HOUSTON – Another season of Upward basketball is in the bag, or in the basket, as the case may be and organizers are thankful for the support they received from the community, although more is always needed.
The ninth season of the Christian-based youth basketball season saw a drought of volunteers that resulted in cutting back on the number of children served in the local communities. Due to a lack of volunteer coaches, the fifth and sixth-grade teams that used the facilities of the Parkway Baptist Church Family Life Center were suspended for this year, but hopefully can be added back in for next season. Teams of children from first through fourth grade practiced and played games at Houston First United Methodist Church FLC.
“We just didn’t have the volunteers we needed to run two gyms,” said Kevin Faulkner. Faulker has been involved with the program since its inception and regretted not being able to accomodate more children, but said the need for volunteers in several capacities went unfulfilled this season.
“Our community needs more programs like Upward to build children’s self-esteem,” Faulkner said.
The Upward combines instruction on the fundamentals of basketball along with a lesson plan in team work, cooperation, dependability, self-confidence and Bible lessons and scriptures. For that reason, Faulkner said the program is unique and beneficial to the community.
“You can’t imagine the reward of seeing that child make their first goal,” Faulkner said. “And also when they say that Bible verse. They’re so excited, they want to share it with you.
Although the program didn’t draw as many volunteers as it needed to sustain fifth and sixth-grade players, several who donated their time were repeat volunteers.
Michelle Moss refereed games this season even though her children didn’t play.
“My children were not able to participate this year, however I did not let it stop me from volunteering my time,” Moss said. “I love the smiles on the faces and the cheers from the parents. I have noticed, this year more than last, how much those kids look into the audience. More than the coaches approval, they look for the approval of their parents and family that have come to watch them play.”
Glenn Gann has volunteered in some capacity, whether coach, referee or devotional speaker, since the league began and said the personal rewards keep him coming back.
“Upward is a great way of exposing children to the message of Jesus outside a typical church of Sunday school setting,” Gann said. “I enjoy being a part of that kind of program. And the children keep me young at heart.”
Following the eight-week seaon, participants were treated to a closing program featuring magician Robert Day and each child received an Upward lunch box as a momento of the season.
A new season of Upward should begin next December and Faulkner asked adult members of the audience at the closing ceremony to think and pray about taking the opportunity to volunteer.
“It’s not just another sport, not just another thing to do,” Faulkner said. “It’s more than that.”
“I wish I had more time to give,” Moss said. “Houston has plenty of kids willing to participate and very few adults willing to help. It’s a shame.”