Special to The Dispatch
BERLIN- The inaugural season of the Upward Sports Flag Football and Cheerleading League, organized by SonRise Church in Berlin, ended with a final game on October 26 after a highly successful first year for the program.
Opening day of the eight week season commenced on September 7 with 60 children from K5 through 6th grade participating. Upward Sports is the world’s largest Christian sports league founded by Caz McCaslin in 1995. McCaslin formed the league with the goal of providing children with “skills for the sports arena and values for life.”
The flag football and cheerleading leagues are two of five sports programs offered by Upward Sports, which is a non-profit organization based in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Upward Sports partners with more than 2,500 churches throughout 47 states in the U.S. and 72 other countries. There are currently more than 5,000 sports leagues and camps that have been organized with approximately 500,000 kids participating.
The inception of the league is the brainchild of SonRise Church’s Associate Pastor Tim Robinson, who is primarily involved with the church’s youth ministry. Robinson moved to Berlin in May 2011 to join SonRise Church’s staff after previously residing in Pittsburgh his entire life. Robinson was exposed to the sports ministry in Pittsburgh when he coached a basketball team in an Upward Sports league that was organized by his father.
Robinson said one of the main reasons behind his organizing the league was “the universal language of sports is a great way to bring the community together, while simultaneously creating a positive, exciting, and encouraging experience for the children who will be participating in the league.”
The Upward Sports Flag Football and Cheerleading League’s purpose is to instill values into children while teaching them fundamentals in a fun environment that emphasizes sportsmanship, self-esteem and healthy competition. In addition, the program also stresses valuable biblical principles such as leadership, teamwork, self-discipline and integrity.
Bob Horst and his wife Linda served as directors of the program. Both enjoyed their involvement in the program.
“It was a positive and encouraging environment for the children and I believe there is room to grow,” said Bob Horst.
Laura Berges, who, along with Kelly Green, coached the cheerleading squad agreed.
“It was a true blessing to have the opportunity to work with the cheerleaders and I look forward to what God has to offer next season,” she said.
About 265 people attended a lively awards celebration at Stephen Decatur High School following the season finale.
“We are thankful to God for the great weather we had and that no major injuries incurred this season,” said Robinson, who co-coached one of the teams. “The kids improved their skills tremendously this year and many are already anxiously looking forward to next season.”