With July coming to a close, NFL teams are preparing for the upcoming season and college and high school teams will take to the practice field in just a few weeks.
On a field in Bangor, a camp will combine football skills and religious lessons.
The Lion of Judah Football Camp, run by the Glad Tidings Church in Bangor, blends football and religion into one experience for boys and girls in kindergarten through sixth grade on Aug. 5-8.
“It’s part of our outreach to the children and community. We want to teach them the fundamentals of football and fundamentals of God’s word at the same time. The goal is to try and plant some good, positive seeds into the kids whether it be football skills or God’s word. We want to teach them that God is about love and respect and teach them about responsibility,” said Dan Smith of Glad Tidings Church, the camp’s director.
The combination of skills used in football and God’s word will teach kids lessons that they can use throughout their lives, according to Smith.
“Sometimes in life you get knocked down, in football you get knocked down and you get up again, I know that sounds like a cliche but it’s the same thing in life,” Smith said. “Things happen in life where you might get knocked down but it’s OK to get back up, brush yourself off and keep on going.”
This is Smith’s fifth year involved in the camp, but the first time that Glad Tidings Church will be acting as host.
“We’ve had some real good success with it. We’ve done this youth camp before up in Maxfield and [the football and religious aspect] actually mixes very well,” Smith said. “The kids don’t say much but they sit and listen. They do listen and take everything in. Even when you don’t think they are listening they are. We’ve had some good results and I’ve been pleased with it.”
Smith played Pop Warner football in Bangor before playing for Bangor High School and Maine Central Institute in Pittsfield. He and co-director Mike Karnas, a former NFL youth director, are using themes each night to tie in the church’s teachings with the skills that the kids learn during the camp.
“We have themes every night. Monday night is touch, Tuesday night is gifts, and Wednesday night is bridge, so we want to try to tie it all together,” Smith said.
After the drills are completed, a Bible lesson will be taught to the kids in the form of a play.
“We’re going to come out with our exercises and play with the kids. We have a guest speaker every night, then we will take them back on the field,” Smith said.
“Someone from the church will come out and do a dramatization of what the topic is that night just to tie everything together. It is separated so that we do football but we do some dramatizations for God’s word,” he added.
The guest speakers include University of Maine head coach Jack Cosgrove, Husson University head coach Gabby Price, and former Bangor High School assistant coach Fred Lower.
“They were very supportive. They didn’t even hesitate. They said they would be honored to come,” Smith said.
Family and friends of camp participants are welcomed to the final night of camp to watch participants play a game of flag football followed by a barbecue.
The Lion of Judah Football Camp runs 5-7 p.m. Aug. 5-8. The cost is $20 per child and includes a free T-shirt and the barbecue. Parents interested in signing up their children can email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 947-0324, ext. 15.