The Valdosta Daily Times
The Valdosta Church of the Nazarene is starting an Upward basketball league for children.
Registration is currently ongoing, and any child is welcome to participate. Games are scheduled to begin on Jan. 19, and will be played at the church, which is located on Forrest Street in Valdosta.
The cost to play this season is $65 per child. That cost includes a uniform. Each team will play eight games.
“We’re just excited about it,” said Doug Walls, the youth pastor at the Valdosta Church of the Nazarene and the head of the league. “God’s opening some doors for us, and He’s helping us out along the way. We know it’s a vision God’s given us, because we want to provide these opportunities for these families and just show them the love of Christ.”
Upward Sports calls itself “the world's largest Christian sports league for kids.” Last year, nearly 550,000 children between kindergarten and sixth grade participated in one of Upward Sports’ 5,162 leagues. Upward sponsors leagues for basketball, soccer, flag football and cheerleading.
According to its website, “Upward Sports uses the universal language of sports to connect with kids at a critical age and help them discover and build athletic skills, values, self-confidence and a life-long love of the game. That’s why our youth sports leagues and kids sports camps provide them with the best sports experience possible.”
“Upward is a ministry that focuses on teaching sportsmanship, good moral character development,” Walls said. “It’s a fun league. It focuses on the fun instead of the competitive side. In some of the younger age groups, score isn’t even kept. We don’t keep track of fouls for any age group, (which) keeps the kids playing.”
“Most importantly, Upward is about teaching people about Jesus. We do it through devotions at every practice. We also do it through devotions at every halftime of every game. Everything that’s done with Upward is all about Jesus,” Walls added.
All of the coaches and referees are volunteers. Anyone who wishes to volunteer to help with the league — either coaching, refereeing or helping behind the scenes — is encouraged to contact the church. Everyone who works with the league must go through a background check.
The Valdosta Church of the Nazarene is the second church in the area that has offered an Upward basketball league. Northside Baptist Church started a league several years ago. Northside’s leagues have continuously filled up, which is one of the reasons why the Valdosta Church of the Nazarene decided to start its own league.
“We want to provide access (to Upward basketball) to as many people as we can,” Walls said. “Northside’s been doing it for years, and (people tell us) they’re doing an awesome job over there. (But Northside) has reached a capacity limit, so they can’t take any more people. So they’ve been sending people over here.”
The Valdosta Church of the Nazarene will also be offering cheerleading squads through Upward.
For more information on the Valdosta Church of the Nazarene’s Upward league, call the church at (229) 244-2094 or visit the church’s website, www.valdostanazarenes.org. For more information on Upward, visit the organization’s website, www.upward.org.