The Training Ground story started in the hearts of founders Xan Hood and Cory Smith before they knew each other or what God would accomplish through them.
In the early 2000s Xan was at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville and was working with a team of people that started a ministry called “The Cross.” Cory was going full throttle working in Richmond, VA, with Young Life. By God’s design both men moved to Colorado Springs and in 2005 found themselves talking at a holiday event hosted by John Elbredge.
Xan had just written the book Untamed and the discussion that day in John’s very crowded living room led both Cory and Xan to realize they were both thinking about ministry in a similar way.
Early in 2006 Xan joined Cory who was working at a painting company. Through the process of working with several young men there passion began to find clarification. Both men noticed the benefit of young men working, living and growing together. It was from this experience, their mutual years of ministry and their own observations of the masculine journey that the need for something more and the idea of Training Ground was birthed.
There were many discussions with quality people in other living rooms, coffee shops, back decks and garages. Many of the people that would eventually become Summer instructors (now called “Guides”) provided the strength, inspiration and encouragement to move forward with a developing dream.
In 2006 Xan and Cory incorporated the not-for-profit, Training Ground. They risked a lot and purchased the online domain name www.Trainingground.com. It cost $1000.00. Cory said it seemed like a huge risk. For sure it was as both Xan and Cory were married and starting families.
It was now 2007 and the first class of Training Ground men was accepted and planning for a summer in Colorado. Cory remembers, “It was intense and exciting time as the expanding TG family spent three weeks renovating the cabin. We put in new counter tops, painted, rehung doors and prayed. Donors sharing the TG passion caught the vision and in the summer of 2007 three weeks after the renovations started the first class of TG alums found their way to a cozy cabin in Palmer Lake, CO.
Cory says, “That summer we were fortunate to have the group of guys we did, they were hungry and willing. We were passionate but really had no idea what we were doing… the funny thing is, much of what we started is still the same today. Training Ground still does the same trips to Estes Park, the Snowy Range and the Grand Tetons. The teaching topics have been refined and Training Ground has welcomed more and more qualified teachers along the way.” This is true. The TG trips and format were so successful that first summer that they are still a key factor in the continuing success of the ministry.
Through many trials, several TG lodges, changes in staff, an economic recession and several years, TG has ministered to over 75 full Session College age alumni and to a cumulative 230 men of varying ages through all of its sessions and destination trips.
Close to the heart of TG is the desire to enter Men’s stories. The 3-month sessions are only the beginning. Once a man has been through the program he joins a select group of men that have literally journeyed the same roads, had the same discussions and speak a common language. With every graduation, marriage, new birth and accomplishment the family of TG grows exponentially. At the same time the impact of volunteers, donors and staff increases into our culture and into eternity.
Whether you have history with TG or a newcomer to the ministry, we are privileged to welcome you into the family. We are so proud to walk with you into God’s next steps.
If you have any questions about TG or would like to join many others in partnering to donate, volunteer or pray, please let us know.
Outline of the history of Training Ground
Xan and Cory meet at John Eldredge’s house
Xan writes Untamed
Xan and Cory work at painting company
The many ministry discussions start
Training Ground is incorporated
www.trainingground.com is purchased
Palmer Lake cabin is rented and renovated
May welcomes first class
First summer session travels to Snowy Range, Estes Park and the Grand Tetons
Recruiting efforts begin for 2008
First spring session
Obtained second rental cabin
Second summer session
First fall session
Moab trip added
TG moves to new large rental house in Palmer Lake
Third summer session – maxed out
Second fall session
Recession hits and summer session has to be cancelled
Ministry adds 6 destination trips
Xan published second book, Sweat Blood & Tears
Xan transitions out of TG and to Buffalo Jackson Trading Company
Ministry leaves large house in Palmer Lake
Ministry moves into “The Alamo” In Old Colorado City
Fourth summer session is maxed out
Ministry lodge moves to Colorado Springs
May – Brett Causey joins TG Staff
Add another destination Trip to the Outer Banks of North Carolina – Maxed out
Fifth summer session
TG stays in Colorado Springs
Sixth summer session
Lee Maize joins TG staff
Destinations trips continue
Video Series started
Gunnison destination added to summer program
2014 – presnt
TG lodge stays in Colorado Springs
Staff, donors, board and supporters start talking about east coast expansion