Upward Sports: everyone is a winner at faith-based basketball camp
A sea of little athletes converged on the Ann Street parking lot at Eastern Michigan University last week. Armed with a new T-shirt, water bottle and basketball, each child practiced his budding skills at the portable hoops set up around the lot.
Although excellence is a value taken very seriously by Upward Sports, the focus of this basketball camp is NOT strictly winning. Along with familiar drills in dribbling, defense and footwork, camp participants learned about self esteem and the love of Christ. With a program like that, everyone is a winner.
This year will mark the 8th season of Upward Basketball in Washtenaw County. Nearly 600 children grades K-6 will participate in the program throughout the year.
At last week's camp, which ran Aug. 9-13, each day the kids started with stretches and a short devotion, followed by basketball drills covering the basics of the sport. With the overarching theme of Jeremiah 29:11,
the volunteer coaches stressed that each child has a plan for his or her life and that basketball could be in that plan.
Paul Knickelbein, director of Upward, believes that basketball is a great way to share Christ with children and their families. “Not everyone feels comfortable going to church, but if you invite them to play basketball - they will do that," he said.
In addition to fun games meant to build skill and age-appropriate scrimmages, the campers heard inspirational messages from guest speakers like Kyle Barlow, assistant coach at Concordia University. When Barlow began playing basketball, he vowed to shoot 1,000 baskets a day, a practice that he maintained throughout high school and college. The kids and adults were amazed.
At the end of every session, the children received a star of achievement. With five colored stars available from blue for best effort to white for most Christ-like, no child left camp without a word of encouragement from the coach.
“That is my favorite part of the program,” said Knickelbein. “Each child walks away with specific examples of doing something good — no matter what.”
A total of 109 kids registered for the latest camp. Knickelbein was pleased with the outcome.
“Our coaches and staff are volunteer - so all donations and registration money went towards giving the kids a great experience. We want the program to be accessible to everybody and I think we achieved that.”
Upward will be at the Ypsi Heritage festival August 20-21. To learn more about Upward Sports or to make a donation, go to: www.washtenawupward.org.
Carly Parker is the Communications Coordinator for St. Luke Lutheran Church and its affiliated sites, including the Common Cup a full-service coffeehouse located in the lower level of University Lutheran Chapel.