No. 299

United States Army General Arthur G. Trudeau once said, “Character is the total of thousands of small daily strivings to live up to the best that is in us...the final decision to reject whatever is demeaning to oneself or to others and with confidence and honesty to choose the right.” When it comes to character as it relates to our nation’s young people there is a new program that is spreading like wildfire across the country called “Upward Basketball” and I learned about it in a most unusual way.
Several months ago I was the opening speaker for a statewide Lions Forum that was held here at the University Of Central Arkansas. The Lion who introduced me was our club president Mike Baldwin and he couldn’t stay for my speech because he had a commitment to make a presentation to a group of young people and their parents at an Upward Basketball session being conducted at one of our local churches. As I told the audience, he was the luckiest member of our club since he didn’t have to stay and hear me speak.
Since that time I have learned a good deal more about this program, not only from some people who are involved, but also from publicity here in our local community. The more I have learned about this program the more excited I have become because the focus, the ideals and objectives are really in tune with my own beliefs. If you are not familiar with Upward Basketball, when you hear and learn more about it you may want to get it started in your own community. This is especially true if you would like to see the young people in your area learn Christlike attitudes along with good sportsmanship and other skills and values that will last them a lifetime.
The program is a national sports outreach ministry based in Spartanburg, South Carolina. In 1994 it consisted of one church with more than 700 children playing basketball. The program also stresses evangelism, character building and learning the basic skills of the game. This past year over 100,000 children along with many of their parents were participating nationwide. When the church referenced earlier got involved the first year they expected around 150 kids but over 450 signed up.
This program is for any kid and it does not matter whether or not they attend a church. Denomination is way down the list of what is important but rather this program is about teaching kids about life, character values and the skills to enjoy, and maybe even excel, at the game of basketball. My hat is off to every person regardless of race, creed or national origin who love kids and wants them to develop into happy, productive and responsible adults. We have so many people like this across our nation and this program is just a way to add the spiritual dimension that so many kids do not receive.
While destructive personal habits are hard to break, someday I hope the days are gone when you see a coach or a player on any team lose his or her temper and curse a blue streak and display poor sportsmanship. Make no mistake here, this is not to say that winning is not important because it is. It’s just that we can play hard, play fair and play to win but still be a good sport and a good role model. It is truly our performance on and off the court that will make a difference in our success later in life.
Based on what I have learned up to this point, I truly believe this program has the potential to make a difference in the quality of athletics in our great nation in the years to come. For more information contact: Upward Basketball, P.O. Box 5157, Spartanburg, S.C., 29304 (1-800-585-4721) or visit their website at .(Jim Davidson is a motivational speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034.)