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Upward trajectory: Soccer with a purpose

Coach Crystal Copeland, director of Upward Statesboro, is preparing for the upcoming fall soccer season, which focuses on faith and family as much as the sport. Learn about the hearts and hands that make Upward happen for children all over Statesboro.

Started in 2007 by a sports-loving group at Fletcher Memorial Baptist Church, Upward Statesboro began as a way to combine sports and ministry. Reaching beyond Fletcher Memorial, this organization is for Statesboro and surrounding areas, citing as much as 70% of their participation being members from outside the church. 

Through donations and fundraising efforts, the organization's founders built a field behind the church complete with stadium lights, concession stands, and an office area. The field is made up of three small soccer fields, which can be converted to one giant field when needed. Crystal Copeland, the program director lovingly referred to as "Coach Crystal," has been with Upward since its early days.

“I had just graduated high school, and I started coaching that first year. I had played soccer throughout my entire life - I think I was four when I started playing - and I played varsity soccer all four years. So I just love soccer, and they wanted me to run some of the older kids,” she shared.


Copeland’s hard work and dedication to Upward was eventually rewarded in the form of a promotion to director of the program. 

Copeland and her husband Nic, who have four children of their own, have been devoted to Upward Statesboro for nearly 15 years. Copeland refers to her husband as her right-hand man with a servant’s heart. He takes care of the field and anything else that needs to be done. 

“Every year we pray about it and he reminds me that ‘This is what God has called us to do,'” Copeland explains. 

Crystal and Nic Copeland

This unique program focuses on the needs of the community when revisiting their league every year. They offer soccer for K3 through fourth grade, and their sole fall season runs from August 21st through October 7th. They rely on volunteers such as parents, college students, and local residents to keep the organization thriving. 

“We have been very fortunate to get a lot of parents. We also work with Georgia Southern with their Coaching 101 class; they’re required as a part of their grade to coach for the semester, so we go speak to the college kids and try to get them to coach with us," Copeland said. "Sometimes we have volunteers like me when I was 19 that just love the game and want to invest in kids’ lives.” 

Copeland explains that throughout the season, the focus is on faith and family. This year’s theme features the characteristics of God and is taught in ways that are fun and engaging. In their signature weekly “huddles,” players learn virtues and verses, earn “Scripture Stars,” and participate in “halftime devotions” where the weekly virtue is reiterated and group dialogue is encouraged. 


“It gives them a glimpse of who Christ is and what He’s done for us,” Copeland said.

Upward Statesboro realizes the fast-paced life of families with children and is sympathetic to this by offering one practice and one game per week to better accommodate busy schedules. The organization also serves foster families as well as low-income families. They provide scholarships to ease the burdens on local families in need. 

Upward Statesboro is appreciative of all of the hearts and hands that make their mission possible, and each year they welcome those who can bring passion to their purpose.

“We always need coaches; we always need volunteers; we always need prayer partners; we always need donors. We want this to be a Statesboro thing; we don’t want this to feel like if you don’t go to Fletcher, you can’t be a part because we are all over,” Copeland said.


With their first game happening the week of September 9th, the Upward Statesboro family is gearing up for another successful season. 

“It’s kind of like a mission trip but while you’re still at home because we get to see these kids, love on them, play some soccer, and tell them about Jesus in the meantime.” 

For more information about Upward Statesboro, please visit their Facebook page at, visit, or email Coach Crystal Copeland at [email protected]