A time for praise and play

MARSHALL – For the second straight year, participation rose significantly as 215 children took part in a full day’s worth of activities at the third annual Marshall Area Fellowship of Christian Athletes Junior Sports Clinic Wednesday at Marshall High School.

The one-day camp is for young athletes in grades 3-8 who want to strengthen their walk with Jesus Christ and develop their skills in sports.

“That’s been our goal from the very beginning, that these kids become closer to Christ from this camp, and secondly, they become better athletes, in that order,” FCA camp director Robin Knudson said.

Knudson noted that the event had gone very smoothly, from beginning to end.

“It’s been a great day,” she said. “Kevin and Kelly Andrews are back, and they are emcees for the day. They’ve taken this to a new level, with energy and excitement. It’s been great.”

As the junior sports clinic has grown, so has the number of different sports that have been offered. Athletes had the opportunity to pick from six this year. Volleyball, basketball and football have been offered all three years, while baseball and softball were added last year and cross country this year.

“I’m here because I wanted to get closer to God and get better at basketball,” ninth-grader Josh Gross said. “It’s fun. I’m learning a lot.”

A total of 54 high school and college students served as “huddle leaders” for the day, engaging with the young athletes in prayer, play and praise. More than 20 other students and adults assisted where needed.

“It’s fun for everyone to get involved,” Knudson said. “It’s exciting. The fire is lit. One of the prayers this morning was that God would light a fire in all of us that can’t burn out. I think it’s happening.”

Brad Bigler and Allison Kruger, head coaches for the men’s and women’s basketball program at Southwest Minnesota State University, were among more than a dozen coaching staff volunteers. The duo led basketball drills and short competitions throughout the day for the kids who selected basketball.

Spencer Ehlers outlasted his competitor in the defensive dribbling game, while Hailee Fischer, an eighth-grader from West Central, also won, eventually swatting the basketball away from second-place finisher Natalie Sample.

“That was fun,” Fischer said.

Fischer was among a group of 12 who attended the camp from Hartford, S.D.

“Our FCA group found out about this event, so we thought we’d come to it,” she said. “I wanted to explore more about God, and I thought it would be fun.”

First-year volunteer coaches included Nate Wolf, head women’s and men’s cross country coach at SMSU, and Chace Pollock, who took over head baseball coaching duties at MHS this spring.

“Because Steve Fleck left, Coach Pollock is taking over the day,” Knudson said. “He’s impressive. He’s been a good addition to the camp.”

Pollock said he was more than happy to help out.

“It’s great to be a part of this,” he said. “I’m enjoying it as much as the kids are.”

In addition to sports clinic time, athletes also participated in huddle time and quiet time. The theme this year was “Relentless.”

“We wanted the kids to know that God loves them so much,” Knudson said. “He pursues you. The second part of our theme that we wanted these kids to know is that they also need to pursue God. It goes both ways.”

Dog Patch Olympics, which are organized by FCA staff from Waseca and Owatonna, were a hit again this year.

“It’s a big team effort,” Knudson said.

The Olympic activities included Frisbee tosses, dodge ball, bowling with an enormous bowling ball and pin and other user-friendly competitions.

“I’m having a good time,” seventh-grader Kianna Prins said.

After a parent program and ice cream social, a free concert featuring Coffey Anderson, an American singer-songwriter, was set to take place at MHS. Coffey was well-received earlier in the day when he served as a worship leader and speaker.

“The kids loved it,” Knudson said. “One of the huddle leaders said after the noon program, ‘Robin, I wasn’t going to come to the concert tonight, but after I saw him, I decided I was coming. He’s awesome.’ So we’re expecting God to show up and do great things throughout the evening.”