DEL CITY—Colby Morris led two breakout sessions during the State Evangelism Conference (SEC), and the national Upward Sports representative shared how the popular Christian sports league for children and youth is expanding throughout 47 states and teaming up with more than 1,500 churches nationwide.
Upward Sports is popular in the Oklahoma City and Tulsa areas, but many church leaders across Oklahoma attended Morris’ breakout sessions to see how they could be involved in offering a sports league to their respective communities while also sharing the Gospel with children and parents.
“Our community is smaller, but yet sports seems to be way people can get out,” said Melinda Culp from Big Cabin in Craig-Mays Association. “My husband and I have coached different sports for years with our children, but why not put Jesus in it?”
Culp believes Upward’s design of working through the church to connect with families and also present the Gospel to parents would be a blessing to many.
“Our families are broken, whether in the church or outside the church,” she said. “Having our church members alongside these parents and encouraging them would be a huge impact on our community.”
Morris said Upward Sports continues to offer local churches the resources to run leagues, camps and clinics in a recreational format for basketball, soccer, flag football, volleyball, baseball/softball and cheerleading. In the last five years, Upward has been successful in supporting high performance teams in basketball and volleyball to compete with AAU travel squads.
“We are looking for certified area leaders who will find coaches and be able to utilize different skills clinics, developmental programs or even travel teams if they wanted to play in that AAU-type arena that we know today,” Morris said.
Known as Upward Stars, these developmental programs have been established in Spartanburg, S.C.; Houston, Texas; and Nashville, Tenn., Moore said, and they are producing travel squads in basketball and volleyball. This originated from getting feedback from committed parents who found Upward Sports to be beneficial for their children, but as they got older, they wanted to see Upward provide at a higher skill level.
“Our leadership at Upward Sports, we feel called to break into the travel or the AAU world because we know it’s just a dark place, and it’s another mission field we want to reach,” Morris said.
Morris said regardless of level of competition, Upward is committed to sharing the Gospel, and he shared some instances of both players and parents making professions of faith after being involved in Upward Sports
“We had a family in Texas come to Lord through an Upward flag football league,” he said. “The child came to know Christ first, and then through him answering questions, his parents came to accept Christ.”
Hopefully, the Upward Sports breakout sessions during SEC this year will entice more churches to provide sports leagues in many communities across Oklahoma and experience how this Christian sports league can encourage children and parents to make life-changing decisions for Christ.
“Last year, we had more than 7,000 salvations reported through our leagues. That’s just the ones we know,” Morris said. “Whether it be kids, parents or other family members, many have come to know Christ through the outreach of Upward Sports.”
For more information visit upward.org or contact Morris at [email protected].