Palm Coast - Michael Jordan once said, "Winning isn't always championships."

Sometimes the experience and growth as an athlete is just as rewarding.

For many youth locally, they recently had the chance explore new experiences on the field or hone their skills in areas of soccer, baseball, volleyball, basketball and golf with professional coaches and collegiate athletes through the National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA).

The two-hour annual event - in partnership with Palm Coast Parks & Recreation - offered free sports clinics with golf at the Palm Harbor Golf Club and the other sports at James F. Holland Memorial Park on Saturday, Oct. 17. The experts performed instruction, drills, and scrimmages, all while instilling teamwork and a love of the game.

"This is such a rewarding event for Parks & Recreation," said Director Lauren Johnston. "Working with NCCAA has been a wonderful partnership allowing our local youth to learn from collegiate athletes. For some of these children, this is their first exposure to a new sport, so this event allows them to see where athletics can take them."

The NCCAA is a non-profit association. At each of their regional and national championships nationwide, they perform a variety of Christian Service Projects (CSPs) in the communities that host these events, which can be a sports clinic or food drive, among other projects.

The participating schools at Saturday's event were Trinity Baptist College from Jacksonville, Florida; University of Northwestern from St. Paul, Minnesota; and Cedarville University from Cedarville, Ohio. Through their guidance, the coaches and collegiate athletes practiced pitching, lay-ups, running while kicking, serving the ball, and the perfect swing technique to about 50 children. Chick-fil-A, a national partner of the NCCAA, provided lunch, and a donor provided free t-shirts for each participant. Parks & Recreation staff handled the registration, partnered with the NCCAA on marketing and promotions, and managed the day-of event logistics.

"The goal of the NCCAA is to use athletics to make a positive impact for Christ," said Kelly Wood, NCCAA Director of Community Relations. "The many CSPs that we perform nationwide allow us to provide encouragement, fun, and give back to our host communities. Palm Coast has been a wonderful host to NCCAA events over the years. Hopefully we are all better because of our partnership."

The partnership through Parks and Recreation and the NCCAA gives student-athletes the opportunity to learn that giving of themselves is more important than wins and losses. They also learn leadership skills as they work with the children who participate. 

Over the years, Wood recalled numerous children and their parents who have described what a great experience these clinics were for the child. One mother said to her, "My son had the most positive male role model today than he's had his entire life. Thank you for being here." 

It's that kind influential moment that can instill confidence in young minds to believe in themselves. Michael Jordan is considered to be one of them through his storied career. Most revered for his skills on the court, he was also known for his determination and perseverance.

He once said, "I realized that if I was going to achieve anything in life I had to be aggressive. I had to get out there and go for it." 

So to start any sport, you have to give it a chance. The next NCCAA sports clinic will be March 20, 2021 at Holland Park and Palm Harbor Golf Club. If interested in playing, contact Palm Coast Parks and Recreation to see what is offered or visit parksandrec.fun.