The games start at 8:30 in the morning and come to an end at 4:00 in the afternoon. During each scheduled time, two games are going at once, on opposite sides of the gym. Each game has two volunteer referees helping the players out and calling fouls and other violations such as traveling, double dribbling, a carry, three seconds in the lane, and jump balls. The refs also keep track of the direction of the ball. During some games, depending on age group, the referees help keep track of scoring.
Scoring only takes place in grades third through sixth grade for girls and second through sixth grade for boys. This is to help keep the game clean and to ensure the kids have fun. Kindergarten-through-first-grade boys and kindergarten-through-second-grade girls do not keep score because they are still learning the game. During the youngest age groups’ games, the refs are able to help more by telling the players what to do and giving encouragement . They can point out what the player did wrong and be lenient towards the beginning of the season.
Each age division has different rules for the game. For example, the kindergarten-through-first-grade division does not switch halves after halftime. During a fourth-through-sixth-grade game, if a player makes two fouls during the same period, he or she has to sit out the remainder of that period. Another rule that applies to this age group is that once the ball is brought across the halfcourt line, defense can pursue the offensive player in the backcourt. Upwards basketball has the adaptations to the original game of basketball because this program is to help the younger kids learn and have a good experience with the game.
At the beginning of each game, the teams are announced in the darkened gym with disco lights and bursts of fog. It adds effect to the announcing, and the kids love having the spotlights on them and being able to run through the fog created by the fog machine.
After the announcing is done, the players all line up and get matched with a person of equal ability on the other team. They will place wristbands on the players so that they know who they are guarding each quarter. There are six quarters, and after each quarter ends, the coaches can switch players in and out.
Before the teams decide who gets the ball first, the referees, coaches, and players all join together in prayer to ensure a safe and fun game. After that, one player from each team is chosen to play rock-paper-scissors to see who gets the ball first. Finally, before the ball gets thrown in, the refs tell the players which way they are shooting. When both sides of the gym are ready to go, the refs from each side will blow their whistles simultaneously to begin the game!
After the first three periods of the game, there is a half-time. During the halftime, the kids all gather on one court and listen to a speaker give a lesson or a reading from the Bible. However, the players don’t have to go to church at Memorial if they want to participate in the Upwards league. Anyone is welcome, as long as they are within the age of the divisions.
Anyone who is experienced in the game of basketball is eligible to volunteer to be a referee. New Haven’s very own Hannah Kruse is an experienced ref when it comes to these games. “I grew up playing Upwards, and my dad helps run it, so I enjoy reffing and working with the kids,” she stated. When asked why she enjoys refereeing, she replied, “Seeing a little kindergartener score for the first time or just watching how the players progress over the 8 weeks is really cool.” She also encourages people to volunteer because “it’s only an hour out of your day on a Saturday, and it’s a lot of fun.”
-by Abby Perdue