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Wrestlers get mat, life lessons at FCA camp
FCA Summer Wrestling Camp Nearly 450 wrestlers from Georgia, South Carolina, Florida, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia and Pennsylvania are attending the wrestling camp at Shorter’s Winthrop-King Centre.
Posted: Friday, June 12, 2015 3:18 am | Updated: 3:20 am, Fri Jun 12, 2015.
Each day this week, hundreds of middle and high school wrestlers are filling the gymnasium inside Shorter University’s Winthrop-King Centre to learn from world-class clinicians during the Fellowship of Christian Athletes Summer Wrestling Camp.
Nearly 450 wrestlers from Georgia, South Carolina, Florida, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia and Pennsylvania are attending the camp that teaches the basics of the sport through a combination of technique training and competitive time, while also sharing the message of Jesus Christ.
Camp director Bill Gifford said the two-session camp, which runs through today, offers a valuable physical and spiritual opportunity for everyone from the coaches to their student athletes.
“The vision of FCA Wrestling is to impact the wrestling world for the Lord, and its mission is to encourage and build coaches and athletes with the gospel,” he said.
“When they come and see the quality of our program and they hear the message of our speakers, it touches lives. It’s the word of God at their level; it’s relevant to their lives, and we speak their language.”
Shorter University wrestling coach Josh Henson, a former NCAA All-American at the University of Pennsylvania, is teaching several sessions during the camp. He said the FCA camp’s goals align perfectly with Shorter’s mission of transforming lives through Christ.
“We are able to share the Gospel, and at the same time we are teaching these athletes elite-level techniques while exposing them to national clinicians who are Olympians and coaches of national championship teams,” Henson said.
This year’s clinicians include John Azevedo, an NCAA champion who also represented the United States in the 1980 Olympics; Mike McArthur, a three-time NCAA All-American who coached for the U.S. Olympic team; and Tom Ryan, a two-time NCAA All-American and current coach at Ohio State, which recently won the 2015 NCAA Division I National Championship in wrestling.
“All of our clinicians are world-class and are exceptional coaches,” Gifford said. “We want to have great coaches on the mats giving a great product at a great price — with a meaningful message to go along with it. That’s our philosophy.”
Sam Snider, wrestling coach at Gilmer High School in Ellijay brought 15 members of his team to Shorter University for the wrestlers’ first FCA camp.
“There is a great atmosphere here with good, quality coaches and people, so the kids are learning more than just the technique involved in wrestling. If you lose the character aspect of the sport, it all goes down the drain. Basically, unless Christ is in the center, it’s never going to last, and they’re seeing that here this week,” he said.
Snider, who has coached the GHS wrestling team to 15 state championship wins since 2005, said he spoke to a former colleague who attended the camp’s first session earlier this week.
“He called me yesterday and told me we were going to love it and that it was a great experience for him and his team,” Snider said. “I’ve had some very high-quality coaches tell me this would be a great place to come, and they were right.”
Taking the time to minister to the student athletes is an essential component of the FCA Wrestling Camp; however, another primary element to each session is making an impact in the coaches’ spiritual lives as well.
“Probably our most important ministry is to the coaches because when you reach a coach and help him grow in his faith, you impact somebody whose life is going to touch hundreds of kids for years and years and years,” Camp Director Gifford said. “The coach is the real influencer, and when he is walking with the Lord and being a strong, positive impact on his athletes’ lives, he will impact thousands of lives during his career.”
Gifford said the camp experience is just a portion of an ongoing relationship the FCA maintains with the student athletes and their coaches throughout the school year. He said the Fellowship of Christian Athletes offers devotional materials designed specifically for wrestlers, and many teams go on to hold Bible studies for their athletes throughout the school year.
“The great thing is that they love what they see and hear at camp, and they want to stay involved,” he said. “So we keep them involved through staying in touch. It doesn’t end after camp; this is the beginning. We had about 80 teams throughout the Southeast — over 40 from here in Georgia — that did weekly team Bible studies through FCA Huddles on the wrestling mats at their schools once a week this past year. This camp is just the start of great things for these teams, and we are happy to provide the opportunity to grow as athletes and Christians
A big thanks goes to all of our ministry partners who helped provide scholarship funding, donated their time to help with camps, and prayed for our ministry this past summer. The vision of FCA Wrestling is “To impact the WRESTLING COMMUNITY for JESUS CHRIST”, through our mission, to INFLUENCE and BUILD COACHES and WRESTLERS with the GOSPEL.