Nearly 100 students from Alta and Storm Lake were able to shoot baskets, play foosball and relax with friends on Friday night after the Alta-St. Mary's basketball game, taking part in the first-ever Alta Fellowship of Christian Athletes Overtime event.
The three-hour Overtime, hosted by Summit Evangelical Free Church, was meant to provide a positive atmosphere free of drugs and alcohol for the high school pupils, who were able to enjoy a number of activities such as watching a tape of the Iowa-Iowa State basketball game, eating pizza and playing pickup volleyball games.
The turnout exceeded the 75 students expected at the free event, and Alta FCA facilitator Mike Norris said he and other adult leaders sponsoring the Overtime were pleased with the number of youth who attended.
"We thought it went really well," Norris, who helped supervise the get-together with Summit youth pastor Kevin Mahr, said. "We were really encouraged with how it went and with how many kids showed up, and we thought it was something that really provided them with a good atmosphere to be in. It was a good time for them to get together and visit and have fun."
The Overtime was the biggest activity put on by the FCA organization this year, besting an "FCA Gameday" trip down to the Iowa State-Missouri football game earlier this fall that attracted 44 students.
The club, which formed as a group this fall, acts as a peer support group by combining Christian-based values with a message of staying substance-free, and Norris said the goals of FCA are to help students encourage one another in academic, extracurricular and social settings and help them realize they can have fun in non-substance environments.
"We felt like there was a real need for activities that would put kids in positive environments, and we wanted to help fill that void," Norris said. "The main goal was to provide a positive place for kids to be. We want to show them that you can have a lot of fun at drug- and alcohol-free activities."
The motto of FCA this year is "One Way to Play," a reference to staying away from drugs and alcohol. Students in FCA have been able to help each other live up to that ideal by forming "accountability buddy" relationships with classmates this fall, an idea Norris said has been beneficial for the high school pupils.
"We wanted to take a really positive approach to this, and we thought establishing accountability buddies was an idea that made sense," Norris said. "Instead of a coach or adult asking you not to do this or that, this provides you with a peer and a friend that will help you and support you. We're excited, because it seems to have worked pretty well so far."
After signing a commitment card stating they will not use drugs or alcohol, each student will receive their accountability buddy. This peer will help make sure the contract to stay substance-free is not violated by regularly asking their friend different questions dealing with the issues of drugs and alcohol. This is meant to encourage honesty and establish a family support network within the group.
A total of 48 students have signed up for the buddy program this semester, including all those on the junior varsity boys basketball team and a majority of those on both the girls and boys basketball squads.
While the organization is a Christian one, Norris said students from all backgrounds are welcome at future events similar to last week's Overtime.
"We're keeping this real open," Norris said. "You don't have to be an FCA members to share in these experiences, that that's important, because more kids will hopefully be able to be a part of these positive experiences in the future."