Sports, School, Family and Faith: How Our Catholic Schools Get It Right
Youth sports as we know them have changed. In the last two decades, what we value in the role of sports in our children’s lives has been skewed to place success over a simple love of the game.
A recent article in Time magazine noted that “the U.S. youth sports economy … is now a $15.3 billion market,” according to WinterGreen Research, a private firm that tracks the youth-sports industry. “Neighborhood Little Leagues, town soccer associations and church basketball squads that bonded kids in a community … have been nudged aside by private club teams.” These private club teams vie for young talent, send children to compete in national tournaments, and often demand long weekend hours, extensive travel and high fees.
Despite the costs, these private leagues are thriving, and many of us know children and parents who are committed to one or another. The leagues often promise, either implicitly or explicitly, to help student athletes obtain a college athletic scholarship or to help them “go pro.” However, neither of these scenarios are realistic for the majority of children. According to Time, other problems are manifesting, such as fees and travel costs pricing out lower income families. And some children who don’t show talent at a young age are discouraged from participating in organized sports. This is the water in which our children swim. This pressure to be athletically exceptional causes some to either drop out or lose enjoyment of the sport. Nevertheless, many children, especially as they enter junior high and high school, view the cost of dropping out to be greater than the cost of staying committed to a lifestyle they don’t enjoy. It’s exhausting for our children to swim against this rushing socioeconomic current.
But our Catholic schools take a stand and provide an alternative approach. Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis integrate sports appropriately with school, family and faith. Catholic schools strive to give balance to academics, provide sufficient time for family and honor the context of sports in the spirit of the Lord’s day.
This fall, the Catholic Schools Center of Excellence along with NFL Super Bowl champion Matt Birk will launch For His Glory Athletics (4HG) in Catholic elementary schools in the Archdioese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.
This fun, competitive and quality sports initiative will provide children with the opportunity to have fun playing a variety of sports with their friends while learning the life lessons of winning and losing. It will give students and their parents a healthier alternative to the year-round, single-sport athletics offered by demanding travel teams or clubs. Families will enjoy the benefits that come with this approach to youth sports.
With a balanced approach to extracurricular activities, parents and students alike benefit. Parents find time to express their love for their children in ways other than chauffeuring and reviewing gameplay. Students find time for study, family, service, play, prayer and spiritual enrichment. Not only do our Catholic schools balance sports with life’s other commitments, but they also glorify God by inviting him to bless the character building, relational bonding and fun that competitive sports naturally lead to.
For many children, it’s undeniable that involvement in competitive sports creates lasting benefits. St. Paul the Apostle encourages the faithful, “Whatever is true, whatever is good, whatever is beautiful, think about these things.” In a video broadcast blessing the 51st Super Bowl, Pope Francis said, “By participating in sport, we are able to go beyond our own self-interest — and in a healthy way. We learn to sacrifice, to grow in fidelity and respect the rules.”
Discerning the proper place of sports within your faith and your family’s life will secure you on the solid rock of Christ and make you shine as a light to others.