By Airman 1st Class Shelby Kay-Fantozzi
27 Special Operations Wing Public Affairs
For youth ages 5-12 participating in the Upward Basketball League at Cannon Air Force Base practices and games are an opportunity to sharpen skills and build character.
“We’re giving everyone on each team the chance to play,” said Capt. Joshua Payne, 27th Special Operations Wing chaplain. “They have the opportunity to be recognized for things like effort and sportsmanship, in addition to how they play the game.”
Teamwork has manifested itself off the court too, with several Cannon agencies collaborating to give the young players the best possible experience.
“We were able to connect with the Cannon spouses, who helped us get the word out,” said Payne. “A lot of our players heard about the league that way. We were also able to partner with the youth center, which opened their gym as a practice space.”
Both the chaplain’s office and the youth center are reaping the benefits of practice in the family-oriented space.
“The cool thing about this partnership is that it’s helping attendance over at the youth center,” Payne said. “After kids see the youth center during basketball practice, they want to come back. It’s good synergy.”
The partnership was also extended to the community, where local churches serve as the sites for games and practices.
“This is the first year we’ve collaborated with Cannon, and it’s coming together really well,” said Karen Van Ruiten, Children’s Director at Central Baptist Church in Clovis. “Cannon’s teams practice on base but join us in town for games. It’s been an excellent collaboration.”
“I’m really excited about how it’s turned out,” said Van Ruiten. “Numbers are up, and we’re having a great season.”
Both Van Ruiten and Payne are hopeful for the rest of the season and future opportunities for teamwork.
“The response was very good,” said Payne. “We thought we might only have one team, but here we are with three. We’re now looking at flag football in the fall, and maybe even cheerleading.”