In the Beginning... A Brief History of Sports Ministries, Inc.
In 1983 and 1984, Gary DeClute and his family-(Jacqueline, Elissa (Schauer) and Jacob)- along with other Bethel Church individuals (Bob Graham, Bob Harvey, and others) and the Bethel Presbyterian Church Outreach Committee, birthed what would become known as Victory Sports Camps and Kopion Football Club. (We are grateful to the Board of Elders and the people of Bethel for their support in those early years to help come underneath a vision and see it through.)
Over a year in the planning, and proceeded by three years of successful “Musical Production” Camps, led by Delores Gosling and her family, members of the Bethel outreach committee and the DeClute’s, the first official sport’s camp was launched. This camp featured volleyball, track and field, kickball, soccer and gymnastics, held in 1985.
After evaluating what had taken place that summer, it was decided that a sports camp featuring one sport could be a very special program in the coming years. Since several individuals from the church were former soccer players or coaches, it was decided that a soccer camp would be featured next year.
One hundred and fifty children attended that first camp that ran from 8:30 A.M. until 3:30 P.M., daily. (This soccer camp led the way in the Wheaton Community for the continued growth of the sport, and fostered other soccer camps that followed in its footsteps.) David Schultz, principal of Lincoln Elementary School, Wheaton, generously gave Lincoln School outdoor athletic field for the camp use. We met at the church and walked through the backyards of the gracious neighbors to the campsite each day.
Led by Gary DeClute, his family, and a whole host of soccer coaches and players, (Bret Hall, Bob Graham, David Wolf, Phil Wolf, Debbie Bradley, Joe Hakes, and others), Bethel Soccer Camp grew rapidly in the community. This camp was the centerfold of this ministry until 1989 when Kopion FC, a traveling soccer program for boys, (a co-vision of Jacob and Gary DeClute) officially was launched.
That same year, Bethel Soccer Camp became known as Victory Soccer Camp, dually hosted by Bethel Church and Blanchard Road Alliance Church. The camp was officially moved from Lincoln School to Seven Gables Park in Wheaton. (Numbers, over 500 children, and field condition dictated that we move.) We were finally off and running, with Kopion FC moving quickly to the front of club soccer in the area.
In 1992, Michael Schauer, a recent graduate of Wheaton College, asked if we had ever considered a different kind of Victory sports camp. Hence, Victory Basketball Camp, under the leadership of Michael was born. The first Victory Basketball Camp was held in 1993 at Hubble Middle School.
Until 1995, Victory Soccer and Victory Basketball Camps, and Kopion FC were the cornerstones of this ministry. With the attention both Victory and Kopion were getting, we decided to add a new camp program in 1995. With the help of Sean Thomas, a baseball camp was formed and officially became known as Victory Baseball Camp.
Since 1995 both Victory Camps (now numbering 29 camps and 16 different sports,) and Kopion FC and its traveling teams, have exploded! In addition, we have added numerous preschool, home school, after school sports programs, and a Kopion Micro Soccer League.
In addition, over the last two years, SMI, incorporated in 1993, has added a Partnership Division- 15 churches; Extension Ministries-inner city ministries in West Chicago, Warrenville, South Carol Stream and Glen Ellyn.
Today, 3000-4000 children and countless numbers of families, church leaders, and community members are served year round through one of the ministries of Sports Ministries, Inc.
A Board of Directors consisting of eight outstanding Christian leaders from around the area, serve this ministry on a day by day basis to help effectively create the focus and foundation of SMI in partnership with the SMI staff. Presently, SMI has two full-time staff, 12 part-time staff, and about 60 seasonal staff who serve this ministry in one capacity or another.
The internship program of SMI has served over 100 student interns over the last twenty-six years. Our goal for this program is to serve locally and globally, and to equip “ministers” for service to our Lord and to our world.
The Mission of SMI is “Influencing, Connecting and Developing People for Jesus Christ and His Kingdom through the Vehicle of Athletics.”
Our six Core Values are:
- To honor God in everything that we do.
- To put our hope in God alone; in the work of His Son, and in the power of the Holy Spirit to affect change in lives.
- To do everything with excellence.
- To find and grow, committed followers of Jesus Christ to serve on each of our leadership teams of:
- Core Staff
- Leadership staff
- Extension, Development, and Partnership staff
- Board of Directors
- To present in a culturally effective and age appropriate way how one can know God personally and follow Him fully.
- To come close to each one who serves and each one who is being served so that they might be encouraged in their faith “journey”.
Our Vision is that “Everyone matters to God.” Bill Hybels, Willow Creek Community Church senior pastor puts it this way... ”You have never looked into the eyes of someone for whom Jesus doesn’t love and for whom He didn’t die.” Our desire is that people and children will get connected to God. Our goal as an organization is to be a part of this process, while at the same time, serving the local church in the Chicago land Area.