Helping out church youth group
Basketball strengthens through special ministry
Eric Bailey and T.J. Howard had a vision to better the youth group of the Sugar Creek Missionary Baptist Church and did just that through basketball.
“When we first opened this up, we didn’t know what to expect,” Bailey said. “The first night, we had 60 or 70 kids. It was crazy, but a good crazy.”
Bailey is the youth director at the church and along with his assistant, Howard, built the basketball program to what it is today.
This is the second year of crossover ministries, and it is for second through eighth graders.
“It started as a crossover ministry, which is a free basketball camp for any kid that wants to come. No kids are turned away. We give a free camp that lasts one day a week for five weeks and teach the basic basketball fundamental drills,” Bailey said. “Once we did that, the girls got together and wanted to play in leagues. We started a team, the Believers. We are up to four Believers teams now and it keeps growing faster and faster.”
The Believers teams are based on age, and although they are all girls, the crossover camps are for both boys and girls and serve as the Believers teams’ practices as well.
“We’ve had a lot of requests for a boys team,” Bailey said. “We just don’t have the staff.”
The crossover camps and Believers differ from AAU in that no child is turned away and everything is completely free.
The gear and uniforms that the Believers have were all paid for through donations from people and businesses in the community, Bailey said.
“We coach the kids extremely hard at a very high level,” Bailey said. “Our kids have great character and they’re really good coachable kids.”
The hard coaching has really shown with Believers teams playing in five leagues and league championships in four of the five, winning three of those four.
Bailey also said that he plays the Believers teams up if he can, meaning that they may play slightly older teams.
“I think it’s fun to get better opportunities to play teams that are higher skill level,” Kailey Adkins, Oak Hill Middle School sixth grader and member of the Believers, said. “You get to see more competition than you would in a school league.”
Crossover and the Believers play 10 months out of the year, only taking a break in July and August, Bailey said. The Believers play in many various leagues and tournaments throughout the area and Bailey’s daughter Hadyn has played in over 100 games with the team.
“We have a rule that no one picks us over their school team,” Bailey said. “We never want to take a kid away from any school. They can play for us after their school season.”
Along with being second to the kids’ school teams, Bailey and Howard make sure that all of the players are doing well in school by having them bring in their report cards to be checked.
The main point that Bailey and Howard want to make is that no matter how big the games get, it’s still all about the religious aspect of the group.
“We pray before every game and ask the opposing team to pray with us and alternate with them in a circle,” Howard said. “During the crossover camps, we have two groups and they come together and have a Bible study. That is what it’s really about.”
The crossover camps are held at the Sugar Creek Christian Academy located at 4824 State Route 141 Ironton. For more information call Eric Bailey at 740-285-2535.
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