Pine Belt FCA Multi Area Director Mitchell Williams and his wife Shelia had a vision to uplift youth in southern Mississippi who were tangled in personal life lockdown. They caught God’s dream and reached out to put it in tangible form.
Mitchell had built ties with numerous coaches and athletic departments through his 27-year career as a sports broadcaster. He noticed that while many athletes excelled on the field, off of it was a different story.
There was a breakdown of family and lack of a spiritual component in the middle of the Bible Belt, and he couldn’t stand by and watch the lives of athletes fall apart unprepared for life.
Members of the Quarterback Club help one another through a ropes course.
In 2004, the Williamses went to Dwayne Higgason, their pastor at Grace Temple Church, with the idea of hosting a retreat for influential athletes. The church quickly came on board, and the Quarterback Club was born that spring.
In 2012, Shelia set out to raise funds for starting a female version of the Quarterback Club—Pink Huddle, which meets in October. Both are certified FCA Camps operated on sponsorships and donations and cost nothing for participants.
The weekend, set to challenge them physically, mentally and emotionally, consists of leadership exercises, element courses, community service and worship. Most of all, it’s a time of investment, of affirmation, and giving athletes a positive atmosphere that pours into their hearts.
Mitchell believes in the intentionality of attention.
“If you really want to find a wonderful and incredible person coming up, you can look into the level of investment into that child,” he said. “I believe it is our calling down here to invest as much as possible.”
The retreats are 44 straight hours, and attending athletes are those whom coaches and Huddle leaders at each school choose.
“We want the kid who when they walk through the campus, everyone knows who that is,” Mitchell explained. “Or it’s the one who’s on the edge of making a lot of mistakes, but with a weekend like this they could become a game changer for Christ on their campus.”
Friday for the males consists of registration, pizza and video games, while for the females it is more tailored to their interests.
“It’s all about the glamour and glitz and fun,” Shelia said. “There are nail and facial stations, and even a pink chocolate fountain.”
But the next day is all business for both, taking athletes through ropes and element courses, and other accountability methods to build teamwork. They hear former athletes speak on a multitude of topics like relationships, accountability, and finances.
“One of the things that I say in the introduction is, ‘Your coach takes you to the edge physically to prepare you for athletic competition. We’re going to take you to the edge emotionally so you can develop a greater sense of character,’” Higgason shared.
On Saturday evening, barriers break down.
Ladies of the Pink Huddle volunteering for a service project
“They’ve been together for 30 hours, and they start emptying out,” Mitchell explained. “We have a testimony time, and all this junk they’ve been carrying—they have a chance to literally leave it at that altar.”
The girls have a bonfire, where they write down all their issues and let them burn away in the flames.
Added Mitchell, “We can get them away from their environment and put them in a place where they can really hear God’s voice individually and specifically.”
The athletes’ transformations after just a few days cultivate from a combination of vigorous physical, emotional and spiritual challenges, as well as leaders showering them with the love of Christ.
By the end, rivals become welcome friends.
“They come clinging to the teammates they came with,” Shelia said. “It forces everyone to lose that and get to know people versus based off of what you hear and who you’ve already had typecast.”
Higgason added, “They make friends with their opponents, and that would never happen in other settings. That’s really great, because it’s important to see the other person as a competitor, not an enemy.”
The Quarterback Club will be hold its 12th session March 27-29 and continue the reciprocal trust between FCA, coaches and athletes. What’s more imperative is the follow up in the days and weeks afterward, connecting with Huddle coaches at the high schools to continue to encourage these young men and women.
Mitchell and Shelia enthusiastically dive into these retreats knowing the investment will catapult a revolution in the lives of these young people and their spheres of influence. Mitchell said, “We’re looking for leaders that can help change their campus for Christ.”
Photos courtesy of Pine Belt FCA