Column: CYO forms coaches as well as players

The Sports Apologist
Peter Piscitello is the Executive Director of the Catholic Youth Organization of Johnson and Wyandotte County.

by Peter Piscitello

In CYO, we often talk about our commitment to forming children spiritually, mentally and physically. Today, I want to focus on the physical aspect.

St. Paul reminds us that our body “is a temple of the Holy Spirit” and exhorts us to “glorify God” in it (1 Cor 6:19-20). An understanding of our body as a gift and dwelling place of God must inform all we do in CYO.

Youth sports are a fantastic way to develop the physical and motor skills that children will use their entire life. While few participants in youth sports will participate at the college or professional level, everyone can learn valuable physical skills that will help them develop and maintain the body God gave them.

Think about learning an athletic skill. The simple act of learning to shoot a basketball develops coordination, vision, repetition of motor functions, and strength and flexibility in leg, core and arm muscles. Not to mention perseverance.

While most adults no longer shoot a basketball each day, we all still use those skills in various ways to carry out God’s will in our life. When viewed through the lens of our overall physical development, youth sports play an important role.

That’s part of the reason we teach that process is more important than results at the youth level. Learning to shoot that basketball matters more than whether it goes in the basket during a game.

Coaches play a key role in shaping a proper understanding of skill development by giving kids freedom to make (and learn from) mistakes and encouraging kids to continue learning. The emphasis should be on long-term development rather than short-term results.

In addition to forming coaches in the proper approach to developing physical skills, we must stress health and safety in youth sports.

The current growth of specialization and concussions are two issues that deserve the attention of parents, as both present risks to our children’s health. The CYO website has resources on these issues, including a blog series on specialization, nutrition and education on concussions.

The latter is the focus of our new CYO concussion protocol, a cutting-edge program for prevention, assessment and care of concussions. It’s one example of our effort to be leaders in this area.

St. Paul’s words carry great importance. If we begin to teach physical skills and promote health and safety among youth, we can develop habits that lead to lifelong fitness. Doing so will allow us to better glorify God through the bodies he gave us.

Youth sports can play an important role here, but it’s a community effort. Join us as we seek to lead youth to Christ through sport!

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