Upward celebrates 10 years of success
From press and staff reports
While March Madness took over most of the basketball minded around the country, many in Louisville were celebrating Upward basketball and cheerleading success.
The annual Upward Basketball Celebration was held on Saturday, March 21 at First Methodist Church of Louisville. The awards night officially mark’s the end of games, practices, halftime contests, weekly devotionals, and testimonial speakers for the Christian centered program.
“With over 160 participants this year’s turnout was great,” stated Wendell Womack at a recent Rotary Club meeting. “With the tornado, we were expecting the numbers to be down from our usual 185 but the turnout was better than expected.”
With the program wrapping up its 10th successful year, Womack noted that the program is a major part of the community.
“We have beat the national average lifespan for the program of 6 years and it is now a part of the community and is expected,” said Womack, who directs the whole endeavor, is enthusiastic about using sports as a vehicle to teach Christian life skills to children.
The volunteer coaches are also big on positivity and sharing the court among the kids with great skills and the players who are still developing their skills. But in between the basketball drills, coaches drop in lessons on Christian virtues like forgiveness and perseverance. Then they reward their players when they see those virtues on the court.
“Upward is about fun and sharing the word of God,” said Womack. “It is about kids leaving with a smile.”
Those same lessons for the participants can seep into the stands, too. When a coach is positive with the players, those players will feel that energy and spread it to the crowd, who might get to hyped up, leaving everyone feeling encouraged. In the long run, Womack and other coaches hope Upward can bring more people into the teachings of Christ.
“Upward is fun, encouraging and about Christ,” said Womack. “Devotions are a key part of the event and helps provide a positive experience for every child.”
He added, “We use basketball and cheerleading to reach kids and families.The halftime devotion gets everyone’s attention and maybe the only Christ message many of them here.”
This whole set up is for the children playing basketball through Upward Sports, a Christian-centered sports league for children in kindergarten through eighth grade. It’s the largest Christian sports club in the world
“Upward is really about setting something in each child’s heart,” said Womack.
The program has been around long enough to have done a complete cycle with former players now volunteering as coaches. Those volunteers are central to the program.
“We have great volunteers and we could not do it without all the dedicated and helpful volunteers,” said Womack.
Since Upward relies on a lot of logistics, many volunteers and much of their time is needed to make it successful. There are no tryouts, but each child is evaluated on his or her skills ahead of each season. Then they are sorted into teams based on age, height and skill level to ensure balanced and fair teams.The program started 10 years ago and has averaged about 200 children per year which shows the need for many volunteers with many volunteering each year.
To recognize their efforts and the children’s efforts the awards program brings in a unique form of entertainment along with recognition for the players, teams and volunteers.
During the celebration, Jeff Walton opened the event with Curt Anderson as the featured entertainment and speaker.
Anderson talked about sin and how Christ can untangle any sin. Anderson did rope magic tricks while delivering the message.
After the entertainment all the participants received year end awards and Womack closed with a prayer.