Upward Sports is excited to announce that they are making the step into high-level competitive soccer with the creation of an expansion team in the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL). Building off of the successes of its more advanced programs in basketball and volleyball, Upward Sports is now adding soccer to its selection of aspirational “Performance Division” opportunities.
The Upward Stars will join the NPSL, the 4th Division of American professional men’s soccer, in time for the 2014 spring season. They will be comprised primarily of collegiate-level players who will be able to compete at a high level while maintaining their eligibility as student-athletes.
Soccer veteran Paul Henson will serve as the Upward Stars’ coach and general manager. Henson was a standout college soccer player in England in the 1980s, and he played on a number of high-level semipro teams in both the U.K. and the United States. He holds a United States Soccer Federation (USSF) “B” license, as well as licenses from the English FA and youth coaching licenses from the Ajax academy in Amsterdam and from Barcelona’s L’Escola. He has nearly 30 years of soccer coaching experience, including roles as State Director of Coaching (Maine), Olympic Development Program coach (Connecticut), and a variety of youth coaching positions overseeing both beginning soccer players and some who have gone on to play professionally.
“I am thrilled to be a part of the Upward Stars,” Henson said. “The NPSL is experiencing healthy expansion, and this team will provide a wonderful opportunity in the Upstate for the many great players seeking to compete at a higher level. It is a privilege to be a part of this new venture, which will solidify Upward Sports as a leader in the local soccer community. The club will provide role models and encourage players of all ages to seek to reach their greatest potential.”
Joining Henson’s staff as an assistant coach will be Camilo Rodriguez, currently the head coach of the men’s soccer team at Southern Wesleyan University in the National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA). Rodriguez coached the Warriors for six seasons, leading them to an NCCAA national championship win in 2013 and winning the NCCAA National Coach of the Year award.
Eventually, the Upward Stars will reside at the Upward Star Center, a 60-acre multipurpose sports facility being constructed next to Upward Sports’ corporate headquarters that is scheduled to open in September 2014. During the construction period, tryouts and games will be played at local collegiate fields.
The formation of the Upward Stars represents Upward Sports’ newest foray into higher-level sports, and the first in the world of soccer. Already the world’s largest Christian youth sports provider, Upward Sports jumped at the opportunity to broaden its range of athletic opportunities.
“We could not be more enthusiastic about expanding into a higher level of competitive soccer,” said Caz McCaslin, the President of Upward Sports. “Our organization believes that soccer has such tremendous potential for growth in this country, and we want to commit to investing in that growth. Here at Upward Sports we offer the 360 Progression, a total sports experience for young athletes. Moving into the NPSL allows us to further add to that experience in our soccer programs.”
Upward Sports’ 360 Progression gives participants the opportunity to develop mentally, athletically, spiritually, and socially. The experience offers comprehensive training and instruction that adapts and intensifies as athletes grow older. Programming is designed to build the total athlete – one who excels both on and off the field.
Over 70,000 athletes play in Upward Sports soccer leagues through more than 500 church partners. More than 100 churches host Upward Sports soccer camps, which reach more than 5,000 athletes.
With an NPSL team in place, young soccer players even have the potential to advance all the way from the recreational level to the professional ranks. Players who suit up for the Upward Stars will have the opportunity to give back to Upward Sports through teaching and training younger athletes at clinics, camps, and academies. The Upward Stars will also provide Upward Sports with better training resources and better video resources to use across all of their soccer programming.
Tryouts for the team will be held February 21 at Wofford University, with the 12-game regular season beginning in May. The team’s schedule will be finalized in January, including the potential for exhibition “friendlies” against other regional teams.
About Upward Sports
Established in 1995, Upward Sports, a 501c3, is the world’s largest Christian sports league for youth athletics. The mission of Upward Sports is to promote the discovery of Jesus through sports. Upward Sports provides valuable resources that aid in planning, training, and executing these first-class, organized, and detailed sports offerings. Upward Sports’ values focus on faith, integrity, service, discipline, and youth. Today approximately 500,000 players participate in Upward recreation clinics, camps, and leagues annually in 47 U.S. states and 72 countries, hosted by over 2,000 church partners. Over the past 18 years, over 4.5 million young athletes and 1 million leaders have been involved with the program.
In 2012 Upward Sports created a performance division for basketball and volleyball, known as Upward Stars. This expansion is aimed at young athletes wanting to further develop their skills and participate in a higher level of competition.
Upward Sports is the only youth multi-sports organization that offers the 360 Progression, a uniquely designed total sports experience that adapts and expands as players develop and grow in their personal athletic journey, creating individuals with strong character, confidence, and spirit. It is our desire to provide a place to play for athletes of every skill level. Learn more at www.upward.org.