About Us

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 beloved Bethel Church individuals (Bob Graham, Bob Harvey, and others), the Bethel Presbyterian Church Outreach Committee, Board of Elders and friends, birthed what would become known as Victory Sports Camps and Kopion Football Club. (We are grateful to these people for their support in those early years to help come underneath a vision and see it through, but also release it to the world.) 


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 1984. We must not forget our first staffer, David Oliphant, a high school teacher and gymnastics coach. The first sports camp ever had 50+ kids attend, and was held on the Bethel Church lawn.


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. Hence, in 1985, the first soccer day-long camp, was launched.


One hundred and fifty children attended the 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 location 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, Joel Kapitaniuk, Joe Hakes, and others), Bethel Soccer Camp grew rapidly in the community. This camp was the centerfold of this ministry until 1988 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 the premier soccer clubs 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 2000, Victory Camps (now numbering 38 camps and 16 different sports,) has exploded! In addition, we have added numerous preschools, home school, after school sports programs, and Soccer and Basketball Leagues. Holiday tournaments also have become a fixture for Victory Sports. In addition, we serve local churches in many of their weekly programs and activities. (For example, DVBS, Spark, Logos, etc.)


Sports Ministries, Inc. (SMI) was officially incorporated in 1995. Since then, it has morphed into what it is today serving local churches, thousands of children and their families, church leaders, community members, local service clubs, the under resourced community and area local colleges and universities.


A Board of Directors consisting of seven 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, one full-time intern, 4 part-time staff, 30-40 seasonal staff who serve this ministry in one capacity or another, and dozens of volunteers who give their time, talents and energy to serve.


The college internship program of SMI/Victory Sports has served over 190 student interns over the last thirty 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.


In July of 2013, Kopion FC was officially launched as a separate organization from SMI. Led by Chris Bates, a one-time staff member of SMI, and Dasan Robinson, Kopion has become its own entity and is flourishing. Officially, 13 teams represent Kopion in the NISL and IWSL league play as traveling teams. As of July 2014, Eric Brown and a new board of directors, have taken over Kopion. Evan Kirkenmeier, a former Kopion player, is the Director of Coaching for the club. Rudy Keller took over the reins of Kopion FC in December 2014.


The Mission of SMI/Victory Sports 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
    • 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. 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.


Sports Ministries, Inc./Victory Sports Hall of Honor


Beth Baker - Basketball (YOS)

Beth Carey – Board (YOS)

*Bob Graham – Soccer/Organizational Team

Bob Harvey – Pastor Bethel Church

Bret Hall – Soccer/Kopion FC

Brett Margaron – Board President

Chuck and Dee Gosling – First Camps/Helpers

Dale and Kim Showalter – Past President /Board (YOS)

Dave Moore – Past President Board (YOS)

Dave Oliphant – First Sports Camp

David Kouwe – Board/Kopion FC (YOS)

*Dave Wolf – Organizational Team/Soccer/Kopion FC

Deb Bradley - Soccer

Domanada Foundation – First Foundational Grants

Don Davis – Started Lacrosse/Board (YOS)

*Elissa Schauer – Organizational Team/Staff/Curriculum Development (YOS)

** *Jake DeClute – Organizational Team/Soccer/Started Kopion FC/Started PS (YOS)

Jay Krick - Started Volleyball

Jeff Vesevick - Golf

Joe Hakes - Soccer

Joel Kapitaniuk – Soccer/Kopion FC (YOS)

Keith Conley – Past President Board

Mark Ittersagen – Golf/Football Camp

Michael Schauer - Started Basketball

Nathan Diepstra - Started Tennis

Patrick Brooke – Past President (YOS)

Paul Connor - Started Football

Pete Felske – Soccer/Kopion FC

Phil Wolf – Soccer/Kopion FC

Randy Carey – Boot Camp (YOS)

Scott Bradley - Started Track & Field

Scott Brady – Goalkeeping/Started Fishing (YOS)

Sean Thomas – Basketball/Baseball (YOS)

Showalter Roofing Services – Ministry Sponsor (YOS)

Steve Linhardt – Basketball/Baseball (YOS)


YOS = Over 10 years of service to SMI/Victory Sports/Kopion FC

*Original Organizational Team for Victory Sports

** Original Organizational Team for Kopion