serving as a recreation minister in 1986, Caz McCaslin,
42, started Upward Sports Ministries, which emphasizes to sports-playing
children and their parents the value of Christlikeness and good
sportsmanship. In the past 18 years the ministry has grown from
a handful of participants to more than 400,000 5- to 12-year-olds
nationwide. McCaslin spoke recently with Associate Editor Kirk
Kids sports seem pretty serious these days. Do kids like it that
McCASLIN: Kids want to have fun, but many parents
are obsessed with competition. In the past couple of decades winning
has become the most important thing.
lot of parents think that if their kid does everything exactly
the way it's to be done, his or her team will always win. That's
not true. Up until age 12 or 13, kids need to be learning and
understanding the game they are playing and not be so focused
Speaking of obsession with sports, I recently read that a couple
of families named their kids "ESPN" in a nod to the
cable television sports network. What does that tell you?
McCASLIN: I love sports. That's why I do what I do. But sports
are something God created for us to learn physical and life skills
from and use as a tool to share Christ. It's not that sports in
and of themselves are negative; it's that people have tainted
them and placed too much importance on them.
What should parents' roles be regarding their son's or daughter's involvement
The main role is to encourage their children and find the positive
in everything they do. Positive reinforcement is crucial.
Kids would be playing a lot longer and having a lot more fun in
sports today if parents would keep in mind that it's meant to
Your program approaches practices and games a bit differently
than a regular kids city league — tell me about that.
When it comes to ball games, every child gets equal playing time.
We stop the clock every six minutes so each child will never sit
longer than six minutes. We also rotate who starts every game.
our referees make a call, they explain it to all the kids so they
learn. Every player is introduced. A lot of churches set up fog
machines or a tunnel for the kids to come running through too.
At the end of each game, every child gets an award.
You think church and sports go hand in hand. Why is that?
Our purpose is to help children understand that God doesn't make
junk and that every kid is a winner. What better place to learn
that than at a church? To do that we do share the love of Jesus
Christ with them, teach them good sportsmanship and tell them
that God has a purpose for every one of them. Many kids and even
their parents won't come to church for a service, but they will
come to play sports. Upward is a hook that can get the unsaved
person into church and, more importantly, into a relationship
What do you say to the die-hard soccer mom and dad who say, "All
the feel-good stuff is great, but I want my kid to be ready to
play ball at the next level and a program like Upward just won't
prepare my child for that"?
A lot of kids feel pressured when they play sports and they burn
out early. You give me an athlete who has the potential to play
high school or college ball and they're going to end up playing
at those levels. The difference with Upward is that the kids are
going to have fun, learn spiritual truths and skip all the pressure.
In the media recently there have been accounts of unruly parents
behaving badly at their kids' ball games. What do you do with
a loudmouth parent at an Upward game?
A parent usually yells because he or she truly understands the
game and wants the game to be played right. I can appreciate that.
In an honest, loving way, I have literally walked up to such parents,
pulled a whistle out of my pocket and asked them to help me referee
a game. That usually solves the problem. If someone is yelling,
we don't want to kick him or her out; we want to bring them in.
We use conflict as a ministry opportunity.
When you retire, what do you hope Upward Sports Ministries will
I hope and pray that every child who has come through our program
will say, "Those people saw a winner in me and they drew
that winner out."