STAFF WRITER JENNIFER FIERRO
Sports provide valuable life lessons for students at Smoking for Jesus Ministry Christian School, just like at any other school.
School administrators wanted to ensure their students had the opportunities to learn those lessons. So the Burnet school joined the Texas Christian Athletic League this year.
“It was the right size for us,” said William Tumblin, Smoking for Jesus athletic director and head volleyball coach. “They have small schools in different divisions.”
This year’s volleyball team advanced to the league’s state tournament, where the Lady Eagles lost both matches in the double-elimination event. One loss was to Sunnybrook Christian Academy of San Antonio, the eventual state champion.
Tumblin said he witnessed his players learning to communicate and unite. That’s especially noteworthy because the seven-player roster had two seventh-graders, a freshman, a sophomore, two juniors, and a senior.
“They kept fighting till the end,” Tumblin said. “Leadership development. One of the biggest things you have to learn is to take responsibility for your own actions. You learn to build relationships. You learn to build unity according to Christian principles.”
When school started in August, the athletic department was still searching for a league. Smoking for Jesus head football coach Charles Frazier met with Larry Johnson of TCAL to ensure the school’s and the league’s missions aligned.
Because the Lady Eagles were practicing while administrators searched for a league, Tumblin said the players weren’t that far behind when they began competing.
“TCAL gives our kids opportunities,” he said. “We wanted to give our kids an opportunity to play sports to help their development. We want kids playing a sport and learning the benefits of playing on a team.”
That is also true for the school’s six-man football team, which has had to travel across the state for all of its games. Opponents have been in Arlington, Waco, Corpus Christi, Fort Worth, Seguin, La Grange, New Braunfels, and Austin.
Tumblin said the biggest adjustment for the Eagles was learning the rules of six-man. Many of the athletes had played on 11-man teams. Despite a 0-8 record, they remain persistant.
“They’re kind of learning, and everyone is getting used to it,” Tumblin said. “We’re teaching them not to quit, not to give up. Have faith and learn to go out and give your best.”
The school started in New Orleans in 2004 as part of the Smoking for Jesus Church and was a Louisiana-state approved campus, using the Accelerated Christian Education Curriculum. Administrators were going into the second year of the school’s existence when Hurricane Katrina hit and the congregation evacuated. After church members resettled in Burnet, administrators restarted the school in the fall of 2007.
Tumblin believes the 2018 season is a building block for future years.
“Working together and seeing how fast God can put things together, it gives us a strong foundation of unity,” he said.