Harrisburg has become a family town brimming with kids and events.
So many young children require a variety of extracurricular activities including the arts, music and sports.
Trying different types of activities during their younger years allows kids to discover their likes and talents along the way.
However, participating in these activities can also create pressure on the child and the family schedule, creating unnecessary stress.
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If a boy or girl in kindergarten through sixth grade is interested in trying a sport in Harrisburg, Upward sports league is a low-cost, low-pressure way to gain experience.
Upward is the world's largest Christian sports program - offered through churches and open to all faiths - and it provides a sports experience that emphasizes healthy competition, sportsmanship, skills building and fun versus the "win-at-all-costs" mentality found in many children's sports leagues.
Upward is an all-volunteer sports ministry of Harrisburg Presbyterian Church, 4815 N.C. 49, and is run by director Cenie Maynard.
Currently, the Harrisburg league offers basketball, cheerleading and soccer.
"This is a league where every child plays and every child wins," said Maynard, who is in her fifth year running the ministry.
Upward is based on the Christian principles of having good character, integrity, respect for others and a sense of fair play. The program is designed to ease family stress by having only a one-hour practice during the week and one game each Saturday morning.
Mother of six D.J. Fullwood of Harrisburg appreciates the simplicity and ease of the program.
"It was convenient to have all of my boys playing at the same location that was close to home," she said. "It made my evening and Saturday schedule less hectic.
At practice the kids learn sport skills as well as values helpful to them for both their game and their life. Each game opens with a short prayer, and each child plays the same amount of time during the game regardless of his or her skill.
"Although I am of a different faith, I still volunteer as a coach," said volunteer coach, Ricky Bhardwaj of Harrisburg. "I feel that Upward motivates children that might not otherwise play a sport, and it is wonderful for coaches and parents that all players are treated fairly and play equal time."
At the finish of the game, the team enjoys a snack, and the coaches take the time to give each child a small reward for a character trait they demonstrated during the game. Parents join the kids for snack and awards.
"I enjoyed the attitude of the coaches and leaders," said Fullwood. "They were happy to be working with the children, and the children gained confidence from the positive attitudes of those volunteering in the program."
There are no league standings such as first- or second-place teams. At the close of the season, each child receives an award for participating.
It takes many volunteers to keep Upward running.
"It is definitely not a one-woman show," Maynard said. "My kids have aged out of the program, and they still come and help when they can." Volunteers are needed to set up chairs every Friday night, hook up sound for the Saturday games, coach teams, be team parents, referee, keep time, keep score and the list goes on, according to Maynard.
"Many of the volunteers come from outside our church, including parents of players and high school kids who volunteer for a lot of the coaching and set-up type positions," said Maynard. The amount of kids signing up for the sport determines the amount of volunteers needed. Many years, there have been close to 200 kids participating in basketball and cheerleading.
"For me, it's worth it all to see the smiles on the children's faces when they make that basket and how all the other children are happy for that one," Maynard said.