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Bump, Set, Spike, Serve


The changing world of athletics at Free Will Baptist Bible College.


Bump, Set, Spike...Serve!

by Gary Turner


Since the age of 12, my life has been devoted to serving Jesus Christ. Trusting Him is a way of life for me. Sure, there have been a few low spots along the way, but God has blessed me many times, and I’ve learned to trust His will and timing for my life. So when He directed me to Free Will Baptist Bible College to become athletic director in the summer of 2009, I knew it was just another step along my spiritual journey.


Something’s Happening Here

This past year (2009-2010) marked my 30th year in Christian higher education. Coming from a university where I administered 14 sports while awarding over $600,000 in athletic scholarship funds to a school with four sports and no scholarships, I knew this position would be a challenge. But after meeting with President Matthew Pinson and Provost Greg Ketteman, I believed the foundation was in place to see great things happen in the athletic department. Their support for athletics and belief that we could build the program inspired me.

We currently offer four varsity sports (men and women’s basketball, baseball, and volleyball). The men’s basketball program is the most visible on campus, thanks to efforts of third-year coach Nathan Willhite (2008 FWBBC graduate). But we want to do more and we can do more.

President Pinson and I met last September to discuss the future of athletics at FWBBC. We soon realized we had the same goals in mind—to provide more varsity sport opportunities for Free Will Baptist high school students who wanted to attend FWBBC and to strengthen the sports we already offer.


Going Forward

The first step is to view athletics as vital to the total education of our students. Athletics, if handled correctly, can be an invaluable asset. Not only do our athletes benefit through physical activity, teamwork, and Christian fellowship, the rest of the campus benefits as well. Fellow students, faculty, and staff can attend games and support the Flames’ teams. This draws the entire campus together. If more Free Will Baptist high school students attend FWBBC, local churches can follow their athletic progress on our website.


Bump, Set, Spike, Serve

The next step is to add sports that provide opportunities for prospective Free Will Baptist students. Since we currently offer only team sports, it makes sense to add individual sports. The logical choices are men’s and women’s cross country and men’s and women’s golf.

Although our current campus is landlocked, golf and cross country can be added without additional outdoor facilities. This means a lower operating budget, plus it allows us to widen our athletic recruiting base.

I proposed the addition of cross country and golf to President Pinson, and was amazed at his response: “How soon can we start?”


One Step at a Time

Originally, I thought about adding cross country first. I had done a great deal of research on both cross country and golf, and it appeared to me that cross country should come first. But God had other plans.

One day in January 2010, Sam Horne walked into my office. “I hear you’re starting golf at the college,” he said. “I want to help any way I can.”

Horne, a graduating senior with aspirations of making the pro tour, was an answer to prayer. With his expertise, my mind quickly changed as to which sport should be added first. This fall we started golf, and it has gone well.


Next Steps

Amy Brewer Walker (2003 FWBBC graduate) agreed to be our head volleyball coach. She has brought a new energy to the team and desires to see it grow. A.J. Turner was hired to lead the women’s basketball program. So far, numbers look good and expectations are high.

With golf underway, cross country will come on board in fall 2011. Rusty Campbell, enrollment services director, has been working on how to best recruit student athletes. His enthusiasm, energy, work ethic, and desire will definitely make an impact on Free Will Baptist students.

Since more than 90% of our students come from Free Will Baptist churches, we want to target student athletes from within the denomination because they are familiar with the college and more likely to attend. We plan to aggressively recruit Free Will Baptist high school athletes. I believe many young people in our denomination would love to attend FWBBC and have an opportunity to participate in intercollegiate sports.

Positive Attitude

We are a great college, and I believe many of you feel just like I do. Intercollegiate athletics can be a vital part of any college campus.

As the college catalog states, “The mission of Free Will Baptist Bible College is to educate leaders to serve Christ, His church, and His world through biblical thought and life.” Since sports are a significant part of our society, student/athletes who attend FWBBC not only are trained to lead, but can use their athletic gifts to further the Kingdom.


We Are in This Together

Free Will Baptist Bible College is here to stay. I hope Free Will Baptist churches will join with us and get excited about athletics at FWBBC. We want to fulfill the mission of the college. You can help.

  • Pray for us.

  • Attend games if you are in the area.

  • Send us names of student athletes in your churches who would benefit from attending FWBBC.

If you know of high school athletes who want to participate in collegiate athletics, please contact me immediately at or call me at 615-844-5276. This could make a difference for them both now and for eternity.

If you are a former Flames player, contact me. I would love to hear from you about the benefits you received from sports participation at FWBBC. See you at the ballpark or in the gymnasium or on the back nine. Go Flames!


About the Writer: Gary Turner is the Physical Education program coordinator and athletic director at Free Will Baptist Bible College.

©2011 ONE Magazine, National Association of Free Will Baptists