Junior Catherine Brusie and sophomore Brianna Harper put their passion for sports and spirituality to the ultimate test this past summer. As Harper said, the two students had to keep in mind “what you do it for, who you play for.”
The Athletes in Action Ultimate Training Camp tested the women, and about 150 other student-athletes, mentally and physically.
The AIA, a national Christian organization, caters to college and professional athletes, which now provides international programs.
Jon Demeter, director of UTC, became involved with the program when he and his now-wife were in college. They attended the camp, and went on to become staff members.
“As a camper, it was really an eye-opening experience,” Demeter said. “Since I was an athlete growing up, faith and sports were two separate things. I learned that you could worship God through your sport. Faith should change your person, and that should change you as an athlete, such as the way you treat your opponent.”
The UTC in which Brusie and Harper attended took place at Colorado State University. There was a wide variety of exercises to challenge the body and spirit.
These included personal training, group discussions, learning five main Bible principles and applying these to the sporting activities during the camp.
“What we’re trying to do is create an environment where athletes, who are searching for how to relate God and sports, will be comfortable in their process,” Demeter said. “We hope they will learn things that will help them understand how God is working.”
Some athletes may come into college, and the camp, with a position coach.
This coach has taught the athlete a certain technique for many years, so going into the camp it may be frustrating for these athletes. Demeter says that AIA hopes to create an environment where an athlete can grow at his or her own pace.
“It’s a process, and there’s some tension in that process,” Demeter said. “If you believe in your coach, then you know in the long run that’s going to improve you as an athlete. It’s a lot of self-discovery.”
When it comes to discovering about oneself and their purpose more there are also psychic readings that have helped people get back on the right track when one is in doubt. There are psychics that do psychic love readings with ease and also readings related to one’s career which might be useful to youngsters.
There were two sessions to the camp, the first one from May 26 to May 31, the second from June 2 to June 8.
Brusie, a volleyball player who played two seasons at Winthrop University, says that her defenses were lowered as a camper at UTC. She wasn’t expecting to see another FSC student, so she bonded with Harper during the experience.
“I felt like I’ve always had this sort of shell,” Brusie said. “As an athlete, I had this pride in me. Everything we did really broke me down and made me realize that all I can have is Christ.”
Harper, an Athletic Training major, attended the camp as an intern. She tended to injured athletes and bonded with people who had hurt limbs or pains. She also led a few discussion groups. She began to ask herself who she is playing sports for, which led to answers from her faith.
“A lot of times, we do it for a teacher, we do it for the athletes, but how often do we do it for God?” Harper asked. “It takes off so much pressure.”
Small group discussions allowed athletes to get to know one another.
This broke down any guardedness, and they shared conversations about how faith should go hand-in-hand with their sporting mentality.
“It felt like the athletes were really amped up for God,” Harper said. “When everyone got there, people were hesitant at first. Then, the momentum built up, and we got more and more excited.”
Daily activities at the camp included a lesson with group discussion, then labs, which mostly involved playing volleyball. The lessons focused on relationships, how to work through topics.
Towards the end of the program, there was a 20-hour marathon that took place called the S.P.E.C.I.A.L.
This stands for “Spiritual Principles and Exhaustion=Confidence in the Almighty Lord.”
It is a competition that allows the athletes to apply what they learned throughout the program, so they could push themselves.
“Our teammates really carried us through,” Brusie said. “It was very emotionally exhausting, and spiritually draining. We had to push ourselves physically, but the spirituality was the biggest part of all. Everyone around us was praying for each other, which gave us a second wind.”
When athletes were frustrated or discouraged during challenges, their teammates prayed for them, cheering them on to keep them going.
“There were times when an athlete would go into full body cramps, and you couldn’t do anything, but pray for them,” Harper said.
Brusie highlights one of the five Bible principles discussed, Audience of One.
“It really opened up my mind,” Brusie said. “Audience of One is who it is, or what it is we worship. A lot of times, as athletes, we worship the sport that we’re in. We worship the volleyball or that pride. It made me realize that these things all these years I’ve been thinking for the wrong reasons.”
During one of the lessons, the women were asked to pick out a focal point and a phrase to be reminded of their faith.
“I chose my hand because every time I go to serve, that’s where I feel like I communicate with God the most,” Brusie said. “It’s a reminder.
“My focal point was my water bottle,” Harper said. “The great thing about having a focal point is you can use it anywhere.”
“One thing that really stuck out to me was that you’re not playing for God, you’re playing with God,” Harper said. “That goes for athletic training too. I’m not doing this for God, I’m doing it with God. It takes off that pressure of being perfect or messing up.”
Demeter believes there is always a sense of community since the athletes train and play in community. He hopes they carry out these principles beyond the camp. Harper reflects on the community she has found during her time with the UTC, saying these athletes and staff members are now part of her family.
“We were all there for the same purpose,” Harper said. “That level of intensity was so amazing. It was so refreshing, and you have that family for life now.”