Local Youth & young adult

Catholic Challenge Sports promotes community and evangelization in KC

Young adults at Berkeley Riverfront in Kansas City, Missouri, participate in Catholic Challenge Sports’ very popular sand volleyball season. Locations vary per season to accommodate all living across the KC metro. COURTESY PHOTO

by Meghan Ascher
Special to The Leaven

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — “Catholic Challenge Sports is a place where people that are looking for more can find it with each person they encounter,” said Liz Intfen, a young adult and Kansas City native.

It’s providing a light within Kansas City that can not only be felt by those directly involved with the organization, but those that are indirectly touched in the Kansas City area.

Catholic Challenge Sports (CCS), under the umbrella of the larger young adult group City on a Hill, is a year-round, co-ed, volunteer-led league offering team sport seasons as well as one-day tournament events.

Throughout the year, the league can host between 100 to 250 young adults per sports season, ranging from sand volleyball, softball and flag football to soccer, dodgeball and more.

The eight-week sand volleyball season in 2023 had a record high of 272 young adults participating. The athletes, who play at varying skill levels, consist mostly of young professionals in their 20s and 30s looking to get some exercise while meeting new people.

Soccer is one of the several sports leagues offered by Catholic Challenge Sports in the Kansas City area. PHOTO BY NATHAN ROGERS/UNSPLASH

The question is: What makes this Catholic? Why does City on a Hill need a sports league? When asked this question, many young adults jumped forward to testify to the movements of Jesus Christ within the league.

“My wife and I are transplants to Kansas City coming from St. Louis,” said Andrew Holzum, who has previously volunteered to serve on the CCS executive board and has been a league participant for the last six years.

“Not knowing many people in KC, initially I thought of CCS as just a sports league where we would meet a few people and stay in shape playing sports. After playing one of the season-long sports, it was pretty clear that CCS had way more to offer than just a weekly excuse to play sports. It was an opening to join a community of Catholic young adults who share similar values and who also are looking to be a part of a community,” Holzum said.

The league offers a communal eucharistic adoration hour, as well as a team-led service project for each season. It also plugs people into upcoming faith events within the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas and the Diocese of Kansas City–St. Joseph. 

“That is one of the beautiful things about CCS; it’s an opportunity to gather people who may not have a community within KC and gives them an opportunity to plant some roots,” said Holzum.

Catholic Challenge Sports not only hosts sports leagues for young adults, but it also offers a communal eucharistic adoration hour, as well as a team-led service project for each season. PHOTO BY JOSH APPLEGATE/UNSPLASH

Many young adults share Holzum’s experience. Twenty-somethings struggling to find their place within a parish setting can find that a faith-based sports league offers a low-commitment way to step into the Greater Kansas City Catholic community.

The league has proven to be a space not only for those who seek community and friendship, but is powerful for evangelization. Up to 20% of league participants are non-Catholic — many of whom find their way into the Catholic Church after discovering this community.

“Evangelization is spreading the good news. I truly believe that CCS is spreading the good news in Kansas City through the power of invitation,” said Jessica Le, another Kansas City transplant and young adult who served on the CCS executive board.

“This past summer, CCS Run Club met at Shawnee Mission Park and there was a guy that asked if we were part of a run club,” she said. “He joined our group for the run. One of the CCS Run Club members invited him to the social after and added him to the Run Club GroupMe.

“This guy that we randomly met on a Wednesday night is not Catholic, but has signed up for several of the CCS sports the past few months. He also went to his first Mass via Tuesdays at the Boulevard. This is the power of invitation and ‘being in the world,’” said Le.

The league also offers a unique system of arranging teams. They host a “draft” with all the volunteer team captains the week before the season begins. This structure helps prevent cliques and offers a way for new people to meet more veteran participants who may already have their foot in the community. Individuals or pairs may sign up to be drafted.

“When I signed up for my first CCS sport league, I was honestly terrified and didn’t know a single person,” said Intfen. “I have personally experienced growth in my spiritual life and, to be quite honest, happiness in life, due to this community. I honestly challenge whoever is looking for that ‘more’ in life to show up. You’d be surprised how present Christ is the moment you show up and say yes.”

The upcoming season of kickball runs from March 16 to May 11 on Saturday mornings. For more information or to register for all upcoming sports seasons as well as other faith opportunities through City on a Hill, go online to: www.kansascityonahill.org/ccs.

About the author

The Leaven

The Leaven is the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.

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