Faith-based football camp gives players college experience

Ronnie Battle has a vision.

He wants to give young athletes the tools they will need for the rest of their lives on and off the football field.

The former University of Florida defensive back is accomplishing his goal with Fellowship Sports, Inc., a non-profit, faith-based football camp.

The camp begins Thursday at Shiloh High School and will conclude on Sunday.

"It started out as a way to reach out to the youth," said Battle, founder and CEO of Fellowship Sports Inc. "In my eyes other camps were not giving kids what they paid for. Not only does our camp help you develop the football skills, but also spreads the word of God."

The four-day event consists of two camps - one for junior campers ages 6 to 13 and a senior camp for players in grades nine through 12. Battle expects more than 200 players to be at the camp and some kids are coming from as far as Connecticut and Los Angeles.

What makes the Fellowship Sports camp unique is that it is actually run by college coaches. There will be coaches from at least 15 Division I schools like Georgia, Auburn, Ohio State and Penn State on hand as instructors.

"It's one of the few camps in the country to attend that is actually coached by coaches," Battle said.

The NCAA recently changed its rules and does not allow live testing at camps where coaches are present. However, because Fellowship Sports Inc. is a faith-based camp and coaches are acting as moderators, the NCAA has allowed Fellowship Sports Inc. to have live testing.

A combine facilitated by Game Time Results Sportsplex will be held for the senior campers on Thursday.

"It's a win-win situation for everyone," Battle said. "It's like going to every college's camp on one field. You could be at Virginia Tech's camp in the morning, at Penn State's in the afternoon one day and Ohio State and Georgia's the next."

Campers go through agility and one-on-one drills, learn individual techniques for their positions and compete in 7-on-7 drills.

The 7-on-7 drills are run by the college coaches, so players are running the same plays used by college teams.

In addition to the football portion, players participate in devotion three times a day and will have a guest speaker during lunch.

The football drills are recorded and players also spend time in a classroom during a chalk talk session with college coaches.

The camp concludes Sunday with the Fellowship Bowl at 10:30 a.m. and an awards ceremony.

The last five years, the camp has been held at Stephenson High School, and in that time more than 50 players that attended the camp went on to play college football.

"In the last five year's we've had 55 to 60 players that have come from this camp receive scholarships," Battle said. "I'd say half of those players didn't even have a letter (from colleges) before they came to this camp."

Last year's camp was attended by GAC's Lee Chapple and Caleb King and Collins Hill's T.J. Greenstone and T.J. Hurless, among others.

A native of Fort Myers, Fla., Battle played at the University of Florida from 1993-97, winning four SEC titles and one national championship. This week's camp is the only one held this year, but next year Battle plans to have a camp in Charlotte, and one in Orlando in 2009, in addition to the Atlanta camp.

"We're not a recruiting service, we're a camp enhancement," Battle said. "At other camps, coaches are there looking at prospects. In this camp, the coaches have to coach."

For more information about Fellowship Sports Inc. go to www.fellowshipsports.org.