In an era of sports when trash-talking, win-at-all-cost mentalities and fights on the field seem to be the norm, it’s no wonder that a majority of U.S. children don’t continue playing organized sports into high school. However, at Old North Church, players participating in the Upward basketball and cheerleading program are taught that the process of competition is just as important as the outcome.
For eight years, Old North has been hosting sports leagues through Upward Sports, the world’s largest Christian sports league for children, coaching and mentoring more than 1,000 kids in the greater Youngstown area. Currently, the church offers three Upward Sports programs: basketball, cheerleading and flag football.
“It’s been a very positive experience for everyone involved,” says league Director Ryan Farr. “Upward Sports teaches the fundamental skills and techniques of the sport of basketball, building a strong foundation for students to build on in the future. But what makes Upward unique is its focus on character. This program isn’t just about growing students athletically… it’s about intentionally developing them as people as well. And that’s something we need to see more of.”
Focusing on healthy competition and positive sports environments that build strong self-confidence, Upward Sports equips churches with everything needed to run a competitive but fun, 10-week sports program for children in kindergarten through sixth grade. Each year, more than 1 million people play, coach, referee or volunteer in Upward Sports leagues.
Last season, Old North’s Upward basketball and cheerleading league included more than 400 participants and 60 coaches spread across three divisions. This year’s program starts with the first practices held on Jan. 9 and games starting Jan. 21. The league wraps up with Awards Night on March 12. The program is open to girls and boys in kindergarten through third grade.