1. What is the Upward Sports program?
It’s an opportunity for young children, ages kindergarten through fourth grade, to participate in basketball, and also it has an aspect of Christian teaching. Coaches do the basics of basketball but also do some Bible stories and Bible verses.
2. How long have you been a coach?
I’ve been a coach for 27 years, mainly basketball and softball in the Wapakoneta and Cridersville systems. I have coached in Upward for the last four years. I have four daughters, so I started coaching youth athletics when the oldest was 5 years old. We started with T-ball and that went into softball. Then they wanted to play basketball, so I started coaching that.
3. Do you coach boys or girls teams?
The teams are mixed.
4. How do they put the teams together?
We have an evaluation day where the kids are graded on basketball skills. The teams are then divided evenly. All teams are as close to being equal as we can make them. After 27 years and coaching close to 70 teams, Upward is as close to a perfect scenario in dividing the kids up and equal playtime for the kids. We alternate the lineup every week. Every six minutes we alternate the team on the floor. You just follow the Upward playbook. It works out that each kid gets to start five times and is on the court about half the time.
5. How does the Upward Sports program work?
Upward is a very popular program across the country. Basically, Upward supplies the programs, but it is still a program of Shawnee Alliance Church. We follow guidelines with special emphasis on Biblical teaching at practices and games. We have one practice a week, that lasts one hour, and we have one game a week. During that one hour practice, in the middle, I’ll take about 10 minutes to go over the week’s Bible story and Bible verse. Sometimes, this is the first introduction to Bible stories that some of the kids have had. We are not only coaches, but we are also Sunday school teachers in a way. I enjoy it immensely.
6. Are there other churches or organizations that have this program?
I do know that Kenton has a very large program, and there is one in Delphos too. I think we are the only program in Lima though. I don’t know for sure.
7. How many teams do you have and how many kids participate? Are most of them from Shawnee Alliance church?
With the kindergarten and first grade, we have about eight teams, and in the second, third, and fourth grades, there are probably another eight teams – so 16 teams all together. Most of the teams have about eight to nine kids per team. Probably about 30 percent of the kids that participate are from Shawnee Alliance.
8. What kind of training do you get for this program?
There is an orientation for coaches and they provide a coaches manual. They want it to be a very positive time for the children. The games can be competitive, but that is not the main focus. The main focus is a learning atmosphere and getting spiritual teaching and instruction.
9. How long does the program last?
The evaluations are in early December. Practices start in early January, and the games start in mid-January. We have eight games.
10. What’s the most rewarding part of doing this?
Getting to know the players and their parents. I’ve made some very strong relationships with the kids and their families. The way Upward is run, it is a very positive reinforcement, especially for a child’s first opportunity to be on a team. It really is a great experience. It is a great confidence booster because everyone is there for the kids. It’s not the pre-NBA. It’s about learning about basketball and about Jesus.