Column: Catholics called to live discipleship off — and on — the court

Retreating Forward
Tim Chik is the director of Savior Pastoral Center, a retreat and conference center for the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.

by Tim Chik 

Savior Pastoral Center is a bustling hub of activity. From meetings to conferences to retreats and workshops, our facility is a very busy place.

However, one of the other key ways that we support the mission of the church is by providing facilities for CYO sports. This allows our archdiocese to keep games on Saturdays and help Sundays to remain open for Mass and family time.

From cross-country to volleyball to basketball and soccer, Savior Pastoral Center serves the wider community by hosting CYO teams from around the Johnson and Wyandotte regions. We have seen some beautiful examples of the Gospel lived out through sport and, unfortunately, we have also seen some examples where individuals have fallen short of the mark.

When a cross-country runner trips during the City Finals and another runner pauses to help her up, that is Gospel character in action. When two basketball players both hustling for the ball knock each other down and one reaches out his hand to the other and says “You OK? Nice play” — that is virtue in sport.

However, when a coach loses his cool over a call and blows up at a referee, coming onto the court to argue, what are we teaching at that moment to the players watching? CYO sports must look different from all other youth sports! We call this a “Catholic” Youth Organization and truly we need to find a way to keep the Catholic part first and foremost.

Pete Piscitello, executive director of CYO, is a visionary leader in this area. He understands that Catholic youth sports are a means to teach the Gospel to our Catholic students, not an avenue toward collegiate and professional aspirations.

He continues to put in programs like the “5 Minute Game Plan” and the “Champion of Virtue” bracelet awards, both of which help equip coaches to support the mission of the church.

This is key, but the next step is for all CYO coaches to embrace and support these programs. Parents, ask your coach if they are doing the “5 Minute Game Plan” at practices and ask your children if they know what the “Champion of Virtue” bracelet is. Let’s take these ideas and use them to make our sports truly unique in the sometimes crazy world of youth athletics.

Finally, Savior Pastoral Center proudly hosted a wonderful event earlier this season, along with CYO and the vocations office.

The Seminarian Showcase took place at the beginning of the basketball season and allowed eighth-graders to meet and talk to our seminarians. Then, we hosted an all-star game where eighth-graders got to play a showcase game against the seminarians. It was a night that exemplifies what we want to be about as a Catholic community — good sportsmanship, competitive play, support for vocations, and the building up of character and virtue.

Let’s continue to seek ways to let our Catholic identity permeate all our youth activities. Let’s live the radical call to discipleship — not just in church, but on the court!

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