What Kids Learn From Upward Basketball

This year is my second coaching Upward basketball. (If you’re not familiar with Upward check out their website for more information). I originally made the decision to coach because my oldest daughter was playing and wanted me to. My reasons for coaching have changed a bit over the past two years. Sure I still do it for my kids, but there have been times when I’ve asked myself “Why am I doing this?”. Then I remember the faces of those little girls each week at practice and on game day. I think about our devotion time at each practice, and I also remember the ultimate goal of Upward ~~ a focus on Jesus Christ ~~ and I know why I coach.

While thinking about this blog post and why I coach Upward basketball some things came to mind. As I said, the reason I began coaching was for my daughter, but now it is so much more than that. I truly care about every player on the team. Sure, as a coach I want to teach them the fundamentals of basketball. But, as an Upward coach my primary goal is to make sure they learn about Jesus. Of course there is much more they will learn along the way. With that said, here is my list of 5 important things kids learn from Upward.

  1. Fundamental basketball skills. This is an easy one. As a coach the first thing you want your players to learn is the basics of the game. Kids in Upward are no different from those in another league. They learn dribbling, shooting, rebounding, etc. We teach them the basic fundamentals and build from there.
  2. Confidence. During the first couple of practices and games I see kids who are rather quiet and not very aggressive on the court. They are typically quiet during the devotion time as well, unsure what to say or even if they should speak at all. Usually after a few weeks of practice and two to three games they are much more confident. It is not unusual by the end of the season for everyone on the team to be much more outgoing than early in the year. As they have developed their skills their confidence grows and they tend to be more aggressive on the court, taking more shots and driving in the lane. I love watching them grow in this way throughout the season!
  3. Teamwork. Upward most definitely teaches kids how to work together as a team. Early in the season it is not uncommon to see a really strong player bring the ball down the court and drive to the basket to take a shot. As the season progresses I tend to see the girls slowing the pace and taking the time to look around for their teammates. Likewise I see others on offense moving toward the ball and getting into place for a pass. The girls make better decisions with the ball in later games and work as a team, passing instead of taking the shot. They have learned to move the ball effectively and play as a team so that everyone contributes.
  4. Sportsmanship. One of the things I really appreciate about Upward is something referred to the Circle of Affirmation. We (coaches, players, parents) are taught to respect our teammates, opponents, coaches, and referees. We all understand that the refs are going to miss a call, or make a bad call. Another kid is going to foul someone and get away with it. The girls learn to be good sports no matter what. At the end of each game the players line up behind the coach and congratulate the other team. We all like to win, but it is so great to see the kids showing true sportsmanship even when they have just lost by 20 points. It reminds me of the movie Facing the Giants. The team’s credo is that they will praise Him when they win and when they lose.
  5. It all points toward Jesus! I listed this one last, but it is by far the most important. The ultimate goal for an Upward basketball coach is to help the kids see that in the end it’s not about basketball, winning or losing. It all points to a relationship with Jesus Christ! That is the best and most important thing these kids will learn. Yes, we want them to play hard and hopefully win some games. But, our number one priority is to teach the kids about what it means to be a Christ follower. My favorite part of practice is the halftime devotions. It’s great to see the kids get more and more involved in the discussion as the season progresses. Late in the season we pass out commitment cards to each child. There they can indicate whether they have already made a decision, want to talk to someone about it, or are ready to make that decision. We pass those cards along to the staff at church and make sure the parents know if a decision has been made. In the end it all points to Jesus!

I could go on with much more about Upward and what a wonderful program it is, but I’ll stop there. I just want to say that I have really enjoyed coaching the past two years. We are coming to the close of this season ~~ only one more game to go ~~ and I’m sad to see it end. It has been so much fun getting to know all the girls and seeing them get better and more confident each week. I know that for some, including my own Rachel, this will be the last time they are eligible to play in this league. I do plan to coach again next year, this time for my youngest daughter’s team. I know it will be fun and look forward to another opportunity to serve Him through the ministry of Upward basketball.

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