An interview with Ally and Jeff Davidson of CG Victory and Camp Gladiator
Everywhere you look these days you can read about the intense training and race events for adults. You can do “50 Shades of Pain” at the Slaughter Bootcamp in Detroit, Michigan. If you want something a bit softer (Not!) then you can go for a Powder Puff Boot Camp at About Face Boot Camp in Cramerton, North Carolina. For perhaps the ultimate in intense experiences be challenged by a team of all Navy SEALS at EXTREME SEAL EXPERIENCE in Chesapeake, Virginia. And the races --- There is the Tough Mudder, the Spartan Race, or heat things up with the 150-mile Des Sables Marathon in the Sahara Desert. Some of these camps range from ridiculous to rough-edged (tobacco and profanity are ok). Get a physical exam first and then sign the waiver because many of them are also risky. That’s the idea, right!?
There are plenty of ways for adults to play hard these days but we found one amazing program that isn’t just family-friendly, it is geared for youth. More significantly it has a Christ-Centered foundation. This is a great idea not just because youth want to join in the tough adventure experience but also because the best foundation on which to start an intense fitness program is one that has intents directed toward God. It’s the whole Biblical concept of training children in the way they should go and then when they are older they won’t depart from it.
Perhaps the toughest adult bootcamp workouts are yet to be created as the image of the Christian warrior fighting tough spiritual battles takes the intense experience into a more extreme reality. For now, the kids get to have some real intense fun that is intently faith-centered.
I interviewed Ally and Jeff Davidson, founders of Camp Gladiator and CG Victory. We talked about the mission, the adventure and what I hope will be the beginning of CG Victory in YOUR community.
-Brad Bloom, Publisher
Continue reading the interview with Ally and Jeff Davidson.
Faith & Fitness Magazine: The mission of CG Victory is, “To share the joy of Christ by laughing, loving and living adventurously.” Describe each of those in more detail as they relate to the CG Victory experience.
Ally Davidson: This mission is an amazing descriptor of our camp experience and characteristics of Christ we believe children truly recognize and understand.
Joy represents the overall camp feel everyday that is produced through the high-energy, enthusiastic and positive attitudes our counselors bring everyday. This attitude ignites a contagious energy in our campers that builds throughout the week and allows us to share the gospel message.
With that energy comes a ton of laughter! We have skits, silly dance-offs, and of course tons of pies in the face-- you can’t help but laugh throughout the day. We find that when kids are visibly having a great time, their walls come down and they tend to want to open up and talk about their lives, as well as engage in conversations relating to relationship with God.
Jeff Davidson: Love is abundant at camp everyday. We tell our staff at orientation that their main job is to ‘love on the kids’. From high-fives, constant encouragement, and working together with a team all week our campers feel like they are a part of the CG family. When our campers feel loved, again they are able to better receive the gospel message and the conversations in our huddle groups are more meaningful.
Living Adventurously is all about getting out of your comfort zone, trying something new, and accomplishing more than you thought you could on your own. That opportunity is offered every day at camp, as the campers are playing crazy games they have probably never played like Gator Ball, Gauntlet, and Field Noodle Hockey. But the biggest challenge is the last day of camp when campers run the Victory Dash--an intense obstacle course. We have heard countless times that campers are intimated at first, but with the help of their teammates and counselors cheering them on they are able to complete it.
Faith & Fitness Magazine: How is a week at CG Victory different for a youth compared to a week at Vacation Bible School or some other summer day camp?
Ally Davidson: Ally - A week at CG Victory is an exciting, epic journey and a true adventure. From the staff to the day-to-day schedule it is jam-packed. There is really no ‘down’ time or opportunity for campers to feel bored. Campers are 100% engaged all week. Which is rare at your average summer camp or even VBS. We accomplish that engagement by pulling our campers into a story that requires their full participation and energy. The outcome of which team wins at the end of the week really is up to the campers.
Jeff Davidson: At the beginning of the week campers are immediately pulled into our camp story that leads them into one of two teams, the blue team: Calida and the red team: Veritas. These two teams require each camper to be completely sold out and devoted to earning as many points as possible for their team. The level of competition everyday is intense. Our campers go all out by dressing in their team colors, making up their own team chants and cheers. They get extremely creative! At the end of each day of camp there is a team in the lead, and at the end of the week we have one last battle to determine the winner of the entire camp.
Faith & Fitness Magazine: Your core business is Camp Gladiator. You characterize it by saying, “It’s like an adult PE class – we’re out there having fun.” Explain in greater detail what Camp Gladiator is and describe what participants can expect from it.
Ally and Jeff Davidson: Camp Gladiator is and adult outdoor group fitness program for adults of all ages and ability levels. We call each workout '60 Minutes of Amazing' because the environment is incredibly inspiring and positive. The workouts are a go at your own pace, full body, functional workout that will certainly challenge you, but at the same time, it's fun because you are surrounded by your fellow campers and trainers who motivate you to keep working hard. We try to incorporate team competitions and games to keep it fun and light hearted, so yes, it feels like an adult PE class that people look forward to everyday!
Faith & Fitness Magazine: There are several Camp Gladiator’s throughout the nation, and it is growing. Why bother doing CG Victory?
Jeff Davidson: CG Victory was actually the original plan after we [had appeared on the TV show] American Gladiators. Not many people know that, Camp Gladiator was actually the consolation prize when we realized we missed the window to start a kid’s camp.
Ally Davidson: I was deeply impacted by my Christian summer camp experience in Austin as a kid; it is actually where I made a first time decision to follow Christ, which changed my life forever. So my desire to give more kids an experience like I had is the ‘heart-beat’ of everything we do. And we decided to make the camp a 501- c-3 non-profit because we want it to be bigger than us, we want more people involved to carry the banner and ultimately impact more lives for Christ.
Faith & Fitness Magazine: You talk about how “forming relationships” is key to Camp Gladiator and CG Victory as both your business model and your personal commitment to ministry. That’s one of the strong selling points for any number of the intense outdoor fitness programs for adults and youth. So, how does your faith mindset, Christ’s mandate to reach others with God’s love and an overall Biblical worldview make a distinct difference? What more do campers get in a relationship by participating in your programs?
Ally and Jeff Davidson: Regarding our kids camp, the counselor camper relationship is by far the most powerful and central to what we do with youth. Each day a counselor is able to break down barriers a child might have to learning more about faith and Christ, and by the end of the week we see that there are big strides emotionally, spiritually and mentally for our campers. They leave camp with a renewed sense of purpose, the desire to either seek out Christian community or pursue a personal relationship with Christ with more intention or devotion. This type of outcome truly is not always the case at every VBS or even every camp, to truly get a camper to change their attitude and outlook on life is a huge accomplishment.
Faith & Fitness Magazine: CG Victory so far has been done in Texas. What is involved for someone to launch a CG Victory in a community in another state? What are the basics to do such a program? Does it have to be done at a church?
Ally and Jeff Davidson: Well there are a few key ingredients to making CG Victory successful in other cities. Thankfully through Camp Gladiator we have the first ingredient taken care of -- brand recognition. Any summer camp that starts has to put a lot of resources in marketing and promotion. Our kid’s camps follow our most successful adult camper markets. We go where we are known, where people are waiting for us. So we can skip those high marketing costs all together. Hopefully our Camp Gladiator markets outside of Texas continue to do well so we can bring CG Victory there.
The 2nd ingredient is the staff, as in the directors, college counselors and high-school junior counselor team. This camp cannot be replicated without the high quality, devoted Christian and experienced staff. Right now we are working on creating a way for more staff to be trained so that they can go to another city and be successful. But it really takes All-Stars.
The 3rd ingredient is a great location with a large field and area for kids to cool off! The physical place we actually run the camp does not need to be a church at all. Currently we are able to run camps at schools, rec centers, and we partner with other non-profits. Children of all faiths attend our camps and are welcome. I would estimate that at least 25% of our campers don’t come from Christian homes at all.
Faith & Fitness Magazine: What kind of feedback have you received from parents who have had youth participate in CG Victory? How has it impacted those people leading the camp?
Ally and Jeff Davidson: The feedback has been incredible. We administer a parent survey after each summer so we can actually improve each year and the ratings are consistently through the roof as far as camper engagement and impact our staff makes. This kind of reaction helps us to build a strong foundation of returner counselors who are so motivated by their experience that they want to work for us again the following summer and recruit their friends.
Faith & Fitness Magazine: For those Camp Gladiator operators that are Christian and have a vision to make this great fitness experience also a ministry to their campers, do you provide additional and specific training and support? In other words people going to church hope that a pastor not only is passionate and enjoys caring for people but also has gained effective training and instruction in the art of pastoring.
Ally and Jeff Davidson: For our kids camp counselors and directors, they receive training on how to communicate with kids and share about the Christian faith and they are prepared to answer some tough questions. With our adult fitness program, this is not a Faith Based Non Profit, so we cannot be as direct about our faith, but we try to show our Christian values by the way that we interact with our campers and conduct our business. We teach our trainers about fostering community and building relationships and creating a positive environment. Even though you do not have to be a Christian to be a trainer for our adult bootcamps, we are open in expressing our Christian beliefs to our adult bootcamp trainers and we have build our company on our primary Foundational Principle which is to honor God.
Learn more about CG Victory and get involved making an intense impact in the lives of youth.