Giving Kids a S.P.A.R.C.

December 20th, 2014 | By Marjie No Comments


Bishop Park wasn’t the only home turf of the championship Downtown Falcons 12U football team this season. On September 30, Athens’ sports performance training facility, S.P.A.R.C., welcomed these young athletes to an evening of speed and agility training designed just for them. High fives and aerial body bumps filled the room as each player’s individual talents were showcased. Whose 20-yard-dash was the fastest? Whose vertical jump was highest? These were top news stories of the evening!

By the end of the two-hour session, everyone was energized with a bragging right! S.P.A.R.C. general manager and Olympic gold medalist, Adam Nelson, wanted to give these young players an up-close and personal feel of what an elite athlete’s training regimen looks like.  In addition to the competitive speed and agility drills, the team was instructed on proper technique and strategies to improve their skill level.

Coach Ben Farnsworth, director of sports and community outreach for Downtown Ministries, was thrilled with the opportunity for his senior team to train at S.P.A.R.C.: “… For our kids to be able to have coaching and training from Olympic and college athletes is an opportunity and experience most children will never have.”

Established in 2003 as a program of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Athens, Downtown Ministries began as a mission geared toward helping and shaping the inner-city youth of Athens. What started as one Downtown Falcons football team has grown to include four football teams for players aged four to 12 years, four cheerleading squads, three boys and one girls basketball team, and a gymnastics team that was added last spring.

In August 2013, the ministry launched Downtown Academy, a private, Christ-centered school serving the same inner-city youth as the sports teams have done for 10 years. Through passionate leadership and dedicated support from our community, both Downtown Ministries and Downtown Academy are impacting lives and building loving relationships with inner-city youth in the Athens community.


The mission and work of Downtown Ministries caught the attention of the Mulherin Foundation. Discovering their shared passion for inner-city youth, the foundation and the ministry teamed up to support their programs and offer a little something unique.

The Mulherin Foundation is the product of Athens Orthopedic Clinic’s love for community and desire to make a positive impact in the communities they serve. Affectionately named after William “Butch” Mulherin, MD, founding physician of Athens Orthopedic Clinic, the foundation focuses its efforts on serving at-risk children through healthy nutrition and physical activity. Partnering with local organizations with similar missions makes magical synergy!

Hosting the Downtown Falcons at Athens Orthopedic’s S.P.A.R.C clinic this fall is just one example of this type of partnership. Even AOC dietician, Tena Daniel, wanted to be involved with the young athletes’ visit to S.P.A.R.C.: ”I really enjoy teaching young athletes that the way they eat has a tremendous impact on performance.” Tena has an unforgettable way of teaching. Her ‘concession stand’ smoothie included two hot dogs, nachos and cheese, candy bar, and a 20-ounce soda. After blending all these ingredients into a smoothie, the entire team agreed they’d much rather have the real smoothie Tena made next using real frozen strawberries, Greek yogurt, and a touch of fruit juice!

With wide eyes and a contagious spirit of joy, the young athletes soaked up their evening at S.P.A.R.C., but the ear-to-ear smiles told the real story. By the end of the session, it was hard to tell who had the most fun … the Downtown Falcons or the S.P.A.R.C. trainers and staff!

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