The Meridian Star
Sometimes the best lessons taught through sports are ones learned after the final whistle. Upward Basketball and Cheerleading will continue preaching scripture and teamwork, through basketball, to children in grades kindergarten through sixth grade, as the organization kicks off its 14th season on Saturday, Jan. 26 at North Park Church located at 7770 Highway 39 N.
The Upward program allows children to lean the fundamentals of basketball through equal playing time, while also teaching the importance of scripture and how it can be applied on and off the court.
Practices are held on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday every week. During practice, teams will work on basketball for 30 minutes before assembling for “devotion time”, where parents are allowed to join children while learning scripture. Teams focus on issues of self control, responsibility and hope during the season, spending two weeks on each topic. Players are not only rewarded with stars for effort and accomplishments on the court, but also for memorizing scripture as well. During halftime of the games a period for prayer and devotion is provided for the parents in the audience.
“The main premise of the program is just planting the seed in hopes that it will grow,” Upward Commissioner Linda Weir said. “It is very important. On our seventh week, we do a plan of salvation. We have had plenty of kids saved through this program.”
Upward strives to promote equal opportunity, while providing a positive atmosphere for team building, Weir said. Upward does not keep score or records of its games, and each member of the team is given an equal amount of playing time. All players are also given an opportunity to start at one point in the season, as coaches switch staring lineups weekly.
“Everything is so competitive now,” Weir said. “We want kids to focus more on developing their skills and playing more as a team.”
Girls in fourth through sixth grade play on Friday from 6:30-7:30 p.m., while the rest of the league begins play Saturdays at 8:00 a.m., with two games played per hour. All games take place at North Park Church.
In its 14th year of operation, Upward has seen an all-time high in registration, as 440 kids will make up 52 basketball teams and six cheerleading squads in the incoming season.
Play will begin Saturday and run through March 2 with a camp hosted by basketball-performer Bruce Crevier to conclude the season.
While registration has already ended for the upcoming season, registration for next year will begin in September at North Park Church. Volunteers interested in serving as referees, running concession as well as helping with cleaning up after games can call North Park pastor Kay Stewart at 601-482-1322 for details.