The Sports Apologist

Column: Service is not reserved to only the ordained

The Sports Apologist

by Peter Piscitello

We often think of the word “ministry” as being specific to the role of an ordained priest or a parish program focused on catechesis.

Yet, a deeper understanding of the word invites us to consider our own role as laypersons in this context. In CYO, we believe it’s important to understand sports as ministry. By doing so, the work of our parents, coaches and administrators is more clearly understood and our mission more clearly oriented to God.

The word “minister” can be traced to the Latin word “ministrare,” which translates into “a role of service.” While modern society tends to restrict the role of ministry to a church function, the Catholic Church teaches differently.

Service is not just the role of the ordained but, rather, a part of our baptismal call as Christians. Our CYO strives to realize that call. In the context of sports, our parents, coaches and administrators each need to understand their role as one of service to the participants.

It’s our job to serve children by helping them to grow and develop in areas of faith, virtue, social and cognitive ability, and the skills associated with each sport. It’s a model taught by Jesus himself, who calls us all throughout the Gospels to serve others.

The idea of sport as ministry is a key component of our formation programs for parents, coaches and administrators. A coach’s journey in CYO begins with an excellent workshop created by the Play Like a Champion program at Notre Dame, where they refer to individuals as “coach ministers” and demonstrate how their role is understood as a ministry.

This puts the focus on serving the needs of children: what they want and need from the youth sports experience. While a coach minister may be the leader of a team, he or she is a servant leader.

The same is true of our administrators, who this spring will go from being called athletic directors to the new title of directors of sports ministry. This title more effectively defines their role as they serve all our families involved in CYO. It’s a subtle change, but one designed to promote the role of sports as a ministry within our parish communities.

Sports should be viewed as a gift to be used in the service of God. By understanding sports as a ministry, we are reminded that our goal should be to serve those who participate by leading them closer to God as we teach virtue and develop skill. Everyone is invited to support this ministry by volunteering as a coach minister or considering an administrative role within your parish.

Join us as we seek to lead youth to Christ through sport!


About the author

Peter Piscitello

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