The Eastern Michigan Division is helping children achieve overall excellence through STRIVE (Student Training for Integrity, Vitality and Education), a sports program for children ages 8-16 which includes dodgeball, basketball and floor hockey leagues. STRIVE participants learn the basics of a sport while engaging in social, emotional and spiritual development. Children who otherwise might not have opportunities to engage in team sports are welcome to play regardless of experience or ability.
“STRIVE is very inclusive,” said Captain Shannon Martinez, Dearborn Heights Citadel, Mich., corps officer. “Last year we had 14 play floor hockey. Three were girls, and one of the boys has autism, and they all played wonderfully as a team.”
While the parameters vary from sport to sport and participating corps change from season to season, the purpose and goal of STRIVE remains the same: to minister to young people and their families.
“At the beginning of each practice, we have devotionals with life lessons,” said Andrew Barylski, community center director at the Wayne/Westland, Mich., Corps. “We open each game in prayer. We want to share the gospel with the kids and their families while also instilling values such as teamwork, leadership and a healthy lifestyle.”
Each sport season consists of an intramural coed league made up of teams from corps community centers which compete against one another during weekend games and tournaments. STRIVE is run almost entirely on volunteer power, with parents of participants often serving as coaches while community members referee. Community center directors oversee registration and arrange practices and transportation for games.
“STRIVE is an excellent outreach opportunity for corps,” said Charol McDonald, Eastern Michigan divisional director of children’s ministries. “It’s for all ages and ability levels, and it’s also inexpensive, so almost any corps can participate.”
To ensure accessibility regardless of a family’s financial status, fees are nominal and go to offset expenses such as jerseys, trophies and transportation for dodgeball and basketball. Floor hockey is entirely free thanks to a partnership between the Eastern Michigan Division and the Detroit Red Wings hockey team which provides jerseys and equipment for the teams.
As the sports and seasons change, STRIVE continues to make a positive difference in the lives of participants and their families.
“We’re really seeing the kids develop in their sportsmanship, attitude and faith,” concluded Andrew.