By NICHOLE GOLDEN, Editor | Published July 10, 2023
ATLANTA—At more than 16 parishes and schools across the Archdiocese of Atlanta, students from Catholic and public schools are teaming up on soccer fields and basketball courts while their parents get to know each other on the sidelines.
Catholic Metro Sports (CMS) formed in 2019 to offer volleyball, soccer and basketball. During its 2021-22 season, CMS reported more than 4,000 children, teens and adults had participated in its athletic programs. Newer programs are cross country and flag football.
“Sport creates community,” Pope Francis said in September 2022 while addressing athletes, managers and officials participating in the International Summit on Sport at the Vatican.
“The Church feels close to the world of sport, because she sees games and sporting activities as a place of personal encounter for people, a formation in virtue and fraternity,” said the pope. “For this reason, sports find a home in the Church, especially in schools and parishes or youth centres.”
CMS’ Executive Director Robert Aldrich said they hope to expand and bring more locations on board. “We want all the parishes,” he said.
There are now seven full and part-time staff members who put the game schedules together, coordinate volunteers and handle registrations for teams. Registration for fall season sports is available at catholicmetrosports.com.
“We try and keep fees affordable” said Aldrich, who noted there are sibling discounts for families.
“There are other sports we’re looking to add,” said Pete Smith, board chairman for CMS. The idea, said Smith, is to “strengthen family connections to the parish,” where moms and dads know each other. “That is what we are trying to build.”
Both Aldrich and Smith emphasize community, fellowship and life lessons for the youth participants. Student athletes learn “perseverance, challenging yourself…all those things,” said Smith.
Catholic Metro Sports partners with the Play like a Champion training ministry of the University of Notre Dame. The ministry trains leaders to provide quality character education in addition to fostering athletic growth.
CMS also works with Blaze Sports to offer adaptive sports such as wheelchair basketball and is looking at ways to team with Extra Special People and GiGi’s Playhouse to provide greater access to sports to young people, regardless of abilities. This reinforces another call of Pope Francis to provide acceptance and accessibility to all within sport.
In the program’s annual report, Aldrich outlined that participation has climbed back up to pre-pandemic levels. It’s not unusual to see a school like Our Lady of Assumption hosting eight hours of basketball games on a Saturday during peak season. “
It’s cool,” said Aldrich. “That gym is busy all day long.”
“We want all 109 in it,” said Smith about total participation from parishes in the archdiocese.
In the annual report, Aldrich emphasized that expansion would include an increased focus on Christ in all that its volunteers do.
“We will strive to guide our coach ministers to intentionally pray, and bring a positive and supportive environment to CMS,” he said.
For additional details on programming or to for parish participation, email email@example.com.