On an “Upward” note…
By Terri Yochum
Area children and youth are reaching for the sky, aspiring to improve athletic and social skills through a Christian based sports program called Upward Basketball. Local churches have joined forces to offer this heart -healthy and heartwarming experience to our communities.
The local Upward Basketball League provides a safe, family-friendly environment in which K5-8 th grade children and youth are encouraged to learn and grow. Participation in the program helps each team member to further develop a sense of self-esteem and spiritual awareness. Through personalized coaching, even teaming and a system which allows each child to play a variety of positions, every child is given an equal opportunity to reach his or her full potential.
The Upward program is based upon biblical principles and Christian values. All Upward games begin and end in prayer with a devotional segment during half-time. “The goal is to make a significant, positive impact upon our children while stressing the fact that the final score is really measured in fun. Every child is a winner!,” said Jeff Beyer, four-year Upward coach.
All games are played locally and are scheduled for one hour. Practices are only once a week and are for one hour. This convenient arrangement allows a family to participate with limited interruption to their busy lifestyle.
Following each season, an award ceremony takes place. Every participant receives a prize or trophy.
Enrollment in the program involves a nominal fee. However, financial aid is available. “We want to make Upward Basketball accessible to all our families,” Pastor Mike Caley from the Banner of Christ Church explained.
Upward Sports encourages the participation of adults as well. Many volunteer opportunities exist for parents and others who are interested in contributing toward the continued success of the program.
Jim Bos, a seasoned Upward coach, is one such person. Bos, together with his family, have been involved with Upward since the first year the program was implemented in their church.
“It’s hard for my wife and I to believe that it has been over six years since our family started participating in the Upward program. It’s just amazing how big the program is today,” he said with obvious excitement. “Our Upward experience has been totally positive since the first day my wife registered our oldest son.”
Bos went on to explain how the program enabled his children to grow as Christians while enhancing their skills on the court. “The Bible lessons, helpful coaching and super half-time messages have all played an important role in our children’s Christian development,” he added.
His wife then recalled a time when Jerad, their eldest, was ten-years-old and the family had attended the year-end celebration. The teacher, while spinning basketballs with his hands and feet, had discussed the importance of taking it to the ‘next level’ for Christ. The next day, while she and Jerad were out walking, her son turned to her and announced, “Mom, I think that man was right! I do need to take it to the next level in my walk with God and in my life and here is what I’m going to do!”
“This is just one example of the impact that Upward has had on our children,” Bos pointed out.
Recently, Bos was sharing his experience and love for the program with another Upward coach: “We agreed that Upward is the perfect program because it prepares kids for future competitive basketball programs and provides long-term opportunities for the recreational player, all while calling them to a relationship with Jesus Christ, our Savior. No one could ask for more than that!”
In addition to creating a fun and nurturing learning experience, the staff and volunteers associated with the Upward program also strive to help motivate young people to engage in physical activity. According to the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition, only one in three children are physically active every day. Children now spend more than seven and a half hours a day in front of a screen. (e.g., TV , videogames, computer). Only about one in five homes have parks within half mile, and about the same number have a fitness center within that distance.
“It’s very important that our children and youth have safe access to a place where they can play and learn by interacting with others who share their love of sports and their love of God!” said Thad Abel, a local Upward director and church elder. “My thanks go out to all our area churches for helping to make this happen.”
Upward Sports is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, based in Spartanburg, South Carolina. It is a Christian sports league, designed for kids in grades K5-8 offering four sports programs: basketball, flag football, soccer and cheerleading.
Upward Sports leagues are conducted by 2600 churches in 46 states and Canada. Upward equips local churches with everything necessary to operate their own leagues. Included are playbooks, sports apparel and online tools. Training for staff and coaches is also provided.*
For more information concerning the Upward Basketball League and/or Upward Sports please visit www.upward.org or to register online please visit: http://registration.upward.org/UPW51262.