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VOL. 113 | NO. 141 | Monday, July 26, 1999

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By SUZANNE THOMPSON Champions of life Ty Cobbs C.R.O.S.S. Fire Commandos couple evangelism and exercise By SUZANNE THOMPSON The Daily News Most people dont think of bungee cords when they think of Bible studies, but Ty Cobb wants to change that. His business, C.R.O.S.S. Fire Commandos, offers simulated rescue training to young people interested in athletics, along with spiritual guidance. For parents like Janis Kimbrough, thats an added bonus on which she cant put a dollar value. "Our society is lacking absolutes. There is a standard, which is the Bible, whether you agree with it or not," she said. "I knew this was a program geared toward character development." Her two sons, John Graves, 12, and Coleman, 8, both have participated in the C.R.O.S.S. Fire Commandos since April, and she said they love the activity and benefit from the five-minute Biblical teaching at each class. "Its not crammed down their throats. You dont want that. These guys have an uncanny way of making whats right and whats good cool," Kimbrough said. These guys Cobb and his head coach, Brandon Tucker, a football player for the University of Memphis, teach the classes themselves for a monthly fee of $50. And, even though the class costs now, Cobbs vision is to bring the program to the inner city, where he hopes to be able to offer it free to underprivileged youth. Cobb is applying for a non-profit status, so he can begin to realize that goal. Starting the business was a leap of faith for Cobb. He and his wife, Becky, sold their dream home, a 7,500-square-foot former Vesta Home Show winner, to help capitalize the business. So far, Cobb said hes sunk more than $250,000 into the venture, which he started in December. Cobb, a former cheerleader at The University of Mississippi, said after graduating from college he developed the Slam Dunk Daredevils, entertainment troops that perform at amusement parks. The teams have toured the country extensively and have been featured on national TV shows, such as the Jerry Lewis Telethon. His experience in entertainment taught him the importance of putting on a good show, and after teaching Sunday School for years at Grace Evangelical Church, Cobb said he felt called into service by God to try to extend his teaching to youth. "There is a lot more that can be done to give kids some guidance," he said. The one-hour classes meet weekly at Dulins Sports Academy located off Fischer Steel Road in Cordova. Two trampolines built into the floor and scaffolding designed for repelling give the boys and girls plenty to do during their sessions. Classes include fitness training geared to imitate rescue training. The C.R.O.S.S. part of the name stands for Critical Rescue Operations in Severe Situations. "Its kind of like Navy Seals training for young people," Cobb said. The additional goal of teaching the children how to stand firm in what they believe readies them for the difficulties of adolescence and will help them resist drugs and other negative influences, Cobb said. The class opens and closes with prayer, said Tucker, who said he enjoys his job because it incorporates evangelism with exercise. "The Bible in First Corinthians, 10:31, says, Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it to glorify God. Everything about C.R.O.S.S.Fire Commandos is centered around Christ," he said. Another unique aspect of the program is its reward system. Like scout programs, participants in the C.R.O.S.S. Fire Commandos work to earn patches in eight character-building categories, some of which include courage, service, honor and faith. There are 10 different patches under each of the eight categories, which are applied to the participants pants with Velcro. Whats unique about this reward system is that instead of a cookie cutter approach where students earns patches by meeting goals, the students themselves set their goals based on their own level of determination and endurance, Cobb said. While he said the curriculum is still being fine-tuned, this reward system allows students to learn at their own pace, while gaining mastery in different skills. Another aspect of this program that differs from others is that some patches require parent participation. For instance, for one of the service patches, the parents meet with the child and coach to set that goal, Cobb said. It might include a commitment by parents to work with a child at a soup kitchen, or something simpler, such as a parents promise to play ball with the child for a set number of minutes per day, he said. If the parents doesnt keep up their end of the deal, the child cant progress to the next patch level. Cobb said the motivation behind this approach is to do something to help build strong families while developing character. One of the most difficult parts of designing this program, he said, was determining how to get parents involved, so lessons learned at the classes are reinforced at home. Even though the program is still evolving, Cobb said hes determined to keep trying until he gets it right. "The main thing were committed to is never giving up," he said.
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