ASHEBORO, N.C. (BP)–Young Carsyn Whitley tried her best to dribble in a figure eight around her legs. She squatted over the ball, flipped her brown hair upside down and watched the orange orb as she carefully rolled it around each leg.
The second-grader from Lindley Park Elementary was one of about 20 youngsters to choose basketball June 10 at the Crossover Triad Sports Camp, which took place at Asheboro (N.C.) High School. Another 30 students chose volleyball, soccer and football at the camp, which was one of many pre-convention evangelism events for the mid-June annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in Greensboro.
Nearly 100 Southern Baptist churches in north-central North Carolina organized events with an evangelistic theme; they were assisted in them by more than 2,000 volunteers from across the United States, said Marty Dupree, evangelism consultant for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.
First Baptist Church in Asheboro, the coaching staff at the high school and members of area Fellowship of Christian Athletes chapters sponsored the Triad Sports Camp; they also hosted a block party at nearby South Asheboro Middle School.
Carsyn was just the kind of participant Mark Hall, associate pastor at FBC Asheboro, had hoped to attract. Though Carsyn was the smallest girl practicing her basketball skills, she did her best to make baskets as she threw the ball toward the goal and followed directions in dribbling drills. But every child played hard, knowing they were being watched by Jessica Sell, a senior guard on the 2005-06 University of North Carolina women’s basketball team. The Tar Heels advanced to the NCAA tournament championship earlier this year. Her Carolina blue shorts and matching toenails revealed her school loyalty; the cross around her neck revealed her heart’s loyalty.
Eleven-year-old Amanda Powell said she sometimes watches Carolina on television; two posters and a banner hang proudly in her home, she added. “I’m surprised that she actually put in her time for the camp,” Powell said.
Sell said she remembers when she was a youngster and college athletes would come to speak at her school.
“I count it a great opportunity to talk with the kids,” Sell said. “It’s all about the Lord for me. I can’t think of a greater opportunity to impact a young kid’s life in a positive way than with basketball.”
During a lay-up and rebound drill, some of the children slowly left lines where they were to be practicing drills, and migrated towards Sell, who was autographing free Triad Sports Clinic T-shirts. She pulled the white fabric taut, smiled at each student in turn, and signed her name on the shoulder.
“I like when they win,” Carsyn said of the Tar Heels. “Because I like the Tar Heels really, really good.”
The clinic also featured soccer -– with rival coaches and players from Trinity and Asheboro high schools gathered on the field. On clinic day, however, the teams weren’t gathering for competition but for cooperation.
Mike Sink is Trinity men’s and women’s soccer coach and coach of a travel soccer team called Blaze.
“I think it’s great to be with kids,” Sink said. “Hopefully, at some point, if I influence one, then I will have accomplished something.”
The athletes were helping him expand his horizon, Sink said.
“It’s good for me as well,” he said. “I’m here learning as well as they are.”
Beth Luck, men’s and women’s soccer coach at Asheboro High School and coach of a travel team, said she shared Sink’s enthusiasm.
“We’re just trying to bring the youth out from the community,” she said, adding that sports are an important part about growing and learning, but that life’s not all about sports.
Hall called the evangelistic sports clinic a success.
“Crossover Triad is a sample of what we desire to be doing in our local community,” he said. “We use sports to attract youth and share the Gospel.”
Holly Clark of Carson-Newman College in Tennessee is part of the Collegiate Journalism Conference sponsored by Baptist Press and associated with an internship through Campbell University.