Learning sports while glorifying Christ: FCA camp this week in Albert Lea

Published 5:39 am Friday, June 9, 2023

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There were 225 students running around Albert Lea High School Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and it wasn’t because there was school. It was because of a Christian sports camp.

According to John Conway, field associate for South Central Minnesota Fellowship of Christian Athletes, this year’s theme was  “Greater,” from John 3:30, which says, “He [Christ] must increase, but I must decrease.”

“We take that kind of main theme, and we have some mini themes each day and use those teaching points for all the sports clinics, and for the rally time and for the fun factor of camp, too,” Conway said.

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The camp was for students entering third through eighth grade, with high school students serving as staff/huddle leaders. There were also 20 to 30 coaches teaching.

The goal of these camps, the third in Albert Lea, is to bring faith into sport.

“We want kids to learn about Christ as our ultimate role model, and a key word for FCA is ‘influence,’” he said. “We want our coaches to influence the campers toward Christ, and our ultimate role model is Christ.”

“We’re a group of students in Albert Lea and surrounding communities that gather to support one another as we grow in our faith and learn more about the Lord and how we can glorify him and in our sport and also just live out our faith in our sport or activity,” said Mollee Tscholl, Albert Lea FCA coordinator.

Camp ran from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Following a large-group talk, students participated in clinic time, which consisted of playing different sports from 10 a.m. to noon and included football, baseball/softball, wrestling, tennis, soccer and volleyball, among others.

Participants then had lunch with their huddle small groups, before everyone gathered for a rally at the auditorium.

“[The rally] is a big, large group time,” Conway said. “We have a speaker each day  — a former coach or an athlete — they talk about both sport and Biblical faith.”

Following the rally, there were songs and skits before students ended the day with Dogpatch Olympics.

According to Conway, Dogpatch Olympics included “crazy” games such as kickball while running baseball bases backwards. The Dogpatch Olympics were broken down into three leagues: Rookie (students entering third and fourth grades), Minor (students entering fifth and sixth grades) and Major (students entering seventh and eighth grades). Teams within each league competed against each other, with prizes awarded at the end of the camp. 

Thursday afternoon there was also a video and recap of the camp for parents, and the camp closed with ice cream 

“This camp, we’re really combining faith and sports,” Tscholl said. “We do a lot of different activities, the kids get to choose different sports to participate in in the mornings, they can try new sports.”

Titus Hartman, a homeschooled student who played soccer, basketball and track, participated in the football clinic Tuesday and the soccer clinic Wednesday.

“It’s really fun and you get to hang out with your friends and glorify God,” he said. 

Hartman has been involved in these camps for years.

“It’s a really fun environment,” he said. “You get to play, you get to do sports and you get to hang out with your friends.

Joseph Yoon helped oversee hockey and soccer.

Yoon had participated in similar camps as a youth out of town, and said he thought these camps provided a good example of connecting faith with sports.

“I feel like I can make an impact and help other kids to understand how you connect the two,” he said.

Drew Teeter played basketball and golf in high school. To that effect, he oversaw basketball Tuesday and golf Wednesday and Thursday.

“We had a lot of kids show up to golf,” he said. “[Wednesday] was packed, about four groups of 15 students.”

This was Teeter’s second year helping with the camp.

“It’s really taught me that I have better leadership skills than I thought I had, and that teaching kids is fun.”

Besides Albert Lea, camps have been held in Mankato, Waseca and other local areas. FCA camps have been around since 1956.

“The camps work, just by the fact they’re growing,” Conway said. “It shows that it’s meeting a need, people want to hear about things of God, they want to get better at their sport.”

Tscholl said she didn’t have any expectations for the camp.

“I just leave it with the Lord, and I trust that God is going to do what he’s going to do,” she said.