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Quest takes aim at teaching core values to kids

Douglas Fritz • Updated Jun 15, 2019 at 11:07 PM

Playing at the highest level of college football, Craig Koehler’s calling in life hadn’t penetrated his heart.

A long snapper for the University of Tennessee in 1999 — the year after the Volunteers won the national championship — Koehler was dealing with more than a few hard knocks from Division I defensive linemen.

“I had a lot of personal stuff going on,” he said. “It was an interesting battle for me, and it was where a lot of these core values started fine-tuning themselves within me.”

A decade later, the Hampton, Virginia, native found a new direction.

“God gave me the vision for Quest, 10 years ago,” said Koehler. “You just have to show kids how to do it. You look on social media and everything is negative, and it’s all about ‘me.’ In order to create change, you have to do something different. You have to show kids they have a future.”

Koehler helped develop a product he said will fulfill a unique need not addressed in today’s athletic skill development programs. It centers around the teaching of core values, like teamwork, integrity and respect.

“We want to partner with parents, businesses, and churches to train today’s youth to be fundamentally prepared for winning humbly and losing gracefully in both athletics and life,” Koehler said.

The current targeted age group for Quest is first through eighth grade, but Koehler said it will expand. And he already has a ringing endorsement from Science Hill head football coach Stacy Carter, who has been implementing Quest principles into the Hilltoppers’ program.

“Craig is coming up with a high school curriculum, and I’m in it full bore,” said Carter. “You listen to this guy, and he’s doing it right. I think it’s a great idea. What I like about it best is it’s Christ-centered. It’s all the good things we want as a team, and it gives credit to where it comes from. And at the end of the day, you want to give these kids more than sports.”

STARTING POINT

Koehler graduated from UT and started working at a large church in Knoxville.

His self-described super-competitive nature kicked in, so he took a job selling medical devices and moved to the Tri-Cities area.

The dark edges of the corporate world, where making money sometimes trumps ethics, didn’t fit with Koehler’s life approach. And two years ago, things started to fall into place for him to launch Quest.

WHAT IS QUEST?

The main thrust of Quest is developing core values in kids. The targeted values are character, stewardship, faithfulness, resilience, responsibility, teamwork, integrity, leadership, diligence, honesty, respect and honor.

Koehler said the game changer is the role-playing aspect of Quest.

“Kids practice roles in line with a specific core value,” he said. “So if we’re working on respect, you get reps like you would with any other kind of practice. The more reps you get, the better you are at it. You learn how to apply the core values to your sport.”

One the of the key aspects for Quest is the use of positive reinforcement. Koehler said this allows the kids to better understand the core values. He said he recently asked a group of around 70 high school athletes how many of them knew what core values were.

“Two kids raised their hand, which is shocking in itself,” said Koehler. “But once they understand these core values, it’s a game changer.”

Quest isn’t designed to produce more success in terms of wins and losses.

“We’re not saying this will turn a seven-loss team into a two-loss team,” said Koehler. “But it provides a foundation. You learn these things through sports. A football player may say, ‘Yes, sir’ because he doesn’t want to get punished. But in a role-play environment, the athletes can understand what respect looks like. Kids can take the core values and apply them to their home lives.”

Koehler said Quest can provide curriculum, athletic drills and devotions.

“We have secular curriculums as well,” he said. “They teach the same things, but don’t have the Bible verse. Some travel teams out of Knoxville told me they didn’t want to teach kids about the Bible, but still wanted the core values. But all of this ultimately comes from the Bible.”

Koehler said Quest can be very helpful for organizations.

“A lot of organizations are scrambling to find coaches,” he said. “This gives added value to their programs, and helps the organization get and retain coaches.”

HOW TO GET INVOLVED

Quest offers curriculum to existing leagues, like those in the Johnson City or Kingsport parks and recreation departments, or the FC Dallas travel soccer teams.

“They already have the kids,” said Koehler. “A lot of folks are looking for ways to make their program better. When you start to teach kids core values, you make them better athletes.”

Quest has its own basketball and soccer leagues. Baseball is coming soon, and football should follow.

“Our launch into the public is just now taking place,” said Koehler.

For more information about Quest, visit the website at thequestmovement.com.

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