By Gwen Williams/Guest Columnist
The Picayune Item
I’m not a sports person, but every year I look forward to sharing with the children involved in the Upward Basketball program. First through sixth graders come together to experience their first sports encounter playing basketball. Boys and girls play together with the hope of building character and values for life. Excitement floods the gym as parents, grandparents, and aunts gather with various electronic gadgets waiting to film their children. The program is also a means of reaching parents with children who are unchurched.
This is the main purpose of the Upward Sports program. According to Wikipedia, this organization began in 1955 by Caz McCaslin. The program seeks to stress Biblical values — such as leadership, teamwork, integrity and respect — as much as winning.
Prayer begins each game then the fun begins. The first and second graders play half court and the goals are lowered. They don’t play for points, everybody cheers just because these little ones are so cute. They have so much fun trying to listen to grandma or the coach.
Potential shows up when the third and fourth graders hit the floor. Some of these little ones can dribble that ball like a pro. They also play half court. Every recordable gadget is displayed throughout the audience. I’m sure many of their moves are featured on You-Tube
The audience is really serious when the fifth and sixth graders play. These young professionals play like NBA scouts are in the audience. They make the score board spin with points. There just might be a Pistol Pete or Michael Jordon in the gang.
Of course my favorite part is sharing inspirational stories during the half-time. They are my favorite audience and I’m thankful for the opportunity to share. Many participants never attend church so my messages may be the only encouragement they hear.
Watching the unity among the children and the special relationships they build makes Upward Basketball a great asset to the church and community.