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Campus Ministry Student-Athletes Represent Midland at The Ultimate Training Camp

Campus Ministry Student-Athletes Represent Midland at The Ultimate Training Camp

Jul 20th , 2018

For many student-athletes, their days in jerseys and cleats represent more than points on a scoreboard or physical performance. Their athletic prowess is fueled not just by character-defining moments, but through faith-affirming experiences. For three Midland University students, faith-based leadership led them to experience religious self-reflection and athletic competition on an entirely new playing field.                                                                                                    

This summer, as part of The Ultimate Training Camp (UTC) Midland students, Amber Pribyl, Tyler Craven and Shelby Bretschneider, participated in a high-intensity sports camp created by Athletes in Action in St. Paul, Minnesota. The training camp is rooted in Biblical principles which focus on the synthesis of faith and sport in every aspect of the competitive athletic experience.

“President Horner approached me about sending a few Midland students to UTC, after learning of the experience through her nephew’s point-of-view,” said Reverend Brandon Van Marel. “I immediately began connecting with coaches to identify our Christian leaders both on and off the field, many of which referred to me for guidance,” said Van Marel. “Starting with a list of approximately 80 student-athletes involved in campus ministry, I narrowed in on the leaders that stood out, which is how Amber, Shelby, and Tyler were identified and selected,” added Van Marel.

The Ultimate Training Camp athletes experienced breakout sessions in classroom style environments where they evaluated principles such as motivation, attitude, leadership, and perseverance. Each topic served as a leadership framework to encourage new perspectives through a Biblical lens.

After each session, athletes were placed in controlled environments of a highly intense 20-hour competition, where they tested the principles immediately. These interactions, whether in small group meetings, recreational activities or social events, were formed with other Christian athletes from around the world, which yielded additional learning opportunities for global perspectives.

By focusing on the opportunity to grow in their faith, and return to campus with new approaches to athletic performance through Christian constructs, Amber, Shelby, and Tyler were collectively inspired to take on the Ultimate Training Camp challenge.

“I honestly had no idea what the UTC experience was,” said Shelby Bretschneider. “But once Brandon explained the camp to me, I immediately wanted to go.”

Five principles represent a unique curriculum component developed by the Athletes In Action staff over the past 40 years. These principles give camp participants a Biblical framework to help see sports and athletics as an opportunity to worship God so that their performance is inextricably woven to worship.

“The atmosphere, competition and just the fact that you could feel God's presence there were some of my favorite parts, but one of my most favorite experiences was the worship,” said Shelby Bretschneider. “They knew how to bring us all together and bring our deepest emotions to surface.”

Connections are a critical component of the UTC experience, from Biblical principles to athletic performance, as well as bonds with camp participants, leaders, and speakers. “I found connections with fellow athletes and made friends that I still am communicating with, making plans to visit this fall,” said Amber Pribyl. “I made connections with my mentor and found her to be a great role model. I also made connections with some of the speakers and members of Run51, a band who worshiped with us all throughout UTC,” added Pribyl. “Most importantly, I feel as if I made a deeper connection with God, and understand more about how to be a Christian in my daily life, not just at church or bible study.”

Developing new ways to honor and glorify God through athletics is what makes The UTC so valuable. These principles live on after camp, inspiring a network of believers to continue learning the gospel as it relates to sports and life.

“It was such an honor to be able to represent Midland at an event like this. I have such a humble and grateful heart for being able to have the opportunity to go to the camp,” said Shelby Bretschneider. “I hope by telling my testimony and sharing my camp experience, that it opens the hearts of other Midland athletes. I also hope that by the way that I act toward the downs of my sport, others might see something different in me and have the courage to ask, so that I might share God’s amazing grace. When they see me fail and get back up, it’s because of Him. I want to light a spark for others on campus because His love is amazing and I have such joy!”

“I would 110% recommend UTC to other Christian athletes and to make it a goal to experience this camp at least once in their lives,” said Amber Pribyl. “The experience of UTC will forever live on in my life, as I have learned the truths of my identity as a person, and as a Christian. I hope to help UTC live on at Midland University by encouraging teammates and athletes, and sharing some of the principles I’ve learned.”