When Missionary Athletes International was birthed in 1983, the finger prints of its ministry were already embedded in the camp program through its Founder, Tim Conrad.
As the soccer coach at Biola University from 1975-81, Conrad had started doing soccer camps in 1975 to “teach soccer-challenged - white middle-class children how to play soccer in a culture that was just discovering the world of ‘futbol”’. The teaching of soccer fundamentals to children provided a perfect opportunity to incorporate the gospel message. A clear Biblical proclamation through a spiritual theme was developed each year and an opportunity to accept Jesus Christ as a personal savior was always presented.
Making it fun as well as educational and spiritual was not too difficult since most of the staff coaches were young, dynamic “twenty-somethings” to whom kids could relate. Those coaches’ relationship to Christ was totally evident in their teaching and role-modeling throughout the week. Coaches would go to some extreme lengths to make the messages fun and relevant. One summer the theme was the fruits of the Spirit and MAI went as far as renting “Fruit of the Loom” costumes for the “fun” effect. Having Rick McKinley show up at camp in a full body “Grape Cluster” costume to talk about the fruits of the spirit was priceless and is still remembered by Conrad, along with the visual picture of all the children over those early years of raising their hands to indicate that they wanted to follow Christ at the end of Bible time on Thursdays. “Wacky Wednesdays” are still a standard part of the camp schedule, even at Elite camps.
Quality soccer instruction, a fun environment, caring coaches and proclamation of the gospel have been hallmarks of MAI camps from the beginning and continue today through camps at all MAI locations and around the world. Tens of thousands of children have experienced an MAI soccer camp and learned much more than how to kick or head a soccer ball.
“From its earliest days of camps for the white middle class, soccer’s cross-cultural appeal has enabled MAI to teach soccer to kids and share the love of Christ across economic, political and geographic borders. The process has become refined and focused in ways that never could have been imagined in the 80’s!” says Tim Conrad.
In 1996 God called Tim and Carol Conrad away from MAI to start UW Sports Ministry and develop sports camps curriculum (multi sports) for churches both in the USA and around the world. If your church is interested in having a multi sport summer camp as an outreach to your community contact Tim direct at firstname.lastname@example.org or go to www.uwsportsministry.org