“I put sport on a pedestal,” admits Hunter Hall.

“Pole vaulting was everything to me. It was where I gained success from, where I gained approval from, where I looked for love, respect, adoration. It was what provided all those things for me.”

Temporarily, the All-American vaulter from Virginia Tech University found those things. But he soon figured out it wouldn’t last long. Fortunately, Hall found a place to gain the acceptance he sought more permanently: in a relationship with Jesus Christ.

“It didn’t matter whether I was an All American or whether I was nothing, I was accepted as I am because God loves me and sent His Son to die for me,” says Hall, a native of Fort Wayne, Ind.

Hall, who graduated from VTU in March 2011, is in graduate school finishing out his last semester of eligibility with the track andfield team. He is currently serving with Athletes in Action in a part-time capacity with campus director Tom Williams and seeing the opportunity to pour his life into other students who need to learn the same lessons Hall once learned.

The old life

“When I came to college, I continued seeking love, adoration, praise not only from my sport but also from those around me. It led me into a life of sin. I became wrapped up in parties, drinking, women… things that separated me from God. Things that put me in a state of brokenness,” Hall recalls.

After getting involved in AIA his sophomore year, Hall began to see that the knowledge of God he had as a high school student had to take root in his heart to really make a difference.

“After realizing I was accepted by God, I also saw that the sin had to stop because it would continue to separate me from God. My life had to have a change in it,” he says. “I asked God to start to change the desires of my heart to line up with the desires He had for my life. As I grew in community with other believers, God began to show me that He could use me to change other people’s lives the way He had changed my life.”

Pouring into others

Though he has been faithful to AIA for several years, Hall calls himself more of a behind-the-scenes guy who prefers serving others to being in spotlight leadership roles. But he jumped at the chance to share the truth he had learned with other athletes in the group. One of those was Matt Hoogland, then a freshman pole vaulter at Virginia Tech.

“When I met my teammate Matt, I saw a lot of myself in him,” he says. “I saw God showing me to move into his life and help Matt experience God in the same ways I had through Jesus Christ, so he can experience the same realities that Jesus Christ allows us—to live fully and accepted in Him.”

Hoogland said the experience opened his eyes to the freedom that a relationship with Jesus can bring to the stress-laden world of college athletics.

“When I got to Virginia Tech, I just kept going on with the same life I was living in high school. I was still idolizing my sport and seeking acceptance of all the people and my peers and trying to impress them and do things that would make me more appealing,” Hoogland says.

‘Something different’

“When I first met Hunter, I saw an excellent pole vaulter… that was exactly where I wanted to be. I noticed that although we were very similar, there was something different between us. We both had an extreme passion for pole vaulting. But there was something he had in front of pole vault. He didn’t idolize pole vault like I did; he idolized God.”

Hall introduced Hoogland to AIA and then to what it meant to have a real relationship with Jesus. But it took a rock bottom experience to convince Hoogland to take that next step.

“I woke up one morning feeling awful about everything, and I sat down and wrote a letter apologizing to God. I asked Him to give me the power to put those things down,” he recalls. “In trusting Christ, I’ve gained acceptance from the Lord, and that is so much greater than seeking acceptance from my peers.

Though he is just a sophomore now, the Springfield, Va., native knows there has been true transformation in his life through Christ.

“I just feel like a void has been filled in my life, that hole that I felt earlier when I was seeking everything through my idols. Now I feel like there’s life change,” he says. “I feel like I’m free to enjoy these things that He’s given me, these athletic gifts, and I feel like I don’t need to seek the acceptance of anyone I’m competing against or the crowd.

“I’m competing for God, and He’s the only one that needs to accept me.”

Hall credits AIA leaders Williams and Andy Rhodenbaugh as critical in his growth both spiritually and personally, and for being advisors during tough times. As a member of the staff now, he is enjoying seeing the growth of the AIA group at Virginia Tech, both in numbers and in students truly committing to being trained in their faith.

“We’re seeing them want to connect one-to-one with us, instead of us asking them, and that’s very unusual,” Hall said. “We’re seeing the climate change at the school.”

By Teresa Young

From http://www.athletesinaction.org/news/post/2012/06/19/Virginia-Tech-Pole-Vaulter-Mentoring-Others-After-Experiencing-Life-Change.aspx

Hunter Hall

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