Basketball with a Difference in New Jersey

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Upward Basketball emphasizes healthy competition, skill building, and fun—there’s no room for a “win at all costs” mentality.

Jenna Brooks gets ready to shoot a free throw.

Photo by Amy Brooks

The program in Wyckoff, N.J., is sponsored by four churches, including Faith Community Christian Reformed Church.

Coaches teach faith in God and respect for authority in every situation and promise equal playing time to all. Each game opens with prayer, and at half-time there are short inspirational talks on topics such as respecting fellow players, listening for God’s call in your life, or giving your worries to God.

The program started seven years ago and now has 320 participants from grades 1-6.

The Brooks family—Patrick, Amy, Andrew, and Jenna—members of Faith Community, has been involved for a number of years. Jenna, 10, said, “The coaches are nice, I make new friends, and we have fun during each game.”

Andrew, 12, graduated from the program and now referees games. He likes “to help the younger kids learn and understand the game better.”

Patrick also referees at games, and Amy has spoken at half-time. She likes it when “kids learn basketball skills without the focus on winning, while including everyone and building each other up. The kids are encouraged to memorize Scripture verses, and the coaches share their personal relationship with God with the team.”

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