Nine Hope College student-athletes enjoyed a rewarding challenge to their physical capabilities and Christian faiths last month while participating in Athletes In Action’s Ultimate Training Camp in Denver, Colorado.
The Ultimate Training Camp is a high-intensity sports camp for college and pro athletes where the issue of how to blend faith and sport together on the field of competition is tackled.
The camp teaches athletes five Biblical Principles and allows them to test those truths in a 20-hour sports marathon known as The S.P.E.C.I.A.L., Scriptural Principles + Exhaustion = Confidence In the Almighty Lord. Its goal is to help athletes in every nation understand how the gospel impacts their sport and life.
Hope’s participants included basketball and soccer player Elizabeth Perkins, soccer players Lindsay Kooy, Murphy Stadelmaier and Allie Wittenbach, lacrosse players Grant Brogan and Liam Turley, basketball player Victoria Swift, tennis player Grant Wunderlich, and hockey player Jay Niewenhuis.
They were joined by Hope student Rachel Gillespie. She is the daughter of two Athletes in Action staff members.
Wunderlich said God spoke to him and every athlete at the Ultimate Training Camp.
“He showed me that he loves me and that there is power and freedom in Christ. I no longer need to worry about my performance out on the tennis court and what others may think of me based on how I play. God loves and accepts me — no matter if I win or lose or how good or bad I play,” Wunderlich said. “God also showed me that sports are way more than winning, losing or competing. Although none of those things are bad, God has given us sports as a tool to worship and glorify him.
“My focus now is to do exactly that though practice, competition and other athletics. If I can worship and glorify God, that is how I can “win”. If I end up winning whatever I am actually competing at, that's just a bonus.”
Stadelmaier said the experience also changed her faith both on and off the field.
“I learned that what motivated me in sports was not what it should be if I want to play with faith. I should not be motivated by my coaches, my parents, or even how I want to play,” Stadelmaier said. “However, now I believe I will be playing for a better reason. I want to give it all to the One who gave it all for me — and play with Him.
“The camp also bolstered my Christian faith off the field. I was surrounded by amazing role models with strong faiths. Now I want to know God on a more intimate level and have more of a relationship with Him. Our college careers are only four years, so it is essential we don’t rotate our lives and wellbeing off of sports because they may be gone in an instant. God is that constant that we have the can have in our lives. His constant strength and love is what I experienced during the Ultimate Training Camp and it comforts me to know I will have that for the rest of my life.”
The S.P.E.C.I.A.L. made a significant impact in particular, Perkins said.
Campers participated in a variety of competitive activities over a 20-hour span with a little rest, including basketball, kickball, swimming, relay running and tug of war. They completed the event with 12 half-mile runs with 2x4s over their shoulders, known as the Golgotha.
“On your way, you put the pain behind and put into perspective Christ’s suffering for us. The goal is to break you, push you to an end physically that you have to rely on Christ and his strength to get through it,” Perkins said. “That’s a small fraction of the suffering he’s done for us. It’s just crazy. It’s super challenging but so rewarding. An amazing experience.”