Tonight is the celebration time for our Upward Sports league here in Ontario. The last 11 weeks we have been practicing and playing basketball or cheer leading with a huge group of elementary kids. All of our coaches and referees are volunteers from our church and our community. They give a lot of time and energy to their team to make the experience great! Our goal is to use the sport as the avenue to share what we believe is the most important thing: God’s love demonstrated through Jesus. We love the sport- but the sport is not the only thing we are after.
I have a confession though. During the season, I can get a little too into the sport and the details of the league, and forget that it’s the moments beyond the sport experience that really matter. That is generally when God orchestrates a moment to remind me that this is so much more than just basketball or cheer. One of the those moments happened last week at the last game day.
We have a young man on our coaching team named Jeremy. Jeremy is a guy with special needs. A few years ago, he started helping coach and has been a part of the coaching team since. During the off season he will stop those who he knows involved with Upward and ask when practices start! He is so excited about basketball!
This season he was part of the Liberty team, a 4th-6th grade girls team. It is really fun to see him at practices and games on the sideline cheering and coaching. And he is very faithful to come to practices and games! He even got a group of friends to come watch his game one week. That was pretty awesome.
So last week was our last game day and Coach Jeremy had something special for his team. He brought every player a homemade card with a message from “Assistant Coach.”
I got to watch as he handed out each card to each player- he even brought candy to give them. Each card was handed over, on purpose, to each girl from his team… It was a cool thing to watch. Each of the girls smiled, said thank you, and beamed as they read their cards from Coach Jeremy.
It made me think again that this is so much more than just a sports experience. We are creating a place where Jeremy can be part of a team; a place where kids can build friendships with a guy like Jeremy; a place that, hopefully, shows God’s love no matter what walk of life we come from. It has got to be more than just basketball and cheer… This is why I like being part of Upward Sports. When we do it right, it helps facilitate (through sports) an atmosphere that pushes us into what really matters in life.