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    December 7, 2022 Lynchburg, Va. RSS |

    This semester, members and coaches of Liberty University’s ski and snowboard team had two opportunities to partner with Anxious for Nothing, a skateboard ministry in Bedford, Va., affiliated with Blue Ridge Community Church, to teach approximately 20 youth from that community how to snowboard and ski at the Liberty Mountain Snowflex Centre (LMSC).

    “They had a really awesome time coming back,” Flames Head Coach Isaac Gibson said after the second two-hour training session in early November after the initial meeting on Sept. 27. “It was really cool to see so many of them come for a second time and not only learn to snowboard but be able to progress further than then they had the first time. Quite a few were able to go up to the higher slope and go down the whole way.”

    Assistant coaches Ian Rosario, Bobby Bynum, and Jessica Gibson helped organize and run the clinics along with seven current student-athletes — seniors Max Ozanne and Jesse Mast, junior Josephine Rich, sophomores Kayla Davidson, Jayden Horracks, and Charlie Barkow, and freshman Loken Siebert.

    “We try to keep the ratio of instructors to kids low so that they are getting good instruction, because kids are able to progress much quicker when they receive more attention,” Gibson said.

    However, only a select few of Liberty’s student-athletes were able to provide training due to liability rules requiring they have experience as certified instructors.

    “We encouraged team members to come hang out with the skateboarders and do a demo for the kids to show them what they can work up to if they keep coming back,” Gibson said.

    Anxious for Nothing President Karla Powell oversees the outreach that has up to 100 Bedford-area youth involved. Last year, the ministry repurposed much of the equipment from the Liberty Mountain Skate Park (LMSP) — which was converted into indoor training facilities for the Club Sports archery, rifle, and taekwondo teams — and set it up in a Bedford shopping center that the church purchased.

    “They bought the mobile half-pipe and ramps and set up a skatepark to do outreach on Friday nights,” Gibson said. “Anxious for Nothing works with a lot of people that don’t have the opportunity to try snowboarding  because of the financial barrier that is there, so we wanted to partner with a ministry that is working with underprivileged kids to give them that.”

    Gibson said winter action sports are a natural progression for skateboarders.

    “A lot of that mentality that goes into skateboarding translates well to ski and snowboarding, and trying new tricks on the slopes,” he said. “Still, the (rail and jump) features are very different, and the biggest crossover is not being afraid to try things and being able to fall and get back up. When you are learning to skateboard, falling is inevitable, so it is about learning to have the attitude of being able to get up from a fall and brush yourself off and give it another try.”

    Besides offering tips to help the skateboarders transition to skis and snowboards, coaches and team members also built relationships and discipled them in the Christian faith. Sophomore Coby Liebelt, one of the team’s spiritual leaders, led the devotion for the September session before Gibson taught from the book of James on the power of words and how one’s speech can be used to love people and to edify them or to tear them down.

    “Many of the kids come from broken homes and rough situations, so (Anxious for Nothing) does anything they can do to bring hope and joy into their lives, with the biggest goal to share the Gospel,” Gibson said. “Their hope is always to bridge kids from the skateboard ministry to the church. We had a little devotional time for the whole group, all the leaders and the kids, which was awesome. They were all asking to stay longer and wanting to come back, which is an awesome thing to see when ending an event — so many people excited and anxious to come back again.”

    Gibson said the team is committed to continue the partnership and invite the skateboarders back to Snowflex twice more in the spring semester, possibly in late March and again in April, after the Flames and Lady Flames compete in the USCSA National Championships, set for March 6-11 at Mammoth Mountain Ski Area in Mammoth Lakes, Calif.

    “We don’t want to make a one-time impact on the kids, but to continue to have them come back and invest in them,” Gibson said.

    He is also looking to send student-athletes out to be witnesses for Christ wherever their careers lead, using Snowflex as the training ground and the local chapter of Snowboarders and Skiers For Christ (SFC) — based in Colorado where former Liberty Head Coach Ryan Leeds serves as director of leadership development — as a catalyst. Kayla Davidson, a sophomore from Massachusetts who joined the team last winter after starting as an instructor at Snowflex, attended SFC’s conference from Nov. 17-20 at Water Valley in New Hampshire.

    “The biggest part in wanting to be associated with SFC is a broader spectrum of contacts around the country, because we are trying to connect our athletes with an organization they can potentially be a part of after graduation” Gibson said.

    By Ted Allen/Staff Writer