As part of an effort to focus more closely on ministry to Catholic youths, administration of Catholic Youth Organization Athletics has shifted to the Diocese of Rochester’s youth-ministry office. The program also has dropped dozens of teams that are not sponsored by a Catholic parish or school.
CYO Athletics officials also are reviewing the league’s scheduling requirements, developing a charter for the organization, and implementing a new training and credentialing process for coaches, said Maribeth Mancini, director of the diocesan Department of Evangelization and Catechesis.
In early June the program’s administration moved from Catholic Family Center in downtown Rochester to the Department of Evangelization and Catechesis, which is located at the diocesan Pastoral Center in Gates. The program — which is now considered a youth-ministry initiative — is led by Sue Versluys, diocesan youth-ministry coordinator, and Bob Huber, diocesan CYO Athletics coordinator.
Mancini said the administrative move — which was a joint decision of the diocese and CFC — marks a return to the roots of Rochester’s CYO, which was originally founded in 1939 as a way to minister to young Catholics.
“It’s more an issue of bringing it close to home. It’s always had diocesan ownership, and it makes sense to … bring it in here and make it another component of comprehensive youth ministry,” she said.
CYO Athletics’ basketball, cheerleading, softball and soccer programs provide an excellent opportunity for catechesis, Mancini added. Although many people equate catechesis with religious instruction, she observed that instruction is only one of its components.
“Catechesis is about the ways people are formed in faith,” Mancini said.
She explained that the goal of catechesis is to help young people understand that everyone is part of the body of Christ. Thus, she said, catechesis can comprise religious instruction, prayer, worship and even athletic competition. Athletic competition can help youths learn about service, sportsmanship, how to be gracious in both victory and defeat, and that everyone has unique gifts and talents, she added.
“The primary operating principle of CYO Athletics is that it’s important for everyone to have the opportunity to play and for everyone to contribute to the team,” she said.
Under the program’s new policy, only teams sponsored by Catholic parishes or schools will be allowed to play in the CYO league. In light of this, approximately 20 percent of the more than 400 teams that played in the league last year were cut, Huber said. The new policy also requires that at least two-thirds of the players on each team must be from the sponsoring parish or school, he added.
Under the league’s existing rules, teams are scheduled to play in 12 league competitions, two of which are tournaments, Huber said. He added that many teams also play in outside tournaments, so CYO allows teams to play in a maximum of 30 games per season, including the 12 competitions sponsored by CYO Athletics.
Athletic-program officials are in the process of examining this requirement to make sure the league’s structure provides a good experience for all players, Mancini said. Officials also are in the process of developing a CYO Athletics charter, which would provide a common structure, language and philosophy, she added.
Within the Diocese of Rochester, CYO Athletics is subdivided into four subgroups: one each for Monroe County, Elmira and Auburn, and one group that combines teams in Newark, Geneva, Seneca Falls and Waterloo. Representatives from each subgroup’s steering committee have been meeting for more than a year to discuss the charter, Mancini said.
This year, athletic-program officials are asking all CYO Athletics coaches and athletic directors to participate in “Play Like a Champion Today,” an initiative developed at the University of Notre Dame. Through this initiative, coaches and athletic directors are trained to see sports as a ministry and a way to promote Christian values.
“It’s a way to give our coaches more support for the work that they do,” Mancini said.