By Jim Currie

Jeff Peacock has been enrolling his son Daniel in sports leagues since he was in first grade. Daniel’s skills have increased in sports like football, soccer and basketball.  But that’s not why the Peacocks keep coming back.

“We want to see our son interact well with other boys.  Here, they spend time on relationships to build a team.  That’s an important life skill and I value that along with the skills to play a game.”

Ashley Roberts, (24), is the Upward Sports coordinator at First Baptist Church in Covington where the Peacock family plays. Her mission is clear, “We plan to have fun while we teach children skills in sports.  The Upward Sports program is all about having a positive team experience.”

Roberts should know.  She participated in Upwards Sports programs as a child in Baton Rouge and again later in Mississippi. 

“I was challenged to learn the game in those years. I stayed with Upward Sports from kindergarten through the sixth grade and then switched to participate on school teams. I had the skills to make the team and excelled in high school and college sports.” Roberts explained the philosophy as a focus upon technical skills and terminology while keeping the game fun. 

“We find that kids join the league at different ages and skill levels.  We want the advanced kids to continue their growth while allowing the newer kids time to learn the sport and have fun.”

Sometimes there is no score. Roberts explains that many games are played without keeping a formal score. 

“The kids always know how many points they’ve scored, and we’re good with that.  But as we expanded our league, we decided to play multiple games at the same time.  In some sports like football, this created a bit of a dilemma in that we only have one scoreboard.  So, we just decided keeping the score wasn’t a critical part of the experience. We haven’t missed it.”  Roberts went on to explain that keeping score does have merit in teaching good values. 

“We place an emphasis upon learning humility.  That works best from the winning side as they seek to empathize and have camaraderie with the losing side.  Empathy can be a better life skill than scoring a goal.”  Peacock agrees that Upward Sports focus on more than game skills. 

“I enjoy coaching here – if the child learns to work effectively as a team, we’ve better prepared them to start a career.  It is very satisfying to see the light come on when our players learn teamwork.”

First Baptist Church of Covington Pastor Glynn Robinson has directed the church’s Upward Sports program since inception in 2012.

“We are very pleased with these leagues. The community response has been very strong as parents are looking for a sports experience that is both positive and safe. Our programs include football, soccer and cheerleading. At least half of the participating families are not members of our church. Some families drive from Hammond to join our league.” 

“I’ve worked with Upward Sports as both a coach and as a parent”, said Jeff Peacock, “and I’m very pleased.  Each child gets to play the different positions.  They get a good experience with other families at practices and games.  I feel the sport is managed from a perspective of safety.  I just don’t think we could ask for anything more.”  Then Peacock grins, “Except for maybe an extra touchdown at the game this Saturday.”

Upward Sports seeks to teach life lessons by embedding the coaching materials with tools like “word of the day” values.  Tips include vignettes on teamwork, sportsmanship and being humble.

The First Baptist Church programs are based upon the national organization called Upward Sports. This national program is non-denominational and works with churches to organize effective leagues that emphasize teaching skills and fun rather than mere competition. Leagues typically last 10 weeks with eight games.   

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