Athletes and coaches from around North Central Florida will converge in Gainesville for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes’ (FCA) second annual Kickoff Classic starting at 5 p.m. on Thursday.
The 650 scheduled attendees will hear from two-time Paralympian Regas Woods and former NFL player C. L. “Shep” Shepherd and learn life skills at Westside Baptist Church in Gainesville, according to Noah Wilbanks.
Wilbanks has served as director of FCA’s North Central region for almost three years, taking over after 15 years in South Florida. He said the growth of around 200 attendees shows the hunger for this kind of service that focuses beyond sports on the eternal.
“I was excited to see that there was buy-in from the local coaches and buy-in from the local FCA huddles,” Wilbanks said in a phone interview.
The FCA has “huddles” around the region. Wherever schools have clubs for extracurriculars, the FCA might have a huddle. Wilbanks said around 3,000 students participate in these, both athletes and non-athletes.
Wilbanks said the students coming in for the Kickoff Classic come from all types of schools, private, Christian and public.
“We feel this is a great way for us to provide things that are needed, to help develop the young athlete, the young man, the young woman, and come alongside our coaches,” Wilbanks said.
He said 13 busses will bring the attendees to Westside Baptist Church located at 10000 W. Newberry Rd. where the event will take place. The FCA was able to sponsor each bus to pay for the cost along with goodie bags and dinner from Sonny’s BBQ.
Wilbanks highlighted the importance of coaches to students, saying the event aimed to help them as well as athletes.
“We’re speaking to the heart of the athlete, the heart of the coach,” Wilbanks said.