call nearly blew Lucey away.

“Dr. Garrett asked if I was interested in getting involved with U.S. Soccer. … Amazing, huh?”

 Whitehill had felt the calling but had needed an extra push. She took action the very next day. A team Bible study was organized in “Doc’s” room, and, by the week’s end, six players were attending.

Lucey couldn’t remember life apart from athletics. He recalled hours dedicated to dribbling soccer balls around his backyard as a child in Raleigh and sharpening his skills throughout high school. After all his hard work, it came as no surprise when he became a standout college defender for the Clemson Tigers and later professionally for the USL’s Charleston Battery.

After completing medical school, he’d hoped to couple his athletic experience with his sports medicine fellowship to help—and, as a Christian, to minister to—athletes as a university team doctor. With a great career and a quality degree, he’d thought that kind of job would be an automatic.

But he was wrong. Post-graduation, Lucey found the job search to be harder than he expected.

Hoping to work with either Clemson or North Carolina State, he instead followed what he felt was the Lord’s leading and accepted a position as an orthopedic surgeon, settling his family in Greensboro. That move became clear as God’s plan after his aforementioned phone conversation with Garrett. The door of opportunity swang open. By March 2004, Lucey was volunteering on the sidelines of the Olympic qualifying matches in Costa Rica with the women’s national soccer team working as a team physician.

#4 Cat Whitehill

“It was exciting,” said Lucey, who, after serving as the FCA Huddle President at Clemson, has now progressed to become the Central North Carolina FCA Board Chairman. “It’s always neat when God brings two things together. And sports medicine and soccer coming together at a high level like that—it’s real fun.”

But this fun came at a price. Lucey had taken personal leave from his practice and sacrificed time with his family in order to volunteer with the team. He knew there had to be a spiritual aspect to his new position that would justify his continued involvement.

Lucey’s own life had been forever changed by those who had reached out to athletes with the gospel. He had become a Christian during junior high while attending FCA Camp in Black Mountain, N.C., where he later served as a Huddle Leader for several summers before eventually returning with his family as the camp doctor. After such a positive impact, he wanted to provide that same opportunity to the U.S. Women’s National Team. The question remained: How?

Again Lucey looked heavenward: “Lord, this experience has been fun, but it’s tough to leave my family and practice. If You want me doing this, open the door for ministry so that I can see plainly that You want me here. If You want to do something with this team, I’m here to help.”

Again, God provided within weeks. While at the 2006 Algarve Cup in Portugal, one of the team’s key defensive players, Cat Reddick Whitehill, approach Lucey with a concern. She was disheartened with her performance and her focus as a Christian athlete.

“Cat was struggling,” said Lucey. “She had just gotten married and missed one of the key tournaments. The coach had taken her out of the starting lineup, and she was discouraged, wondering why she was even on the team. Even though there were a couple of Christians on the team, there really wasn’t much fellowship.”

Whitehill had reached a breaking point.

“I had gotten to the place where I was like, ‘What am I doing this for? Why am I doing this?’” She recalled. “I was questioning my love for soccer and knew I needed someone who not only understood soccer, but also my faith, and who was older—someone to be an outside onlooker and to give advice from that perspective.”

After several hours of discussion, Lucey offered his advice to Whitehill. And straight-up honesty was the best answer.

 “I now try to recognize where He is at work and join Him; and I try not to miss the opportunities that are directly around me.”
He explained that she was on the team to bring glory to God. She’d had the success of gold medals and was in great health. The negative feelings were just feelings, temporary emotions that would eventually pass. Her focus and attention, he said, should be directed elsewhere. He pointed out that the team lacked a spiritual leader, and Whitehill was more than qualified.

Immediately her inner fire was sparked. The doctor’s words were true: the team was in desperate need of spiritual guidance. Whitehill had felt the calling but had needed an extra push. She took action the very next day. A team Bible study was organized in “Doc’s” room, and, by the week’s end, six players were attending. This was an answer to prayer.

“I have spent a lot of time as the chairman of our FCA board here in North Carolina,” said Lucey. “I try to plan out how ministry is to take place. So, when I went to Portugal and Cat just walked into my door, it was nothing I concocted or planned. It sort of hit me square between the eyes. God put me in a place where there was ministry to be done, and He used me in that.”

Recalled Whitehill, “I knew God wanted me on the team, but I had kind of lost sight of it. I needed Dr. Lucey to help me look back at why God wanted me here: to be a ministry for Him, to glorify Him on and off the soccer field. After meeting with Dr. Lucey, I started feeling joy with soccer again and playing with freedom.”

Her rediscovered love for soccer was reflected in Whitehill’s on-field performance. She came in at halftime during the next game and regained her starting position. She wouldn’t give it up for the rest of the tournament.

Lucey and the attendees of the U.S.
National Team’s Bible study
“It doesn’t always happen that way,” said Whitehill of her experience. “You don’t always earn that starting position right away. But it was nice to know that when I regained perspective, God saw that and wanted me to do well and be there at that moment.”

As for the Bible study, it continues to grow. Throughout training for the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup, there have been as many as 13 teammates out of 24 who have attended the studies and who are growing on many different levels.

“It is encouraging to have other believers to go to and share some of your struggles,” said veteran midfielder Marci Jobson, a study attendee. “It has helped in dealing with the pressures and stress of a very competitive job. It helps me keep things in perspective and maintain a sense of peace.”

 Added Whitehill, “When you are in a small community, you can be vulnerable with one another. We come together and talk about how we can make the team or ourselves better through Christ. It has strengthened me individually and given me confidence.”

The opportunity for a study proved to be the direct result of one man’s prayer to be used by God. By surrendering his talents and career, Lucey was given a higher platform and placed in the paths of others who needed to hear what he had to say.

“I grew up an athlete, turned into a medical student, and now I am a doctor,” said Lucey. “All those things require discipline and hard work. Sometimes I would take the same approach to ministry; but having this experience with the women’s national team reminded me that God is at work all around me. I now try to recognize where He is at work and join Him; and I try not to miss the opportunities that are directly around me.”

“You have people [next to you every day] who want to grab hold of something,” echoed Whitehill. “So many people think you have to go to the ends of the earth to find a ministry when it is right there in front of you.”

Marci Miller Jobson
Born: Dec. 4, 1975
• Alma Mater: Southern Methodist
• Position: Midfielder
• Also serves as head coach for Northern Illinois University.
• First trained with WNT in 1997.

 Cat Reddick Whitehill
Born: Feb. 10, 1982
• Alma Mater: University of
North Carolina
• Position: Defender
• U.S. Women’s National Team since 2000
• WNT Career Caps/Goals: 108/11

*For more stories about faith and sport, visit, the official magazine of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. 

Photos courtesy U.S. Soccer