On June 25, 75 athletes from 13 different states came to Athletes in Action Sports Complex and Retreat Center (AIA SCRC) to start the week of the Ultimate Training Camp (UTC). Many of the students had an awareness that sports and God were connected, but they didn’t exactly know how. Throughout the week they began to see the connection through the teaching and application of five Biblical Principles. These principles helped shift their thinking in the way they played their sport and lived their lives.
Athletes were introduced to topics on playing with an “Audience of one”, rather than worrying about their performance and other’s opinions. They heard about having a motivation that is consistent, not on things that are changing with circumstances. They were taught how to grow in using their platform to honor God, how to deal with suffering in sport and life, and how to think about living for eternity, knowing there is victory beyond competition. At the end of the week the athletes went through a 20 hour sports marathon called the SPECIAL (Scriptural Principles + Exhaustion = Confidence In Almighty Lord). This event makes the kids come to the end of themselves because of how physically, mentally and spiritually exhausted they get, and it allows them to really apply the principles knowing that the Lord will carry them through. It is always amazing to see how the Lord “shows up” and meets these athletes where they are. In total, 28 athletes gave their lives to Christ during the week of UTC. Many who were already in a relationship with the Lord were able to grow in their faith journey as they continued to connect their sport and faith together.
Not only were the students able to train and grow in their sport and faith, but they had the opportunities to participate on our challenge course and team building and go on an outreach to share their faith with others. These elements were challenging in itself because it stretched them outside of their comfort zone. One afternoon 18 campers went to the Greene County Juvenile Detention Center for an afternoon outreach. After a brief tour of the facility, including getting to experience first hand what life is like inside a jail cell, all the juveniles and our students gathered in the outside area. First they played “banana toss” and the students teamed up in pairs with the juveniles, which helped break the ice. Then an AIA leader shared a few minutes about who we were and why we were there, which was to basically hear their story and share ours. Then the students broke up into small groups and we used the “Snap Shot” cards to engage in conversation. We were able to go through the “Connecting with God” booklet or at least give them away in many of the groups. It was an eye-opener for many of our students and hopefully caused their hearts to swell with compassion for these young people.
?The week of UTC has allowed Athletes in Action and Cru High School staff to invest in the lives of young athletes to help build them up in their faith and give them tools to become leaders in their sport and in life. We look forward to seeing the fruit that comes from these week long camps. We trust that AIA college ministry will benefit from the athletes who have been introduced to these principles at a younger age. ??