Dan Ratcliff, the youth minister at First Baptist Church, preaches from I Corinthians 12 about the importance of unity Friday afternoon during the devotional of the Miss-Lou Basketball Team Camp at Adams County Christian School. (Lauren Wood \ The Natchez Democrat)

ACCS hosts faith-based camp

Published 12:01am Sunday, June 3, 2012

NATCHEZ — Saint Paul probably didn’t have basketball in mind when he wrote I Corinthians, but that didn’t stop Dan Ratcliff from taking a page out of the Pauline epistle to illustrate a point.

Ratcliff taught from I Corinthians 12 Friday afternoon at the Miss-Lou Basketball Team Camp at Adams County Christian School. The camp featured guest speakers for its devotional time each of the three days Wednesday-Friday, and Ratcliff spent time talking about unity.

No stranger to speaking in front of teenagers, the Natchez First Baptist youth pastor stressed how each player on the team was important, and each member of the body of Christ was also important, regardless of how little they think of themselves.

“I want God to speak through me and teach them things about basketball, such as teamwork and how each person is an important part of the team,” Ratcliff said. “It ties into how each person is important to the body of Christ.”

The camp hosted a number of girls teams from the area, including Centreville Academy and players from Cathedral and Natchez High schools. It offers local athletes a chance to get important work in during the summer, as well as a chance to grow spiritually.

ACCS head coach Melanie Hall said the camp has been going on for at least 10 years, and the effort to teach Christ-like principals is something the camp stresses.

“Basketball is a tool that the Good Lord uses to teach us many lessons,” Hall said. “That’s what we’re all about.”

And Hall said the devotional time at noon each day is the most valuable teaching portion of the camp.

“In my opinion, it’s the most vital part of our camp, because the most vital thing in our life is our relationship with Christ,” she said. “If we get that, we’ve got it all.”

Ratcliff, who has coached youth football, basketball and baseball, said he enjoys using sports as an opportunity to encourage teenagers.

“So many athletes beat themselves up, and the best thing I can do is encourage them,” Ratcliff said. “That’s why I love to coach.”

Centreville Academy girls basketball coach John Gray brings his players to the ACCS camp each year, and he said the lessons learned at the camp play into making good decisions in life, not just basketball.

“That carries into basketball,” Gray said. “It teaches how important unity is, in our family, in basketball and in life itself. Bad decisions limit future options.”

The camp also offers the opportunity for his players to get some quality work in during the offseason, which goes a long way when the winter finally rolls around.

“That’s the whole purpose,” Gray said. “I like my kids to go to two camps in the summer. By the second camp, I usually have a good understanding of what we need to have worked on by August.”

Cathedral girls head coach Randy Smith said he brought both players from his team and Natchez High’s team, since neither team could bring their entire squad.

Smith said the camp was a good chance to play in some offseason games against other local teams.

“It’s local, you play a lot of games and you get a message every day,” Smith said. “They don’t keep score, so it’s more fun than serious, but you get to compete against some quality competition.”

With the theme of the day being unity Friday, Gray said he’s glad he’s been able to practice what was preached each year he’s come to the camp.

“These types of things help bring unity for all of our area schools,” Gray said. “We have teams from Louisiana here, we have some public schools here, and the unity has been so good over the years.

“I’ve personally enjoyed the relationships I’ve had with the other coaches, being able to get to know them and the other schools.”