The cover story in the September issue of the NCCatholics, “Formed in Faith,” featured stories on five Catholics involved in college athletics in the Diocese of Raleigh. The series continues as we showcase other Catholic men and women “Formed in Faith,” whose faith lives play an important role in who they are as individuals and in their professional lives in working with young adults. We continue our online series with Coach Charles Stephenson.
Coach Charles Stephenson
Strength and Conditioning
As the youngest of eight, Charles Stephenson understands how a solid foundation can lift a team. Stephenson was raised Catholic in a one-stoplight town named Wakefield in southeastern Virginia. The family parish, Shrine of the Infant of Prague, was so small it had only one weekend Mass, on Sunday mornings at 8:00 am. Stephenson fondly remembers his devout mother Anna and her efforts each Sunday morning. “Getting to Mass was quite a feat for my mother,” Stephenson said. “Sometimes the priest would wait for us to get seated before starting Mass!”
Stephenson served as an altar boy from the ages of 9-12 and remembers the feelings of awe and greatness of the importance of the service. Due to the small size of the parish, he attended CCD in the town of Franklin at St. Jude Catholic Church, 30 miles away.
A graduate of the College of William and Mary, Stephenson worked for the University of Virginia as an instructor while earning his Master’s Degree in Strength Training from the University of Virginia. In 1992, he married his wife, Diane, who also had a degree in athletic training. He admits that, like many young adults, he drifted away from active participation in the Church, but says it did not stop him from praying regularly. He credits his wife with bringing him back to the Church.
From 1994-96, Stephenson worked as head strength and conditioning coach for men’s and women’s basketball teams at Auburn University. He and his wife came to Raleigh in 1996, where he worked with the men’s basketball team under Coach Herb Sendek. They registered at St. Luke Catholic Church in Raleigh when they arrived. Msgr. David D. Brockman, now Vicar General of the Diocese, was Pastor at the time and baptized their first child, Tyler. While working at NC State, Stephenson said he had the opportunity to get to know Fr. Dan Kenna, O.F.M, who was Pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church and team chaplain to the basketball team. Today, Charles and Diane are members of St. Francis Church along with their four children. His current role at NC State is handling strength and conditioning for women’s basketball and softball.
Coach Stephenson says his faith and job are intertwined. “I have this nickname, ‘Rock,’” he says. “It was given to me by former basketball player Damien Wilkins in 1999, and it stuck to this day. When the athletes call me ‘Rock,’ they mean in a Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson sort of way; the actor and former wrestler, since I help build up their bodies. But I interpret it differently,” he said. “To me, it means steady, strong and having a solid foundation that is based on my faith. I try to exemplify that in my marriage and my family, and I try to be mindful every day of how I can help the young adults with whom I work not only to sharpen their physical attributes but all of their God-given gifts.”