(Video ofan Upward event)

Upward is a Christian sports experience for children in kindergarten through sixth grade. It organizes sports activities in a Christian environment for churches all around the United States. The mission statement of Upward is “To introduce children to Jesus Christ by creating opportunities to serve through sports.” The central concept of the organization is to create an enjoyable sports setting that is competitive but avoids a “win at all costs” atmosphere. Upward was established in 1986 by a Christian minister, Caz McCaslin, in Spartanburg, South Carolina. The first Upward event was a basketball game. While McCaslin is acknowledged as the founder, the organization gives God all of the praise for the creation of the idea. Upwards offers a variety of sports-related activities, including basketball, basketball cheerleading, soccer, flag football, flag football cheerleading, basketball camp, and cheerleading camp. The number of participants in each of these activities has increased each year. The program now claims 500,000 participants representing forty different religious denominations. Participating programs are required to pledge to a statement of Christian faith.

In order to inculcate values of sportsmanship and inclusiveness, Upward carefully structures sports activities. Children are assigned to teams based on each individual’s skill level. Participation on each team is rotated for each position so that everyone enjoys a full sports experience and equal playing time. The coaches and referees have been trained specifically for these religious games. Referees must be treated with respect. There is a half-time religious devotion at practices where the coach speaks to the team about biblical and scriptural values and how they should be implemented in life, and specifically while playing a sport. A worksheet is handed out and a Bible verse is reviewed. There is a similar activity at games during halftime. Someone from the church witnesses and discusses Christ’s love with the children and all of the people in attendance.

Upward’s activities began in Richmond soon after the organization’s inception in South Carolina, and Richmond has become one of the largest Upward programs in the country. The program is so large that the group has held its basketball banquets (the most popular Upward sport) at the Richmond Convention Center. These banquets have drawn as many as one thousand participants and still did not constitute the total number of sport participants. Some of the churches that are involved in the Richmond area include Bon Air Baptist (which sponsors basketball and cheerleading), Beulah United Methodist Church (which participates in the basketball program), Woodlake Baptist (which works with the Upward soccer program) and Crestwood Presbyterian Church (which supports the flag football program).

No local address

Upward website
Upward Coach from Richmond

Profile prepared by Heather Riekers
April 2009