Tonight's practice sessions begin our second season of Upward Basketball and Cheerleading at Westmoreland Baptist Church. We have found Upward to be a wonderful ministry to children and their families, and are so thankful for the opportunity to share Christ with the children in our league. We will be having practices on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday evenings for the players, and Tuesday evening for the cheerleaders. Three teams practiced this evening, and the rest of the teams will get their first court time on Tuesday and Thursday. Practices are only one hour per week and they play one game per week for eight weeks (beginning Saturday, January 24th.)
This season sees a 43% increase in the number of players and cheerleaders in the Westmoreland Upward League from the numbers we had in our initial season last year. We have three divisions this year which are Pre K-Kindergarten; 1st, 2nd, & 3rd Grades; and 4th, 5th, & 6th grades. The higher our number of participants, the more divisions we will be able to add. We are praying that we will be able to serve even more children and families if the Lord allows us to continue this ministry next year.
During these first practice sessions, the children go through some basic drills and skill evaluations. The really little ones are a joy to watch! They are learning how to dribble, pass and shoot. The real excitement comes at the end of their first practice as the coach distributes their individual bags and uniforms. The smiles on their faces are priceless!
Upward is very different than other youth sports leagues. The emphasis is not on winning, but upon learning the game, teamwork, and sportsmanship. Coaches and officials are all committed Christians, and there is no bad language or behavior, and none is tolerated from the fans. Teaching and loving the children is our first priority. Playing time is spread around equally, and the teams are computer selected, based on evaluated skill levels, to keep the talent level even on each team. No one is building a dynasty! Not only do the kids have a great time, and they're learning the basics of basketball and cheerleading, but more importantly they are hearing the word of God. Each child gets a Bible memory verse each week, and they receive a devotional thought and testimony at the half way point of their practice sessions and at half time of their Saturday games. Another bonus is that at halftime, everyone in the gym will hear a personal testimony and the plan of salvation from one of the volunteers or other members of Westmoreland Baptist Church.
I am thankful for the many volunteers who give of their time and love to make this ministry possible. Some coach, some officiate, others set up chairs and baskets. Some make the gym ready, and clean up afterwards. Some take care of concessions, and over 100 people are members of the prayer team that are praying for 100 days for the success of the Upward Basketball and Cheerleading ministries.
With 100 people lifting up this ministry in prayer - great things are bound to happen!