In 1986 the Upward Sports League was created to provide a sports experience that focuses not on winning and losing, but how you play the game. The Christian athletic league was founded in Spartanburg, S.C., and today, more than 550,000 children in kindergarten through sixth-grade nationwide play Upward Sports.

In Arkansas, numerous churches have been offering not just Upward basketball, but Upward cheerleading, soccer and flag football.

 “It is an incredibly well marketed and packaged program that is very user-friendly,” said Lisa Kanai, the Upward Sports Director at Indian Springs Baptist Church in Bryant. “It is a positive atmosphere for kids that teaches the skills, but also helps us meet our goal of sharing Jesus Christ.”

During each practice and game, coaches and other volunteers share a devotional, prayer or testimony before taking to the court to teach game skills.  For the younger players there is no score-keeping during games and the league has no win-loss records or team standings. In Upward, every child plays at least half the game and no child can sit out more than six minutes.

Indian Springs Baptist Church partners with Family Church in Bryant to offer programs in cheerleading or basketball with more than 500 children participating. East Union Missionary Baptist Church offers soccer in the fall in addition to basketball and cheerleading.

More information on Upward Basketball is available online at The website can also help you find other churches in central Arkansas that offer the program.