Matt Costello is a 6-9 forward on the MSU basketball team. We’ve been pleased to have Matt attend URC when he’s at school (and he’s not on the road). Earlier in the year, Matt and his teammate Travis Trice spoke to our college group about their faith in Christ. Matt was kind enough to sit down and answer a few questions with me before he finishes the school year.

Hi Matt. Thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions about your life as a student, a Christian, and a basketball player. Why don’t you start by telling us a little bit about yourself. Where are you from? What are you studying? What are your plans for this summer?

Sure, as you said already my name is Matt Costello. I am from Linwood, MI. Right now I am studying Interdisciplinary Studies with an emphasis on Economics. This summer I plan on staying in East Lansing to take classes and workout with the team.

Before I get to some questions about your faith, let’s talk basketball. Congratulations on a great tournament run. Honestly, did you think you guys would make it to the Final Four?

Thank you very much. It was such a blast. Honestly, I did. Our motto all summer was Indy. It was our goal from the start and even though we had to work through a couple of rough spots we still believed we would make it to the Final Four. Being able to play basketball on a stage as big as the Final Four was a dream come true.

How do you think you improved most as a player? What are you hoping to work on for next year?

The way I improved most this year was becoming more confident in what I do. Oddly enough the thing that I need to work on for this upcoming year is still confidence. This summer I will be getting as many repetitions as possible so I have greater confidence for what I am doing next year as a senior. I need to polish up a few of my moves.

What’s it like playing for someone as revered and respected as Tom Izzo?

Playing for Coach Izzo was one of the big reasons that I came to Michigan State. Coach pushes his players to be better than they ever thought possible. His results speak for themselves. I wanted to be a part of that from the get go so I was bought in.

How did you become a Christian? How have you grown in your faith since coming to college?

I was raised in a good church with amazing parents. Faith in Christ was easy. Being a Christian at a school like MSU is not as easy. I’ve grown in my faith in college by making it more my own. What I mean by that is growing up I just listened to my parents and believed what they believed. Since I came to college my parents have been more removed. I now have to research things for myself in the Bible and understand why I do certain things. Figuring things out in the Bible for myself has made my personal relationship with the Lord more real.

From the outside your life as a big time college athlete at a big time basketball program can look pretty glamorous. What are some of the difficulties or pressures that may surprise people?

Most people don’t realize the amount of time away from family, friends and church that happens during the season and how big of an impact that can have on an athlete’s will. We only get a couple days off during the entire season and most our families live a long way away. We do not get the opportunity to see them very often. Most Sundays we are either playing a game, traveling or in a required team meeting. Being committed to a church is very tough. This wears on your spirit and makes it tough to get through the season.

What are some of the spiritual challenges or temptations you face as a Christian student-athlete?

The biggest challenge I face, and I know this might sound strange, is that women aren’t shy about coming up to me. I am very fortunate to have a girlfriend that keeps me in check, but it is still difficult when lots of people know your name and want to be near you. I have found the most helpful way to fight temptation is by putting myself in good situations. This can mean I will lose some respect with my teammates because I will not go partying with them, but in the end they get over it because they know I still care for them.

How does the gospel make a difference in how you play basketball and how you think about every facet of the game (e.g., wins, losses, competition, practice, conflict, the media)?

The gospel puts things in perspective. When I’m coming home at night and I have doubts or questions with my performance I’ll start praying to God. He almost always makes me realize it is just a game. My ultimate identity is not found in what Coach thinks of me or how many times a ball goes through a hoop. My identity securely rests in the blood of Jesus. On top of that, the struggles I am going through are nothing compared to what He or other people have gone through. Being a college athlete might be stressful, but I’m also living the dream of so many. I shouldn’t complain. This helps the stress go away and gives me the ability me assess the situation better than I previously would have.

How can readers of this blog pray for you?

I would just ask that they pray for a revival on the team. It feels like a few guys are teetering on the brink of becoming Christians. We have had some great conversations in the locker room. A lot of the guys have good spiritual questions and they want to keep talking. Please pray for the right words to come out of the mouths of the Christians. And please pray that my teammates would take heart to what we are saying.