In late July student athletes from Southwind, Oakhaven and Fairley High Schools lodged, ate, scrimmaged and learned about life at two churches in Collierville.
Central Church and First Baptist Church of Collierville partnered with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes for their annual sports team camp, where they immerse student athletes in workshops to hone skills in football and life.
The Town of Collierville pitches in for the annual camps, too, by providing fields where the teams can scrimmage. Interim Parks Director Greg Clark said that the first year the Town participated in the camps they turned a softball field into a football field for the teams to use for practice. Now the FCA campers are able to use the two synthetic turf fields at Johnson Park.
Ken Johnson is on staff at FCA and has been working with the camps for about 10 years, and Sam Nichols is an Executive Pastor at Collierville First Baptist and has been involved with the camps for about the same amount of time. Both enjoy the opportunity to pour into the lives of young people who may rarely get an opportunity to leave their own immediate environment.
And they help them map a plan for their future lives, as well.
"A lot of times when these kids start out as freshmen, they’re thinking ‘I have to go to Division One!’ So we bring them in and say, if this is your goal, this is how many credits you need to have going into your sophomore year to ultimately reach that goal," said Johnson.
"We take a holistic approach to the camps, and include training in football, relationships, communication and how to dress. Sometimes we have academic sessions as well, and we use the weekend as an opportunity to share the Gospel," said Nichols.
The Collierville churches were two of eight sites in the Memphis area for the FCA camps. Both Johnson and Nichols can rattle off the names of numerous high schools in the area which have sent students to the camps in Collierville.
"You name a school in the city and there is a chance that they have been through one of our two churches," said Nichols.