The Dobbs Creek Recreation Center was filled with an echoing aural stew of bouncing balls, reverberating yells from coaches and athletes and the squeak of sneakers on hardwood early Friday evening.
Within an hour, all that activity had faded, giving way to one voice. With young athletes spread out on the surrounding floor, area youth pastor Jeff Gravitt, a former basketball player at Reinhardt College, talked to high-school aged players about Christianity and basketball, noting that both have established rules that have to be followed to achieve success.
Such was the dichotomy at last week’s boys basketball camp, presented by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
The event featured 12 teams in attendance, up from eight a year ago. Nine of this year’s teams were from Forsyth schools, with North Forsyth, Forsyth Central, West Forsyth, Forsyth Christian and Horizon Christian all bringing their varsities. Junior varsities from Central, Horizon and Pinecrest Academy were also in attendance.
Teams were scheduled to play up to eight games over three days.
Davey Bales, area director for the FCA’s North Metro Atlanta chapter, said that the scheduling of the event before “dead week,” where contact between players and coaches is prohibited, made it a natural pick.
“This really kind of winds up everybody’s camp season,” Bales said. “This is really just a good time to do this.”
North varsity coach Bobby Pless saw his team go 3-4 over the weekend. Despite having attended other camps — like a University of Georgia camp in Athens where the Raiders played 10 games — Pless said the schedule of the FCA event made it stand out, with back-to-back games across the schedule instead of a more staggered layout.
“All our kids have been in the weight room and speed training 7-9 [a.m.] with me at the school and then we practice after that,” Pless said. “I think what we’ve done this summer is good in that situation ... The kids had already been poised pretty good in terms of conditioning but they had to tighten the belt and just play.”
Vacation commitments and a separate camp for football linemen kept him from bringing a full roster, but Pless thinks the experience will be valuable for the players who attended.
“I was proud of the guys that made the commitment and came down there and played with us ... It’ll help us in the long run,” he said.
Forsyth Central’s varsity opened up the camp with four straight victories, but coach Steve Barnes pointed out that wins and losses aren’t the top priority over summer.
“Of course we want to win, but the biggest thing we’re looking for ... We’ve just committed to playing [young players] and getting them game experience. The number of games we’ve had this summer, that’s going to help everybody,” Barnes said.
The Bulldogs have participated in three camps over the summer, including trips to Berry College and Cherokee High School, coming out to around 24 games.
While local private schools play in separate organizations during the season than the public schools, Pless said he saw some real talent on those rosters during the camp.
“There’s some of the private schools there that, as far as size-wise, they have just as much physically as the [public schools]. In basketball, it only takes a couple [of good players],” North’s coach said.
Of course, hoops wasn’t the only consideration over the weekend, with daily devotionals intended to drive home a spiritual message.
“The FCA camp has a greater purpose and that was trying to get [players] closer to the Creator ... All of it is team-building, but this is people-building, I guess you would say,” said Barnes.
The hope that players respond to that part of the camp outweighs any basketball considerations, Pless said.
“In my opinion, if these kids ... don’t take away anything from this camp, if they can take away the message they heard concerning Christ. If we hadn’t won a game ... that was worth the price of it,” he said.