The first year I was hired as a Student Minister I took an observing role in Upward to get a feel for the program and all that it stood for. This past year I was approached about being an assistant coach and to be honest I wanted to say no. I wanted to say no because I already had a lot on my plate with a new baby coming and other church related activities. I wanted to say no because I'm not very good at basketball (tbh: I'm horrible. I look like I have two left feet and two left hands). I would have said no but because I work for the church I felt an enormous amount of pressure to say, "yes."
We have just finished our Upward Season and I can say with all honesty, I am 100% glad I said yes to serving as an Assistant Coach and I am now in love with Upward Sports.
Below are six reasons why I LOVE UPWARD!
1) I was able to watch children grow to love the game of basketball:
I may not be very good at playing basketball but I love to watch basketball on TV (GO UNC!). When I think back to my team's very first practice I picture a timid group of 2nd & 3rd graders who did not know very much about the game of basketball. They were timid, shy and had a lot to learn. It took a couple of practices and a few games but once they began to score points and win games you could see the excitement for the game of basketball. One of the players on my team had not scored a basket in three games and the player was becoming discouraged. We made an intentional focus to get her the ball so she could score and when she made her first basket her face lit up. Her mom in the stands jumped up and shouted with joy when the basketball went soaring through the net. After that first basket the player gained confidence and you could see a love for basketball all over her face. By the end of the season all of the players on my team had grown to love basketball and could not wait to play again next year.
2) I was able to watch children deepen their skill set and learn the fundamentals of basketball:
Upward Sports utilizes what they call: 360 Progression which is a uniquely designed sports experience that adapts and expands as players develop in their personal athletic journey resulting in total athletes. Every athlete is taught the fundamentals of the game but the teaching is geared towards that child's particular skill set. This allows the children to gain confidence as they learn more and more about the game of basketball. The very first game a player on my team would play defense the whole time. Even when we were on offense, the player would play defense. We were able to break the habit of playing defense and the player became a pretty good player on both sides of the ball. Players struggled with dribbling, passing, etc but by the middle of the season to the end of the season every player had shown significant improvement. We were able to build a solid foundation which can be built upon by other coaches.
3) I was able to see our church reach out into our community:
On a typical Saturday (7:00 am-7:00 pm) around 700 people would visit our Family Life Center. Some of these individuals were individuals who would never darken the door of a church but they would come out to see their child or grand-child play basketball or cheer. During every halftime, an individual would get up and share his or her testimony. This intentional time of Gospel proclamation allowed for many people to hear the Gospel who would not normally come to church on a Sunday morning.
4) I was able to watch children learn values to help them excel in life:
Every practice we would spend 5-10 minutes teaching the children an important life lesson and value needed to excel in life. These lessons were biblically based and applicable to every child. A few of the values which children learned were on respect, gratitude, team work and love. These values are necessary to excel in life. Upward focuses on the total athlete-mentally, athletically, spiritually and socially. Upward is not just looking to create sports superstars but is looking to develop men and women who were succeed in life and bring value to a community.
5) I was able to see every child who wanted to play given the opportunity to play:
As a Student Minister I am able to see first hand the importance of sports in the life of a student. Sports teach students values and skills which are necessary to thrive in life. Upward sports allows every child to participate and learn the importance of team work, gratitude, respect, good sportsmanship, etc. I believe these lessons learned in elementary school will lead to more successful adults and a better society. We do not turn away any child and because of that everyone is able to learn and grow.
6) I was able to watch church members step up and selflessly serve their community:
Upward Sports is a large undertaking for a church to take on. It involves countless hours and numerous volunteers. I was blown away by the servant's heart of all of our Upward volunteers. Most of the volunteers worked from sun-up till sun-down to serve their community. Church members coached, refereed, worked in the kitchen, cheered, worked the sound board, mopped, swept, set up for church, helped with security, gave money for scholarships, took prayer requests, made sausage gravy, and a myriad of other ways of service. First Baptist Church of Stanleyville has a heart for their community. I was blown away and impressed with the servant heart of each of our church members.
I LOVE UPWARD!