POINT PLEASANT — A unique children’s sports program is winding down its season after winding up the athletic, and spiritual, growth of its players.
The Upward Sports Basketball and Cheer program at Trinity UM Church’s Christian Community Center is finishing up its fourth successful season with around 110 kids participating.
Nathan Fowler, who has led the program since its start, said there are 10 basketball teams and three cheer teams in the league that hosts games every Saturday for kids in kindergarten through eighth grade. These children are also led by a volunteer army of around 30 coaches.
Fowler said a few years ago he went to a conference in Toledo, Ohio, to find out more about the program that incorporates a Christian, spiritual element to the game.
He said one of the pivotal moments for him was hearing Upward Sports Founder Caz McCaslin speak, telling those in attendance this was a race to the heart of a child and the first one there won, and got to teach that child about God.
At the conference, Fowler said he also learned there are a lot of people who will walk through a gymnasium door sooner than they will a church’s door. In this way, the program can bridge the connection between a Higher Power and sports.
Upward Sports was established in 1995 as the world’s largest Christian youth sports provider. Upward Sports is the only organization that offers the 360 Progression, a uniquely designed total sports experience that adapts and expands as players grow in their personal athletic journeys. The 360 Progression develops total athletes mentally, athletically, spiritually and socially — producing players who excel both on and off the field.
Today, approximately half a million players at more than 2,000 churches in 47 states participate in camps, clinics, and leagues through Upward Sports’ Recreation Division.
The practices at Upward Sports are also unique in that players break for prayer, devotionals and a spiritual lesson at halfcourt. This practice in spirituality is carried over to the games at halftime as well. Players are also given matching wrist bands to know which player on the opposite team is their player to guard — this avoids ganging up on one person and keeping the spirit of fairness and sportsmanship alive where everyone gets an opportunity to play.
In addition, Upward Sports at Trinity Church also holds basketball camps in the summer.
Fowler said when Trinity Church was building the community center, the church members knew this program was something they wanted to be part of the facility. So far, the community agrees.
Some information for this article found at http://www.upward.org.
Reach Beth Sergent at [email protected] or on Twitter @BSergentWrites.