The nationwide Upward Basketball and Cheerleading Program has come to the Augusta area through the efforts of Abilene Baptist Church and Warren Baptist Church.
The program, which began in Spartanburg, S.C., provides elementary-age children with a way to play sports in a positive environment while being taught Christian values.
"One of the main objectives of this program is to teach lessons in the game of life," said Chip Windall, who heads up the program for Abilene. "We want to help build character and self-esteem while teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ."
Referees, coaches and assistant coaches for the program are specially trained so that they can learn what is known in the program as the Circle of Affirmation.
"This allows the referee to make a call, then the coach to make a positive response which gives parents the cue to give positive responses to the child. We want to show the children that winning is learning," said Woodall. "Competition in children sports has gotten out of hand. Parents can become so competitive and pushy that they make the game a burden fro the child. We work to eliminate that."
Teams, consisting of eight to 10 children will practice one hour per week on a Monday, Tuesday or Thursday with games on Saturdays. The first 10 minutes of practice will be spent in devotion, where the children learn about a specific value or lesson from the lesson books they receive at the beginning of the season.
During the course of the season, children also earn a total of five stars, which represent various character values that the program is trying to instill in them. By the end of the year the children will have obtained all the stars and will receive a reward.
"This is a great program for the kids and we invite any church in the area to bring their youth," said Woodall.
The season runs from January to the first Saturday in March. The program is open to boys and girls from first to eighth grades, with registration closing Saturday.
The cost for basketball is $55, which includes uniforms and a lesson book. The cheerleading registration fee is $65 and includes shirt, skort, pompons and a lesson book.
Signing up can be done either at Abilene Baptist Church, 3917 Washington Road, or at Warren Baptist Church, 3202 Washington Road.
To speak with a supervisor, parents can contact Chip Woodall of Abilene at 869-1774 or Casie Jenkins of Warren at 860-0454. To learn more about the overall program, visit www.upward.org.
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