Ultimate Training Camp at Baylor Integrates Faith, Sports and Sweat

  • UTC
    Baylor student-athletes include (right to left) Bryce Petty, Lizzy Whitney, Seth Russell, Kaitlyn Thumann, Hope Ogden and Chris McAllister. (Photo by Graham Dodd)
  • UTC 2
    Baylor student-athletes learn the importance of blending the spiritual and the physical at Ultimate Training Camp. (Photo by Graham Dodd)
  • UTC 3
    Student-athletes carried cross-beams to reflect on Jesus' journey to the cross. Pictured is Brittany OgunMokun. (Photo by Graham Dodd)
Sept. 3, 2013

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Contact: Terry Goodrich,(254) 710-3321

WACO, Texas (Sept. 3, 2013) -- Baylor Bears quarterback Bryce Petty has never been put through a workout he couldn't do. "Not to sound conceited," he said. "But . . . physically or athletically, it just hasn't been that hard."

But Petty, a native of Midlothian, Texas, finally met his match at Ultimate Training Camp held recently at Baylor University. More than 80 Baylor Christian student-athletes attended to learn how to integrate faith into their sports. This camp intellectually and spiritually tested them over the course of four days, during which they explored identity, motivation, attitude, virtue and winning and losing through sport and physical activity.

The purpose of the UTC was to put sports in its good and proper place, said John B. White, Ph.D., director of the sports chaplaincy and ministry program at Baylor's George W. Truett Theological Seminary. Ultimate Training Camp hosts camps around the world, but Baylor is the first top-tier academic and athletic institution to host a camp, he said. The seminary and Baylor Athletics Department teamed up for the local effort to help transform how those in the sports world think about, value and play sports, he said.

"The first lecture is a talk on idolatry. Sports often get inflated to an ultimate concern, which misdirects and challenges our worship and trust in God," White said. "Sports can create spaces to practice God's presence.

"God's love and grace are central to why Christian athletes play and enjoy sports," he said. "This motivation liberates athletes from using sports for personal gain, rewards and fame. When athletes are imprisoned by imaginations and pressures extrinsic to their games, they often cheat and alienate others--bringing out their worst and damaging excellence."

Many of the student-athletes' toughest -- and most meaningful --moment of camp came on the final day, when they ran a great distance through part of the Brazos River and across a bridge. They carried boards across their shoulders to identify with Jesus' journey to the cross as the basis of their own identity in sports and life.

"At this point, I was physically, mentally, spiritually -- just any other kind of way that you could put it -- just exhausted," Petty said. "It was really cool because I had never been at that point to need God to get through it."

Another student- athlete -- Dallas native Hope Ogden, defensive specialist and libero player on Baylor's volleyball team -- said that "everyone was so encouraging, and it was like the top of the mountain that we had just finished. It was definitely one of the hardest things I've ever done."

At camp's end, Ogden and Petty said they saw changes not just in themselves, but in their teammates and the way they perform individually and as a team.

"I think the biggest part of (the camp) was having our whole team go through it together. It brought us a lot closer, and we can hold each other accountable for what we know," Ogden said.

Although players may lose the immediacy of their "summer camp high," Petty said, he "can definitely tell there's a difference in what they're playing for and who they're playing for."

Track and cross country star Brittany OgunMokun, who last year obtained her undergraduate degree from Baylor University, described the UTC as "awesome."

"I have never experienced something whereby I could not rely on my athletic ability to get me through something," she said. "At the end of UTC, when we had to carry the cross and wade in the lake, my physical limitations stopped me in my tracks and made me rely on God to carry me the rest of the way back."

OgunMokun, originally from Landover, Md., is a member of Antioch Community Church and involved in Fellowship of Christian Athletes with Petty, where the quarterback first heard about the UTC. This fall, OgunMokun begins her first year at Truett studying sports ministry and says she is "more excited now than ever that I will be able to reach athletes in my sports ministry career in the way I was reached at the Ultimate Training Camp."

Truett students were invited to attend as well to learn how to minister in an athletic environment. Bryan DeVries, a second-year theology student from Corpus Christi, said it was "particularly neat to be able to witness how many of the Baylor athletes quickly integrated what they learned in the teaching sessions into the other camp events.

"Many of their focuses changed from within themselves to without, relying on God as their source of motivation for how they compete as athletes."

Nearly all of those who attended Baylor's UTC said they felt they were beginning to understand how to integrate faith in their sport.

"UTC was a blessing for our student-athletes that enabled them to form great relationships with teammates and fellow student-athletes while growing in their faith," said Director of Baylor Athletics Ian McCaw.

ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY

Baylor University is a private Christian university and a nationally ranked research institution, characterized as having "high research activity" by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The university provides a vibrant campus community for approximately 15,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating university in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 11 nationally recognized academic divisions. Baylor sponsors 19 varsity athletic teams and is a founding member of the Big 12 Conference.

ABOUT GEORGE W. TRUETT THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY

Baylor University's George W. Truett Theological Seminary provides theological education leading to the Master of Divinity, the Master of Arts in Christian Ministry, the Master of Theological Studies, or the Doctor of Ministry degrees that are centered in the gospel of Jesus Christ and consistent with historic Baptist commitments to prepare persons to carry this gospel to the churches and the world. Within the M.Div. degree program, students can choose concentrations in Biblical Studies and Theology, Christian Education, Ministry Leadership, Missions and World Christianity, Worship Leadership, Spiritual Formation, Sports Ministry, and Youth/Family/Student Ministry. Truett Seminary also offers three Dual Degree programs - a M.Div./MSW and MTS/MSW through a partnership with Baylor's School of Social Work, a M.Div./Master of Music through a partnership with the Baylor's School of Music, and a M.Div./MBA through a partnership with Baylor's Hankamer School of Business.

by Rachel Miller, student newswriter, (254) 710-6805

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