By John Marcase
PINEVILLE (LBM) – When Stewart Holloway took over as pastor of First Baptist Church Pineville in August 2008 he saw an empty gymnasium and had a vision of it being filled with Upward Basketball teams.
But, his vision remained just that – year after year. Until, finally, someone stepped up to lead the program – a person Holloway was not expecting to take on that leadership role.
“I kept putting it off and putting it off,” said Kathy Holloway, Stewart Holloway’s mother.
“Finally, I told Stewart that I didn’t want to get to Heaven and have God say to me, ‘Well, they still don’t have Upward Basketball at First Baptist,” she said.
“As the pastor’s mother, I wanted to give someone else the opportunity,” she explained.
“I’m fortunate that (God) gave me the ability to work with people,” she continued, emphasizing that with any ministry effort, “The key is finding people to help.”
GIFTED & CALLED
“It’s obvious there was some ‘call’ in there – that she felt she needed to do it and use her gifts,” said Stewart.
And Kathy Holloway’s gifts were tailor-made for running a basketball program.
Kathy Holloway was a standout basketball player for Poland High School in rural Rapides Parish, leading the school, now closed, to the 1965 Class C state championship.
A few years later, she coached the Tioga High School girls team to a pair of state runner-up finishes in three consecutive years, 1972-1974.
Holloway stepped away from the Tioga program after 23 years, only to return to the bench as an assistant to longtime Bolton High School girls team coach Danny Dotherow, helping lead the Bruins to the 2003 state semifinals.
Holloway’s true talent, though, may have been as an administrator.
She was the first female president of the Louisiana High School Coaches Association as well as the National High School Athletic Coaches Association.
The NHSACA inducted her into their Hall of Fame in 2012, while she was elected to the LHSAA Hall of Fame in 1998.
“I figured she would be involved,” said Stewart Holloway. “It made sense to have Upward – we had a gym and some former coaches in the church. You look around at what you have and what God might do.
“I never dreamed she would take it on and lead it.”
UPWARD & ONWARD
The program just completed its sixth season of play, with 190 players and cheerleaders taking part this year – up from 90 participants when the program started.
A year ago, 215 children played ball and cheered, a high water mark for the program.
“It’s fun and it’s a needed ministry,” said Kathy Holloway, who also teaches Sunday School at FBCP. “I like working with people and planning things.
“It takes on game day about 130 people to run the games, from set up to clean up,” she said, adding that even more First Pineville members are involved, serving as prayer partners assigned to pray for a specific player or cheerleader during the season.
Game day begins around 8 a.m. to prep the gym and concession stand for the start of play at 9 a.m., and the last round of games ending at 4 p.m. – with many of the same people who worked the first games cleaning the gym to have it ready for church the next morning.
Additionally, Holloway and the program’s assistant director, Gene Jones, spend 3 nights a week at the gym coordinating practice schedules.
“I enjoy working with people and finding out what they are good at,” she said. “I’m fortunate to have Gene Jones as my right-hand man. He helps me with everything, including with lining up officials.”
Aside from the players and cheerleaders, everyone who participates in Upward as a coach, official or worker is a volunteer.
“I would say it’s better than I thought it would be with the whole scope of it and the number of people involved, said Stewart Holloway. “That’s been the amazing thing to watch happen and the machine it has become.”
Of course, Stewart Holloway expected that once his mom stepped up to lead the program.
“No, I didn’t have a single doubt,” said Stewart. “I know my mom. She is detail oriented and works herself to the bone to make it work.”
SHARING HOOP DREAMS & CHRIST
Holloway officially retired from teaching in 2000 and from coaching a few years later.
She plans to continue directing the program for a while longer, but said, “We are looking for younger people who will shadow us and who aspire to do this.”
“I thought I was done with basketball and had no idea what an Upward Program would entail. I had no idea at the beginning how much time was involved,” she reflected.
“But now, it’s the only Upward Basketball Program left” in the area.
Stewart Holloway noted that several players and coaches attend other churches throughout Central Louisiana.
But, he said the basketball league has been a great way to reach people in the community who have no church home.
A number of players have made decisions for Christ, while FBC has gained new members because of families visiting the church campus for practice and games, he said.
“This has been a great outreach tool.”