According to League Co-Director Barb Hicks, when the program started locally there were only 150 kids with nearly 60 volunteers. Today over 380 kids are registered to play basketball and cheerleading the program has to offer.
“The numbers involved has nearly tripled, but most of the volunteers now have more work they have to take on,” Hicks told The Early Bird. “If we aren’t able to get more people to help the program run, we will need to lower the age limited to fourth grade.”
Today the program is open to boys and girls ranging from kindergarten to eighth grade. It runs for 12 weeks starting with team practices in December. Kids are first evaluated for their basketball skill level and assigned teams to make it as fair as possible. One of the things that make the program different from similar school sports is that absolutely no child will is turned away and all kids involved get equal playing time.
“The coaches have an Upward app that they use for substitutions during the games,” Hicks added. “This ensures all children get to play the same amount of time.”
The Upward Sports program was founded nationally in 1995. It is the world’s largest Christian youth sports provider with over 2,000 churches in 47 states. The program’s goal is to help develop each child mentally, athletically, spiritually and socially.
The Darke County Upward Sports program prides itself of much more than just playing basketball or learning new cheers for the kids. At halftime of every game a testimony is shared and each team holds a star ceremony following every game which recognizes each child by presenting a star for offense, defense, effort and Christ-like sportsmanship that the kids proudly display on their uniform. The kids are only required to give up two hours a week to participate, one hour for practice and one for games that are held each Saturday.
“We try and focus on families and positive re-enforcement. I know we have some parents that have never walked through the doors of a church and that is perfectly fine,” Hicks said. “We would never turn any parent away just like the kids. If a seed gets planted while they are there supporting their child, that is definitely a bonus in my book!”
“With so many people that pour their hearts into this program, it would be a shame to have to make any cuts at all,” she added. “Going into next season it will be in God’s hands if we can continue how we are now.”
It is a must that he Darke County Upward Sports program will need eager volunteers for the 2015-16 season. According to Hicks, they are looking for basketball and cheer coaches, concession workers, referees, lighting and sound helpers, photographers, greeters and organizers.
“Our volunteers would only need to give a couple hours a week,” Hicks stated. “Coaches and assistant coaches are only obligated to give up an hour for practice and an hour for the game, that is it.”
Games are held for eight weeks at the Pleasant View Missionary Church at 5231 Gettysburg-Pitsburg Road and at the old Gettysburg Elementary School at 260 E. Main Street in Gettysburg. Registration is held in September and runs through the end of October each year. The current total cost is $85 per child, which includes uniforms the kids get to keep.
If you are interested in volunteering or would like to know more about how you can help the program, contact directors Barb and Dan Hicks at 937-417-4114 or the Pleasant View Missionary Church at 937-447-3885. Families are also encouraged to log on and like Darke County Upward Sports on Facebook at www.facebook.com/PleasantViewMissionaryChurchUpwardSports.
Visit the Pleasant View Missionary Church website for program dates at www.pleasantviewmc.org and the national Upward Sports website for more information about what the program is about at www.upward.org.