MARTINS FERRY - The second season of the Martins Ferry Christian Church's Upward Sports basketball and cheerleading league is coming up.
Practices begin the week of Monday, Dec. 10 and games will begin Saturday, Jan. 19.
The first year, Upward had more than 150 kids and director Brian Hastings is expecting an even bigger turnout this season.
"Upward told us last year to expect a big jump in growth for the second and third year so we're expecting well over 200 kids to sign up," Hastings said.
Last season there were enough players to bracket up the teams by age division, keeping kids of similar skill and developmental levels playing against one another. The teams are co-ed.
A big plus the Upward Sports leagues is the evaluation system utilized prior to the state of the season in order to properly divide up the players.
Competitive balance is the key as no one team is overloaded with more talented players.
"Last year, our final few games I think we had two, two point spreads and a few one-point spreads," Hastings said. "Each game comes down to the wire. It makes it more exciting and keeps the kids interested."
Kindergarten-age kids are in their own mini-league, while players in first and second grade are together, third and fourth and finally fifth and sixth.
Once practices start, there will be one per week in order not to burn out the younger players with multiple weekly practices.
Potential player and cheerleader interest is high, as is the number of volunteers for the league.
Last year, Hastings reported that more than 60 adults volunteered their time as coaches, officials, concession workers, greeters and a number of other jobs.
But with the expected increase in the number of participants, Hastings is asking for more volunteers ... they will be needed.
He noted that if a parent or other adult doesn't feel comfortable coaching or officiating, there are a number of other jobs that will require assistance from volunteers.
"You don't have to be knowledgable about basketball to get involved," Hastings said. "There are other options available if you wish to help out."
The games are played inside the gymnasium at Ayers Elementary School adjacent to the Martins Ferry High School/Middle School Complex.
For more information, go to www.fccmartinsferry.org or visit the First Christian Church's Upward Sports League page on Facebook.
Hughes may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org