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Upward Basketball, Cheerleader programs seek local youth

By By Ida Brown\The Meridian Star
Sept. 22, 2001
Through a basketball ministry, three Meridian churches build local youths' skills both on and off the court.
First Baptist Church Meridian, NorthPark Church and Poplar Springs Drive Baptist Church are sponsors of Upward Basketball, a sports ministry aimed to develop character as well as game skills in each player. In addition, First Baptist and NorthPark also will sponsor Upward Cheerleader, a ministry with similar objectives.
Founded in Spartanburg, S.C., Upward Basketball places emphasis on the player, instead of a team's win/loss record. The program strives to instill a thorough understanding of the fundamentals of the game, while also teaching a respect for the authorities of the game, the official and the coach.
The nonprofit Upward Basketball organization helps churches start youth basketball leagues, providing jerseys, computer programs and other items needed to operate a league. This frees the churches of administrative chores and allows them to focus on the spiritual aspects of the program.
As of 2000, more than 450 churches nationwide used the curriculum, with about 88,000 children participating, according to literature on the program. Upward Basketball is open to both girls and boys of various ages and skill levels from the community.
First Baptist Church Meridian is marking its fourth year as a sponsor of the ministries. Brad Smith, associate pastor for students and activities, considers it a positive program, not only for participants, but also families.
The basketball program not only builds game skills, but also life skills such as self esteem and spirituality.
The Rev. Kay Stewart, children's pastor at NorthPark Church, agrees.
Gloria Watkins, recreation assistant at First Baptist, said Upward Basketball fills a great need of local youth.
After registration, basketball evaluations and cheerleading sign-ups are held. This determines the skill level of each participant. Once evaluations have been completed, practices will be scheduled. Games will begin in January and continue through February.
At practices, participants also learn Bible verses, and participate in devotionals and prayer while learning the fundamentals of basketball or cheerleading. At each game, every player receives stars (representing different character traits).
Registered participants receive the following:
Basketball Upward Game Day Gear, equal playing time, individual awards, free end-of-the year award, player gift, guaranteed to play at least half of each game, one-practice and more.
Cheerleader Upward Game Day Gear, individual awards, pom-poms, one-hour practice and game each week, free end-of-the-year award and more.
Registration dates, age levels and evaluation schedules vary at each of the churches and are listed as follows:
First Baptist Church Meridian
Basketball (boys and girls) and Cheerleading Leagues, open to kindergarten through seventh grades Early registration cost per child is $45; after Oct. 15, the cost is $55. Deadline for registration is Oct. 24. Shorts/skorts are optional at a cost of $13.
Evaluations and sign-ups Every participant must attend. Evaluations and sign-ups will be held at the First Baptist Church Gym as follows: Kindergarten and first grade boys and girls, Oct. 22, from 6 a.m.-8:30 p.m.; second and third grade boys and girls, Oct. 23, from 6 p.m.-8:30 p.m.; and fourth through seventh grade boys and girls, Oct. 25, from 6 p.m.-8:30 p.m.
Practices begin the week of Nov. 26. The first game is Jan. 5 and Awards Night is Feb. 26.
For more information, call the church office at 484-4600.
NorthPark Church
Basketball (boys and girls) and Cheerleader Leagues, open to grades first through eighth Early registration cost per child is $48; after Nov. 8, the cost is $58. Deadline for registration is Nov. 8. Shorts/skorts are optional at a cost of $13.
Evaluations and sign ups Every participant must attend. Evaluations will take place at the NorthPark Gym as follows: First and second grade boys and girls, Nov. 5, from 6 p.m.-8 p.m.; third and fourth grade boys and girls, Nov. 6, from 6 p.m.-8 p.m.; and fifth through eighth grade boys and girls, Nov. 8, from 6 p.m.-8 p.m.
Practices begin the week of Nov. 26. The first game is Jan. 12 and Awards Night is March 4.
For more information, call 482-1322.
Poplar Springs Drive Baptist Church
Basketball League, open to boys and girls in first through 12th grades Early registration cost per child is $50; after Oct. 28, the cost is $60. Deadline for registration is Nov. 14. Shorts are optional at a cost of $13.
Evaluations Every player must attend. Evaluations will take place at the Poplar Springs Drive Baptist Church Gym as follows: First and second grade boys and girls, Nov. 5, from 6 p.m.-8 p.m.; third and fourth grade boys and girls, Nov. 6, from 6 p.m.-8 p.m.; fifth and seventh grade boys and girls, Nov. 8, from 6 p.m.-8 p.m.; and eighth through 12th grade boys and girls, Nov. 9, from 6 p.m.-8 p.m.
Practices begin the week of Nov. 26. The first game is Jan. 5 and Awards Night is March 4.
For more information, call the church office at 485-5106.

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