Hoops Councils Combines Spirited Competition with Spiritual Development

By: Caitlin Allen

While many Americans spent Saturday, March 11 watching the Duke vs. Notre Dame game, there were some dedicated fans watching the last grueling Hoops Councils game between the Raleigh and Burlington 10-12s teams. The resounding shouts of joy and triumph as Raleigh scored the winning point with less than one second on the clock was a great refection of the Hoops Councils weekend, a unique event found only in the North and South Carolina Division of The Salvation Army.

Hoops Councils is a combination basketball tournament/cheerleading competition and youth councils-style event for the Boys and Girls Clubs connected with the various corps in the NSC Division. This year, 10 clubs participated, with 22 basketball teams and seven cheerleading squads competing over three days. Total attendance was more than 450.

The weekend opened with an exciting Welcoming Ceremony conducted by the En Fuego brigade from Evangeline Booth College. The meeting included praise and worship, an opportunity to introduce the guest speaker, and a time to remind players, coaches and supporters about the rules of the game and the attitudes of a good sportsman. But once the clock struck 8:30 p.m., it was game time.

Friday night began with a 30-minute free-throw competition and a 30-minute three-point contest before the first-round games commenced. The cheerleaders also had an exciting night as they rehearsed their mass cheer to open the Sunday morning worship service. When the session ended, some teams carried their first loss, some their first victory, but all left with excited spirits and determination to come and do their best the next day.

Saturday began early as the cheerleaders met for devotions and another practice for Sunday, and as the players warmed up for their first games of the day. It was non-stop from the buzzer. DHQ officer staff provided prayer and spiritual encouragement at the beginning of each game. Parents and friends provided encouragement (and some sideline coaching) during the games. And Chick-fil-A provided a great lunch as people took a break and regained their strength for the finals that evening.

The cheerleaders were also in full gear as they engaged in competition. They were smiling the whole way, proclaiming Jesus as their reason to Go! Fight! Win! The Greensboro, Raleigh and Winston-Salem squads advanced to the final round, which was held at 5 p.m. However, unlike the basketball games held that day, the cheerleaders had to wait until Sunday to find out their placings. That made for a very anxious night for some.

Sunday morning worship opened with video highlights from the weekend, which then moved into a great dance from the cheerleaders to the song, “Let Us Worship,” by Tye Tribette – helping focus hearts on worshiping God the rest of the morning. The Scripture was brought by a club member from Burlington, with the message brought to us by Lieutenant Derrick Smith, also from Burlington. The service concluded incredibly with 200 decisions being made to follow Christ – the biggest win of the weekend.

Hoops Councils wrapped up with the long-anticipated awards ceremony. Each winner was given a trophy and allowed a moment for a victory picture. While there was plenty of suspense and excitement for every award, nothing was greater than the suspense leading up to the cheerleading results. After a long, drawn-out moment, it was finally announced that Winston-Salem placed second, and Raleigh took the victory for the second consecutive year.

All in all, it was a fantastic weekend of fun, fellowship, good sportsmanship and, most of all, a weekend that pointed every single moment back to Jesus.