Lessons from Football Camp

Collins Theater

Yes. They played Playstation on a 10-foot screen.

I wanted them to try one new food each day. After all, on the first day, they passed on the smoked brisket and ate hamburgers and pizza. Since it was all-you-can-eat, it wouldn’t have cost them a thing to try to expand their palates.

I barely saw them the next day, but that night, one of them told me, “Coach, I tried a new food. I didn’t like it.” What was it? “Tofu.”

Sigh. Surely he can make a better choice than that, right? (They did all try Perrier that week. And one of them actually liked it, while another guy said, “See, Coach? This is why I don’t try new foods.”)

This is how we started off a week of football camp.

Football Camp

A few weeks ago, I brought up three Allendale-Fairfax students to football camp at Furman University. One of them is a rising senior, and already has multiple scholarship offers from small schools. Two are only rising freshman, but at 210 and 185 pounds (for the lineman and quarterback, respectively), they caught the eye of other coaches and students.

During the 9 practices over 3 days, these guys learned a lot, and got better at their positions. However, they learned about more that week than just football (and new foods). We had two conversations on the last day in Greenville, where they picked up other lessons.

Lesson 1: The Next Step

After their last practice, they took a campus tour that I set up for them. It wasn’t that I wanted them necessarily to go to Furman (my alma mater), but I wanted them to broaden their horizon, and consider schools that they might not normally think of.

As we left the information session and tour, I explained that picking a college isn’t so much about the college experience. One needs to pick a college (and a major) that will help them get to the next step — a good career.

In the same way, for the rising 9th graders, high school isn’t just about the high school experience; it’s about getting ready for college. I knew they grasped it when one guy said, “It’s like we always need to be thinking ahead.” Exactly.

Lesson 2: Motivation

With a $350 price tag, football camp is not accessible to just anyone. Thankfully, some generous families from Grace Church gave money to cover part of the cost for each guy from Allendale. Additionally, a family hosted all four of us; and since the players were commuters, their cost was further reduced. (But a bigger reason for having them “commute” was to give them a chance to build relationships with their host family.)

As we grabbed lunch one day, I asked them, “Why did one family host you guys all week, and another family give money for you to be able to go to camp?” They thought for a moment and said things like, “Because they like helping people,” and “Because they want kids like us to be able to go to camp.”

I told them that those reasons were true, but that wasn’t all there was to it. “These people are doing this for you guys because they love Jesus. They love Jesus, and that’s why they love and serve others. And whatever you may think about it, I want you to know that Jesus loves you, too.”

The Next Week

Those three young men had a great week. And three more guys went to the football camp the following week. I couldn’t be up there with them, so I sent them up there (friends met us in Columbia).

These guys stayed with another family from Grace Church. They had an informal tour, and another friend drove them back to Columbia for yet another hand-off. I’m sure they felt like a relay baton.

So maybe that was the final lesson learned — that relationships matter and there are people who are eager to serve and love. These six young men were out of their normal comfort zone, staying in a strange city, getting to know a bunch of white people, and eating some strange foods (Tofu? Really?).

Final Word of Thanks

The last couple of weeks of football camp could not have happened without some specific help from friends (not to mention all the support we receive that allow us to be in these guys’ lives):

  • Donors gave over $1100 was reduce the cost of camp
  • Two families each hosted multiple teenage boys for several nights (and treated them to dinner, movies, etc)
  • Friends from Furman who helped me set up campus tours, and studies volunteered as tour guids
  • Dinner one night with a staff member, youth leader, and teenage football player from Grace Church
  • Furman Football staff (including some of my former coaches) who helped me with logistics, and who looked after the guys when I wasn’t with them
  • The couple that picked up the guys (week 2) in Columbia and drove them to Furman on a Sunday morning
  • The man (a mentor of mine) who drove the guys back from Furman to Columbia, and also treated them to lunch at Five Guys and a stop at Williams-Brice Stadium.

Allendale Players at Williams Brice

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