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IPFW Goes Upward

Volunteer Upward basketball coaches meet with their teams before the game begins.

Photo credit: Lauren Springer

Volunteer Upward basketball coaches meet with their teams before the game begins.
Written by: Communicator StaffJanuary 20, 2017

The new year marked the start of Upward basketball and cheerleading in Fort Wayne.

For students looking for things to do in the new year, Upward Sports offers a variety of volunteer positions.

Upward Sports is the world’s largest Christian youth sports provider. About 500,000 players at over 2,000 churches in 47 states participate in the program, according to upward.org. The program was established in 1995 and offers a variety of sports, including basketball, soccer, cheerleading, flag football, volleyball, baseball and softball.

Carter Chase, a senior majoring in computer science, said he has witnessed the impact Upward Sports has made at his church in the past years and encourages volunteering.

Chase said those who are passionate about helping kids, have a willingness to donate some of their time and have a basic knowledge of the sport should get involved.

Volunteers are welcome all year long and can help in any way they choose. Volunteers are needed at every location and with every sport.

Individuals can choose to commit to volunteering much or as little as they would like. Some positions require a seasonlong commitment, while others require as few as a couple of hours.

Many IPFW students and their families participate in and volunteer with the program.

Emily Mason, a freshman majoring in elementary education, and her family participated in Upward Sports and all enjoyed it when they were younger.

“The kids really grew and learned,” Mason said. “It was a fun experience for them and they learned to play the sport rather than it being all about winning.”

Alyssa Kurtz, a junior majoring in elementary education, watched her brother and sister participate in Upward soccer, basketball and cheerleading for several years.

Kurtz said the program taught her siblings the fundamentals of the sports before they played in high school.

Rebekah Williams, a sophomore majoring in organizational leadership and supervision, said the program teaches more than just the basic rules of the game. She said it also keeps children physically active and allows them to branch out and meet new people.

Practices for Upward basketball and cheerleading began at the start of 2017, and the season lasts through the beginning of March.

Registration for the basketball and cheerleading season has now ended, but volunteers are still needed to make the program a success.

Troy Jester, one of the program coordinators at Central Ministries in Fort Wayne, said volunteering is a great way to make a positive impact in the lives of children.

Twelve years ago, when Central began hosting Upward basketball and cheerleading, it had around 80 participants. Now, Jester said, the program has grown to around 150 kids each year.

He is happy with the growth but also realizes it requires more volunteers to staff the games and lead practices.

“It (volunteering) combines a love of sports with a concern for the well-being and growth of a child!  It is a great way to be a mentor and guide to a young person,” Jester said.

Kim Kovals, a senior earning a certificate in Education, has been a helper with Upward Sports while her children have participated for several years. She recommends volunteering and said it is fun in a family atmosphere.

“The kids are eager to learn and appreciate the help,” Kovals said.

The program says that volunteering is a way to be a part of something bigger and believes it is a privilege to serve others, according to upward.org.

Those who are interested in partnering with Upward Sports and becoming a volunteer can visit http://www.upward.org/getinvolved/volunteer.