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Competition Is the Name of the Game
U. S. A. | APOSTOLATE | NEWS
How the SportsLeader Team Camp is forging stronger teams and stronger men.

Manual
The Manual High School football team at their SportsLeader Team Camp.

July 2, 2009. Oldenburg, IN. As the SportsLeader program has grown in the past few years, it has been making great strides toward building stronger, more united teams. One of its most effective activities lately has been the SportsLeader Team Camp, a bonding experience built around the mystique of competition.
 
On May 9-10, the first team to attend the camp came in from Manual High School, a public school in downtown Louisville, Kentucky, arrived at camp with a total of 49 football players, 5 coaches and 6 dads.

“Things got off to a challenging start,” notes Lou Judd, the regional director of SportsLeader in the Ohio Valley. As the boys were loading the buses in Louisville, a tornado warning was issued amidst a torrential downpour, delaying their departure by 2 hours.

Meanwhile up at the camp, Fr Matthew, Br Darren, Fr Tom Weisbrod and Lou Judd were praying Hail Marys as the rain continued to pour down.
 
“It did not look good,” said Lou. “Visions of 49 football players trapped in a gym all weekend looking at me for entertainment were not particularly comforting.”

The boys finally arrived that evening around 8:30. Since Camp River Ridge sits atop a
after the hill
After conquering the hill or battling the Navy Seal "Don't Quit" Challenge, everyone felt as "tired as the black dog." (Hence the tongues.)
steep hill, the buses had to park down at the entrance and the boys had to walk up the mile-long driveway to the camp.

But spirits were high and all made it to the top alive, including a freshman on crutches who had hurt his ankle prior to the camp and yet insisted on "walking" up the hill with the rest of the guys.

Once the boys had arrived at the camp, they were told, “Welcome to the middle of nowhere” – to which one boy responded, “So this is where the middle of nowhere is. Cool.”
 
The boys were divided up into four teams for the duration of the camp: Offensive Line, Offensive Backs, Defensive Line, and Defensive Backs. The competition was about to begin. This was what they had come for, and this was exactly what they were craving after 2 hours of waiting and 2 hours of sitting on a bus.
 
“They were ecstatic,” said Lou. “Pumped is not the word— these guys were dying to compete. And compete they did.”

The first competition was to set up their gear and set up the cots. The boys did this in record time. The next competition was to
tug of war
A tug of war between the offensive and defensive teams.
see which group could gather the most firewood in 2 minutes 30 seconds.
 
“I began to fear for the forest,” commented Lou. “I think they gathered enough wood for a week.” Meanwhile, the sky continued to look gray and threatening.

The next challenge was unplanned, but the boys tackled it anyway with equal gusto: the lawnmower had gotten stuck in the mud. They brought in the truck to get it out, but then the truck got stuck too. With 49 football players and 1 serious tug-of-war rope, the problem was solved in 10 minutes: truck and mower were both free, and the boys were rejoicing as if they had just won the national championship.

After some games of dodgeball and tug-of-war, the boys went down into the “basement” of the main building for a formation session: an intro movie clip, a short talk, a small-group discussion, group presentations, and goal setting.

Another unplanned surprise was waiting for them when they emerged: instead of rain, they were greeted by a clear, starlit sky and a full moon: perfect weather for the bonfire.  The gift of perfect weather did not go unnoticed. Looking up at the sky, one young man said, "This
The football team from Eastern Hancock High during a formation session
The football team from Eastern Hancock High during a formation session at their SportsLeader team camp.
is like God saying he knows we´re up here and He´s watching us."

Over S’mores by the warmth of the campfire, the coaches told stories of defining moments in their lives of growing into manhood. After a while some boys stood up and asked permission to speak. Some even shed some tears.

The next morning, one young man said that night had been one of the most amazing experiences of his whole life.

The next day’s events began with breakfast, a formation session, and then more physical challenges. Two groups met down at the bottom of the camp’s exit hill, which is a quarter of a mile straight up – a grueling test for even the most fit of men. The boys’ challenge was to run up it four times – once for each quarter of a football game.

The other two groups had the "Don´t Quit Challenge." Coach Chris Willertz, from Winton Woods High School in Cincinnati, and Lou Judd had set up four stations with different types of physical exercise. At each station, the boys had to keep going in unison with their group until the whistle was blown. Although the challenge was very difficult, not one kid quit all
sharing
A player from Manual High School speaks at the Commitment Ceremony.
weekend. Every single one pulled through and stuck it out with his team.

Afterwards, one young man came up to Coach Willertz and Lou and said, “You guys have taught me that I can do anything in life. I so much wanted to quit after that first time up the hill. There was no way I could do it again, much less 3 more times... but I did. I finished it and so did all my teammates.”

After another formation session and another set of physical challenges, the boys had lunch with skits, a cleanup competition, a tug-of-war, and some time to swim and fish. After the swim, the players got cleaned up and put on their football jerseys for the Commitment Ceremony. The chairs were set up in a big circle and any player that wanted went to the center of the circle and announced out loud what he was going to commit to doing this season in any area of life.
 
Almost every player got up to speak. Some said they promised to host a barbecue at their house to build team unity. One white player promised to spend more time with his black brothers. Another player promised
winners of the weight
Players from Manual High's winning team show off their prize: a weight painted red, with the words "charity, humility, courage" on the rim.
to go to church every Sunday and stay awake. Another promised to get his GPA over a 3.5 and to help any teammate with schoolwork that needed it…

The ceremony concluded with some awards - the offensive and defensive leader awards and the team competition prize. For the competition prize, Assistant Coach Ron Allen painted a weight red with the words “charity, humility, courage” on the rim. 
 
The Manual High School football team was only one of several teams that attended a SportsLeader TEAM camp this year. From June 11-12, the 8-time State Champion football team from Roncalli High School in Indianapolis came to the camp, followed on June 24-25 by a 30-strong team from Eastern Hancock High, a public school east of Indianapolis.
 
For all of these teams, and for those that will come in the future, the SportsLeader Team Camp offers just the right balance of die-hard competition, formation, bonding, and of course… surprises.
 
For more information about what the SportsLeader program has to offer for both athletes and coaches, visit the web site at www.sportsleader.org.


PUBLICATION DATE: 2009-07-06


 
 

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