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The Upward program at Avalon Missionary Church and Mount Calvary Lutheran Church gives kids a lot more than just the chance to participate in football, soccer, basketball, and cheerleading. “Intertwining the teachings of Christ and the Gospel with athletics, Upward allows children to learn about Christianity through playing football, soccer, basketball and cheerleading,” program director, Brad Mattax said. Avalon Missionary’s Mattax, along with his wife, Barb, and Mount Calvary’s Angie and Darrell Beverly, coordinate all four sports.

Upward eliminates the negative aspects of organized sports by creating an atmosphere of equality for the players. “There’s too much competition in sports,” Mattax said. “We’d rather have every kid come in and be a winner. People don’t want to be in a program in which their kids leave in tears. This is a program that is a positive encouragement for the kids.” He explained that at matches and games each child gets equal playing time. The teams are also evenly matched according to each child’s ability. “This helps kids feel really good about themselves,” Mattax continued.

Last year the Upward program in Waynedale was the 1st Upward Flag Football League and Cheerleading program to be piloted in our area and 1 of 19 in the nation. “We are teaming with churches, communities and businesses throughout the Fort Wayne area in giving families an opportunity to join with us in forming a non-contact flag football league and cheerleading program that goes beyond; it builds a foundation for life.” This program will be open to all Upward Churches in the year of 2006.

The 2005 Upward Football season is set to begin. Registration is scheduled for Monday, June 20 from 6:30pm-8pm, Tuesday, June 21 from 6:30pm-8pm, and Saturday, June 25 from 10am-1pm. Evaluations and registration will be held at Family Life Center – Avalon Missionary Church, 1500 Lower Huntington Road in Waynedale. Participants from Kindergarten through eighth grade are invited to join. It is crucial for teams to register early! After June 25 a late registration fee of $20 will be added. Practice begins Monday, August 1.

Again for the 2005 Season the Upward Program is planning a GIRLS Flag Football League.‑ All girls who are in 1st through 8th grades are encouraged to‑register.

While contact football, if taught properly, is a safe sport, a lot of parents do not want their young children to play a contact sport.‑ If you are one of these parents, Upward Flag Football may be an alternative for your child.‑ It would teach the basics for future participation in contact football.

Teams meet each week to practice for an hour. “During the practices there is a short devotion time in which players learn about Christ and the Gospel,” Mattax said. Games are played at two locations each Saturday; on the Family Life Center Football Fields located at Avalon Missionary Church, 1500 Lower Huntington Road and Mount Calvary Lutheran located at 1819 Reservation Drive. After each practice and game, players earn stars for best effort, sportsmanship, offense, and most Christ-like behavior.

Participants pay $65 to enroll in the football program and $72 for Cheerleading. Football players receive a reversible jersey (home and visitor), flag and flag belt, play wristband, car magnet, and an end of the year gift. The Cheerleading player kit includes: a top and skorts, pom-poms, megaphone, face decals, and car magnet.

Caz McCaslin created Upward in 1985 in Spartansburg, South Carolina. Originally it was a small organization run locally. The program grew in popularity around the South Carolina area over the years eventually going national in 1995. According to the Upward Limited web site, the sport now has over 125,000 children participating.

“The program has been well-received in our community. It’s a huge success. It would be great if every child in Fort Wayne could be in the program,” Mattax said.

Area churches interested in the program can contact Brad Mattax through Avalon Missionary for help in setting up their own leagues. They can also visit the Upward web page at www.upward.com for detailed information on how to start an Upward program.

The Waynedale News Staff
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