Epic Performance Athletes President Shelly Weaver doesn’t do anything small and that’s what Mike Guthrie, the non-profit organization’s vice-president says he likes about her.
Weaver gathered at the offices of Visit Stillwater Thursday with the team that is helping her organize Epic Performance Athletes to announce the launch of an ambitious effort to help young people reach their potential through sports and faith.
The students who attend these free youth sports camps will have the chance to improve their athletic skills with coaching from elite athletes, including professionals, and will learn life skills like wellness and leadership with the help of licensed counselors, fitness experts, nutritionists and life coaches as well as guidance from the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
Volunteer coaches for the football program include NFL defensive tackle Corey Hilliard, who is serving as program director; former Oklahoma State University quarterback and Major League Baseball player Josh Fields; OSU and NFL offensive tackle Charlie Johnson; OSU and NFL tight end Billy Bajema; OSU and NFL defensive end Victor Degrate; University of Tulsa and NFL defensive tackle Derrick Alexander and OSU and NFL wide receiver Tracey Moore.
Volunteer coaches for the baseball program include OSU and MLB catcher Matt Oakes, who is serving as program director; Rogers State University and Pro Independant League pitcher Josh Walker,;USAO and MLB draft pick utility player Jared Cudd,;University of Missouri and MLB outfield/hitter James Boone; UCO and MLB draft pick pitching and hitting instructor Jay Edelen; OSU and MLB pitcher David Rollandini; OSU and MLB draft pick catcher Rusty Puffinbarger; Baylor and MLB infielder Jace Brewer and OSU and MLB infield/utility/hitter Josh Fields.
Weaver has been presenting faith-based rodeo skills clinics under the name Saddle Up For Christ across the country for the past five years. She recently decided to expand the organization and move into other sports under the name Epic Performance Athletes.
The free week-long camps will focus on developing young athletes’ skills in football, baseball, softball, boys, and girls, basketball, boys, and girls, soccer, rodeo and wrestling, as well as total body conditioning, and will be hosted at Oklahoma State University facilities.
Weaver said she and the other organizers are planning to host 2,500 young athletes in Stillwater July 29-Aug. 3. Participation is limited to 9-12 grade for all sports except wrestling and rodeo, which will accept students as young as 7th grade.
She expects attendance at the camps to as much as double next year, after the Epic Performance team has had time to let more coaches know about the opportunity they’re offering and after participation is opened to 7th-12th graders for all sports. She says she can see the number climbing as high as 10,000 as it becomes more established.
The camp is free, with the exception of a $36 registration fee that covers the cost of using the FCA registration platform and a T-shirt. Sponsorships are available to cover the registration fee and no child will be turned away if they can’t pay. Sack lunches are included and will be provided each day by OSU dining services.
Each student or group of students will need an adult chaperone for the hours after camp and transportation to and from home each day or lodging if they’re staying overnight.
The organizers say they are looking for churches with shower facilities that might be willing to host some groups of campers.
Guthrie said he knows most of the kids won’t go on to play college sports and even fewer will make it to the pros but there is still much they can gain from attending these camps, like mental stamina, physical endurance and personal growth.
Weaver, who is a professional barrel racer, says elite athletes have qualities that they carry off the field.
“The work ethic and drive of a pro athlete is higher than someone who doesn’t play sports,” she said. “...I think it can change lives.”
Sponsors are still needed to ensure every child who wants to participate can. Epic is also still seeking athletes to volunteer as coaches, especially in softball and boys’ and girls’ softball.
For more information about attending, volunteering or sponsoring go to www.epicathletes.org. Camp registration will close two weeks before the session starts. Sponsors can also call 918-671-2835.