Before any Plant City youths can make an all-star sports team they’ve got to learn the basics.
From July 17 through 21, 23 kids did just that at Faith Lighthouse Church’s Mega Sports Camp, an athletics-heavy twist on the traditional vacation Bible school. The church, located at 3409 Paul Buchman Highway, set up training areas for football, basketball, soccer and cheerleading on its grounds.
"This is more of an opportunity for us to explore something new in the community, something unique,” pastor Matt Francis said. “Typical VBS, a lot of churches do (that) … this is kind of a unique take on it.”
The camp was structured to where each camper could choose which sport they wanted to focus on for the week. Volunteer coaches taught campers the fundamentals of each sport, conducted drills and held friendly scrimmages each day. Campers ate healthy snacks during “halftime” breaks and learned about a famous athlete each night. There are no trophies to be won and there is no sense of competition with the camp, as it focuses on building basic skills and having fun with other campers.
“My favorite thing is just seeing the kids kind of come alive in it,” Francis said. “Especially the kids that may be more shy or more reserved. By the end of the week you see them connecting with their coaches or even with their huddle coaches … by the end of the week, they don’t want it to end.”
In addition to the sports activities, campers got an interactive Bible lesson each night and participated in high-energy songs.
“It’s something that kind of fuses the two together,” Francis says.
Francis, who ran the camp at Venture Church in Cape Coral before coming to Faith Lighthouse this year, sees Mega Sports Camp as both an effective way to get youths excited to go to church and a teaching tool for the playing fields. Between Venture and Faith Lighthouse, this was Francis’s fourth year putting on the camp.
He’s hoping the camp will have the same effect on Plant City youths as it did with Cape Coral youths.
“The first year we did it, I think we had 30, 35 kids. The next year, we were up to 50, 75. Last summer, we had over 100 kids,” Francis said. “Every year, it’s just kind of built on itself.”
The theme of the 2017 camp was “Conquer the Day,” which covered different qualities that apply to both sports and life. The first night, for example, focused on the theme of practice and how important it is to becoming successful.
“If you really want to conquer the day, practice is important,” Francis said. “Every day kind of builds off that theme.”
Francis expanded the camp at Venture to include other, non-sports topics such as drama lessons and cooking. He says future Mega Sports Camps at Faith Lighthouse will offer those and other non-sports programs next year for kids who aren’t big on sports.
“We would do a ‘Mega Sports Camp and More’ … for some kids, it gives them an opportunity to be involved, as well,” Francis said.