Constructive Suggestions for Upward

July 21, 2009

I recently made a comment about Upward sports that generated no little excitement.  This post is my attempt to follow up with a little elaboration and, hopefully, constructive suggestions.  I’m going to get right to the point.

First, I don’t think Upward is of the devil.  In fact, I like Upward.  My daughter has played two sports over three different seasons.  You will be hard-pressed to find a better organized, more admirably executed, family-friendly athletic environment.

Second, here’s what I think should be changed about Upward so as to serve our children even better.  (1) Do away with the “everybody’s a winner” philosophy.  The philosophy is manifestly untrue, and the kids know it.  That’s reason enough.  But more importantly, trying to make kids feel good about themselves regardless of performance directly undermines the gospel that Upward rightly desires to make clear.  The gospel isn’t for winners any more than it’s for those who think of themselves as healthy or righteous (Mark 2:17).  Owning our failure in life, not boosting our self-esteem, is the path toward realizing our need for the Savior.  There’s only one true winner, and losing on occasion is a good reminder that we need Him.

The next two changes I would make follow from the first.  (2) Keep score (the kids and parents are keeping it anyway), and train the coaches to help the children think about how they can respond to God in the face of victory or defeat.  Rich gospel-truth and gospel-character can be commended through winning and losing.  (3) Stop handing out the “most Christlike” star.  Too often this star is given to a child who has failed to play in such a way as to deserve another star (e.g., best offense, best defense, etc.).  I’m sure that’s not the intent of the star, but it’s the reality nevertheless.  And, even more seriously, this star is often given to children who may not even be Christians, which communicates some really confusing things about the gospel.

So, for the sake of the gospel, these are the changes I would suggest.  Upward is praiseworthy already, and I believe it can become an even more effective tool for the kingdom in the lives of our children.

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2 Responses to “Constructive Suggestions for Upward”

  1. Wes R Says:

    1) Absolutely

    2) Official Upward rules say that score should not be kept for the youngest divisions (below 2nd grade). We’ve been in leagues that keep score for the older division and in leagues that do not. I agree that the potential lessons learned make keeping score worth the risk.

    The official rules also say that no season standings should be kept for any division. I do not think that would be my preference, but I know why they do it.

    3) That star just really bugs me. In fact, all of the stars bug me, but that one especially does. I don’t mind awarding effort or good plays, but giving little Billy a best offense start just because he doesn’t have one yet – you have to be a little dishonest to do that.

    But, a creative (and somewhat subversive) coach can overcome each of these issues. You should coach, btw.

  2. Ron Durham Says:

    David I agree with both your elaboration and your suggestions for change. Ben played Upward sports for a time and enjoyed it, though like myself was never a stellar athlete, but I’m glad he played just the same. The reason Upward even exists is because in the past the church in its failure to acknowledge the doctrine of the sufficiency of scripture in practice merely took its cue from the world, as it too often tends to do. The changes you suggested would go a long way toward making Upward more biblically on target, but they should at least be given credit for the well-intentioned effort. It shows a willingness to attempt to apply the gospel to the everyday areas of our lives, something we are all called to persue.


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