Ben Hill Christian Church Brings Equity and Encouragement to Sports


Ask most professional athletes where their love for sports came from, and they will likely refer back to a coach or team from their youth.
Youth recreational sports are the foundation for many great athletes. This arena is where fundamental skills and knowledge of the game begin. However, for many children, recreational sports may not be a positive, skill-building experience.

Sometimes, as a result of the negative impact that a coach or team has had on some children, they become no longer interested in being involved in a sport.

In 2010, a few members from Ben Hill Christian Church came together with one goal in mind — to change the impact that recreational sports has on kids in their community. The goal of Upward Sports is to provide a positive environment for children to learn various sports and, at the same time, teach children about the word of God. The Upward Sports program is a nation-wide ministry that hundreds of churches participate in. However, the program at Ben Hill Christian Church is one of the few programs that functions in the southwest Atlanta community.

“I played little league sports for seven years and enjoyed every minute of it,” said Ken Woods, the Upward Sports director at Ben Hill Christian Church. “I have coached little league sports for 10 years and have been very fulfilled. However, my experience with Upward Sports has been my most fulfilling. Upward mergers sports with Christian principles to teach children the love of sports, along with the love of God. It simply doesn’t get any better than this.”

Upward Sports is designed for all skill levels, giving every participant an opportunity to play and enhance their abilities. Once registration is complete, every child wanting to play basketball goes through an evaluation process. This allows commissioners to determine a child’s skill level so that balanced teams can be created. During the games, every child gets the same amount of playing time, and every child is given an opportunity to handle the ball. All coaches and referees go through a training course that stresses providing positive feedback to children and parents. This decreases yelling and humiliating players and makes the coaches and referees much less obtrusive.

The program offers boys and girls basketball and cheerleading for children in kindergarten through eighth grade. Practices are held one day of the week for one hour and 15 minutes, and games are played for one hour on Saturdays. The season lasts for eight weeks with an awards celebration at the end.

The Ben Hill Upward Sports Development team includes: Ken Woods Sr., the league director/basketball commissioner; Geary Woolfolk, co-league director/technology administrator; Kristin Woods, cheerleading commissioner; Gene Herrington, referee commissioner; Alysia Brown, advertising commissioner; and Christeen Robbins, concessions commissioner. Information for registration can be found at You may also “like us” on Facebook at

(Photo: Basketball players get ready for the game in a pregame huddle.)

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