By Pat Sabiston, Connecting NowFaith
Run with purpose: 1 Corinthians 9:26
The seed for a love of sports was planted in Bill Motta’s heart early in his life but under tough circumstances.
“My father passed away when I was two years old, but my mother was a strong, church-going woman, so I was blessed with a solid upbringing in Miami,” said Bill. “Beginning when I was six, I played all major sports and was fortunate to be surrounded by solid men of character who coached me to be morally upright.”
“I watched all the ways they lived, which wasn’t just about winning games,” recalled Bill. “I thank God those men were in my life.” And it was from those humble, yet grounded years, that Victory Kids, Inc. was founded.
As noted on their website, Victory Kids’ goal is “to help young student-athletes develop a philosophy for living an honorable, high-character life. We emphasize Christian moral codes that apply on and off the field. By running youth camps that emphasize empathy, honor, and establishing a set of core values that will help them become trustworthy, dependable teammates, sons/daughters, and friends, we hope to convey by word and action how to develop the confidence to live life passionately with a ferocious righteousness that others can observe and to practice compassion in all things.”
Motta explained how the organization evolved, “I had been coaching high school and college football and watched the recruiting college process become very complicated, expensive and intimidating. So, I decided to start Victory Kids to help student athletes navigate the college selection process through free performance training and recruiting assistance to all high school athletes going through the college selection process, drafting mechanism. The community has been very generous in helping me offset the costs associated with that.”
Victory Kids grew into a larger ministry serving community youth through camps and events as well as assisting high school athletes in achieving their athletic goals. “Now, the camps have been going for more than ten years, and we have five free camps per year that address the mind, body, and soul,” Bill said. “We teach everyone to their level proper sportsmanship and ability, but everything is backed up with a character lesson that is linked to scripture, regardless of what we are training. For instance, we use the Parable of the Talents to illustrate that our exercises are about maximizing the talents a player has been blessed with to glorify God, family, and themselves.”
Mathematics is even worked into the health module, where every athlete must do calculations regarding their calorie usage as it relates to the demands on their body.
“When the kids leave our camp, we want them to be balanced in life,” Bill said. “We explain to them the need to apply themselves in the classroom. Using Christian principles, even though we don’t cram Jesus down their throats, we leave them with the knowledge that they need to be on a spiritual journey. Then, God will speak to them when He’s ready.”
Victory Kids meets at the Jimmy Graves Sports Complex field in Vero Beach. “Even with the pandemic, we have been responsible for social distancing and other protocols. Still, it has been excellent for the kids to get out of their houses for some much-needed exercise,” he said.
Another unique service Motta provides to young people is helping them get noticed by colleges, especially since they have not been able to hold spring practices, and college coaches were unable to visit schools due to Covid-19.
“This year, we opened up the park to everyone on the Treasure Coast and had 32 athletes show up,” Bill explained. “We had students attend, plus coaches and trainers.
Everything was videotaped, and we compiled a highlight reel of each player’s performance. Then, they could take that packet and send it away to colleges they want to attend. As a result, we’ve had great feedback from the colleges as to what a great idea this was, as it was essential for the kids’ exposure.”
Motta knows a thing or two about preparing athletes for college. His own son was recruited by Notre Dame, and later was drafted as a rookie for the Atlanta Falcons.
So what’s next for Motta?
“I’m going to continue doing what I do because I believe God placed me here. We may be starting a youth soccer league, but I’m just going to go where God leads,” Bill said.
More than ever, Motta feels as if instilling boundaries and character, within a spiritual journey, are critical to the youth in our culture.
“I see two major problems with youth and adults,” Bill said. “One, no one wants to take responsibility for their own actions. And two, people seem to think they’re entitled to something without earning it; therefore, we always begin our practices with a challenge.
“Also, over the last 20 years, I’ve seen a real lack of leadership on the teams I’ve coached,” Bill shared. “A person doesn’t have to be the greatest athlete to be a leader, so we teach the lessons of leading by serving, being positive in their actions, being on time … the simple things which are often lacking. Working with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes has been rewarding as well.”
Since Motta has poured so much of himself into the region’s youth, we wanted to hear from participants in the Victory Kids’ program as to their memories of Motta’s instruction.
“Coach Bill Motta has been a real inspiration to my life, the life of my friends, teammates, and athletes looking to better themselves in not only the game of football but life in general. As Coach Motta told me, ‘football is just a tool to develop good habits in your personal lives. Football builds characteristics such as leadership, accountability, honesty, teamwork, courage, respect, brotherhood, and a good work ethic,’” Brendan Sposato, a local freshman, said. “All these habits are important to help you succeed in life. Not only does Coach Motta push me physically, but he constantly challenges me mentally. He is an amazing coach, a great man, and is one of the people I strive to be like.”
For Jad Shalhoub, who is now 25, the mind/body/soul component was critical.
“Coach Motta was always high energy, high intensity with anything pertaining to our self-development. He often emphasized the importance of investing in Mind, Body, and Soul. He did this by holding us accountable to our academics, by training us to prevent injury and monitor nutrition, and, above all, by enriching our spirits with inspirational Bible stories, his personal testimony, and sometimes just a spin on his own creative genius. Coach is truly a community-oriented intellectual with a good heart. Though in times of praise, he might remind us of his imperfections, he exemplifies the long-term reward of choosing the often more difficult, higher road.”
When asked what kind of legacy Motta wanted to leave for his students, he was quick to dismiss that idea. “I don’t want to leave a personal legacy for anyone,” he said. “I just want the kids to be great people with an amazing life. If I can influence someone, or help them have a fulfilling life that glorifies God, that’s my only goal.”