By Craig Beilfuss

Youngsters in the community survived hot temperatures this past week as they participated in a week-long football camp held by Maranatha at Mona Shores High School.

Teaming up with Maranatha, were football coaches from Northwood University, Gannon University and Sports World out of Indianapolis. On hand representing Sports World was former Colorado Buffalo and New York Giant running back, Lee Rouson.

Former New York Giant and two-time Super Bowl champion, Lee Rouson gives tips during camp at Mona Shores.

Rouson, who played football at the University of Colorado, was picked up by the New York Giants in the 8th round of the 1985 draft and became a member of two Super Bowl championships and played in New York until the 1991. His eight-year career finished with the Cleveland Browns in 1992.

Sports World sends professional athletes to share personal life experiences with students, helping them recognize the consequences of choices while challenging them with the message of hope. The focus at Sports World is to help students see the value of making positive choices in their life.

While at the camp, the 6-2 Rouson talked briefly about his former coaches, teammates and personal spiritual life.

“I came to an identity crisis in life,” said Rouson. “Here at the camp, the message to the kids is just be who you are. While at Colorado, we were on probation for three years and most of my dreams didn’t come true that I had hoped for. Your choices are based upon your identity.”

Rouson gives credit to many of his former coaches for his success, but none more than the three Bill’s: Bill Parcells, Bill Belichick and Bill McCartney, all legendary football coaches.

“These were the coaches who influenced me the most,” said Rouson.

Rouson’s personal story revolved around the choices he made on his life path.

Kids line up to do drills while at camp.

“Throughout my life, I have made good choices and I have made bad choices,” said Rouson. “The times I made good, positive choices, my heart was in the right place but I always did it for the wrong reasons. I also made bad choices based on fear and selfishness, and I suffered difficult consequences as a result. Then, I decided to put my full trust in God, and it has made all the difference. Now, I not only make positive choices for the right reasons, but I know I have a purpose when I place all of my trust in God.”

Also having an instrumental role in the camp, were Northwood University head Coach Leonard Haynes and assistant coach Tom Creguer. The foundation from Northwood, according to Creguer, began back in the early 2000’s by former football coach and Athletic Director, Pat Riepma. Northwood coaches have been participating at the football camp since approximately 2006.

Northwood Coach Leonard Haynes (left) stands with Gannon University defensive coordinator Adam Gonzaga, former NFL running back Lee Rouson, Sports World’s Clyde Whitehouse and Northwood University assistant football coach Tom Creguer.

“This year’s football camp was the largest on record,” said Creguer. “The camp welcomed seventy youngsters from the Muskegon area, and were delivered the most important message of salvation from Jesus Christ.”

Maranatha Summer Program and Staff Manager, Ann Ledsworth talked about the sports camps during the 2021 season and what they hope to accomplish.

“To bring in top quality coaches with a love for kids to teach sports skills,” said Ledsworth about Maranath’s goals for the summer sports program. “This is our outreach to the community and a great way for kids to try a sport they are thinking about playing, or that they just think will be fun.”

“The most important thing to us is to have quality teaching for the kids, no matter what level the coach has played or coached,” said Ledsworth. “Having a retired professional take the time to pour into our kids is a bonus and has a great impact on the campers.”.

Maranath’s sports camps have experience a boone in success this summer, showing a 70% participation of area youth not associated with the organization.

“Last summer the kids could not go to camps anywhere and they spent a lot of time this last school year not being able to run around with friends and play sports and just enjoy being a kid,” said Ledsworth who has been employed by Maranatha since 1996. “When parents saw an affordable camp available, they jumped right on it.”

Ledsworth has worked at Maranatha since 1996 managing summer staff and coordinating summer programs, including the sports camps.

“The camps are a highlight for me,” said Ledsworth who coordinates and oversees summer programs for Maranatha. “I have a passion for this community and for Maranatha, and I love kids and sports. How cool is it to have them all intertwined?”