Sunday, March 11, 2012

Up-Up-and Away-Ward

The past eight weeks or so, I’ve had the privilege of helping out with a sports ministry league of basketball and cheerleading called Upward, through the church I attend here in Des Moines, Walnut Creek. This year I’ve coached one of the 7th/8th grade boys teams with two of my friends here at Drake. We’re the Sycamores. Each week we have a basketball practice on Monday followed by a game on Friday or Saturday. We had our second to last game this past weekend, and will have our last practice tomorrow. I’m bummed that I won’t be able to make our last game because Drake students will be on spring break (I’ll be home in MPLS!).
This season has been fun, and vastly different from my experience last year where I helped coach 1st/2nd graders. Each age level presents its own challenges and unique opportunities, but I’d say for the most part, I have enjoyed coaching the older kids more.  
I grew up playing basketball competitively from 5th grade up through my junior year of high school (when I quit to start running!). You could say that basketball was my first love. Some of my best childhood memories include times where I would spend the weekend playing in basketball tournaments all throughout the Twin Cities metro. It was a blast!
Upward provides an opportunity to combine two of the things I love – God and sports! I’ve really enjoyed working with the older kids this year, teaching them techniques in regards to proper shooting form, ball handling, passing, etc... We’re also able to design plays and run offenses that are too complex for the 1st/2nd grade level.
Each week at practice, we go through a devotional, centered on a specific verse from the Bible. It’s been encouraging to know that we are helping young men become better at basketball, and at the same time inspiring them to pursue a relationship with Jesus. On our team, if a player successfully memorizes one of our Bible verses, they’ll receive a green star that they can iron onto their jersey or undershirt. This year we’ve given away a lot of green stars!
One of the most heartening experiences of Upward actually came this morning at church. I ran into a player from my 1st/2nd grade team last year and his mother at church. At each basketball game, there is a devotional at halftime, and the Gospel is presented and shared throughout the season. It was really cool to see how God has worked through sports to bring members of the community to church, and ultimately to Him! Everything we do can be a spiritual act of worship for the Lord! 1 Corinthians 10:31, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God!”

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