HARRISBURG – Basketball and volleyball seasons start Saturday for a popular church-based youth athletic program.
All-Star, at Dorrisville Baptist Church in Harrisburg, is a Christian-based program designed to teach participating youths about the Bible, as well as sports fundamentals according to program director Roth Clayton.
"At the same time, we're teaching the fundamentals of the game while introducing Jesus into their lives," Clayton said, "along with good morals in a fun and loving environment."
The basketball program is available to boys kindergarten age through high school sophomores and girls kindergarten through eighth grade. The volleyball portion is available to girls in fourth grade through 12th grade.
Saturday, games will begin at 8 a.m. And last into the afternoon. Dorrisville utilizes both its old gym and new gym to accommodate all the teams playing. The season lasts eight weeks, and at the end there is an awards night.
One thing that separates the program from other sports programs is that emphasis is not just winning. While competition is a part of every sport, Clayton said, the athletic goal of All-Star is to give as many kids as many chances to play as possible.
"It's always been passion of mine that every kid have the opportunity to play," he said. "And, I mean actually take a shot and handle the ball. I know that may not bepopular in a competitive atmosphere, but this is designed to include everybody."
To that end, a basketball game consists of six playing periods instead of four quarters. The playing team is rotated each playing period so more players get playing time.
At halftime, a guest speaker shares his or her testimony with the audience while the teams take a break.
To keep teams fair, before the first practice All-Star holds evaluation nights where each player performs a series of athletic-related skills. Volunteers from the program record the scores, and then a blind draw is conducted in an attempt to build teams that can compete fairly with one another, Clayton said.
"We want the teams to be able to match up well," he said. "We're trying to keep it fair."
And, while many of the children who play for the program are concentrating on the game, the lessons the Bible verses they are taught each week are what is hoped will stay with them, Clayton said.
"Not only are we trying to evangelize, but also to teach the kids how to be good people, how to be kind to one another – giving and selfless. That is what is at the center of what you teach them," he said. "Fortunately for us, that falls right in line with the Bible."