What Is "Catholic Youth Sports"?

Hundreds of thousands of young athletes participate in sports under Catholic auspices! But what are, and should be, the hallmarks, vision, principles and values of athletic programs in the Church? 

A diocese, parish or other Catholic institution sponsors a Catholic Youth Sports program, as one dimension of its comprehensive ministry to youth. Athletic programs can help young people toward imperishable crowns as well as perishable ones. A Catholic Youth Sports program justifies its existence, and the sacrifice and expense it entails, only if it helps young people practice and live Gospel values through their athletic experience.

Vision and Guiding Principles of a Catholic Faith-Based Sports Program

  • PLACING FAITH & FAMILY FIRST (“F3”): the higher values of faith and family are recognized and are emphasized over winning. Strong Catholic Families, Strong Catholic Youth are an important component.

  • CONTRIBUTING TO THE MISSION OF CHRIST IN THE WORLD: young athletes, their parents and families, and all those associated with athletics under Catholic auspices, understand athletics to be a youth ministry, guided by the goals of the Bishop’s document - "Renewing the Vision", and at the service of discipleship.

  • ACTIVELY ENGAGING IN THE CATHOLIC FAITH COMMUNITY: Athletic programs and the Church are working together with one another for time, resources, energy, leadership, etc., and are partners pursuing the mission of Christ in the world.

  • DEVELOPING CHARACTER, SPORTS SKILLS AND GOOD SPORTSMANSHIP: Character development, skill development and sportsmanship: winning is subordinate to the development of virtue.

  • PROMOTING HOLISTIC HEALTH AND WELL-BEING OF YOUNG PEOPLE: “The glory of God is a (hu)man fully alive.” (St. Irenaeus): the health, well-being, and well-rounded growth and development of young people are paramount.

The Role of Adult Involvement

Ultimate responsibility for the success of Catholic-sponsored programs lies with the volunteer adult participant. Adults involved must remember that the program exists for the Christian growth of young people. Conduct of adults must always model Christian values and virtues. When adults forget the primary focus of Catholic Youth Sports, the program becomes destructive. When adults remain faithful to the Christian ideals, they exercise a unique and rewarding ministry to the young with whom they come in contact.

Need More Information?

Contact Paul Mach at

Sources: Adapted with permission from the CYO Athletic Manual, Diocese of Oakland. Vision and Guiding Principles Statement adapted from NCYOS Vision Statement

Catholic Essentials Coaches Online Training

To help provide coaches with competencies necessary to be up to the task, the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry has partnered with Human Kinetics Coach Education to provide online training and certification for our organization’s coaches.

As the exclusive coaching education provider to NFCYM, Human Kinetics Coach Education has designed customized online coaching courses incorporating faith-based content developed by NFCYM. The courses carry the endorsement of NFCYM, and we strongly urge our coaches to participate.

Please visit the Human Kinetics website for more information.

Catholic Values Come Alive in Catholic Youth Sports

As with any ministry to our youth, the three goals of a Catholic Youth Sports program are the same as enumerated in Renewing the Vision: A Framework for Catholic Youth Ministry:

  • To empower young people to live as disciples of Jesus Christ in our world today.

  • To draw young people to responsible participation in the life, mission and work of the Catholic faith community.

  • To foster the total personal and spiritual growth of each young person.

In Catholic Youth Sports programs, emphasis rests not on the number of games won or lost, but on the participants' attitude in victory or defeat. Learning how to lose is just as important as learning how to win. Learning how to win graciously is more important than winning itself.

Catholic Youth Sports programs serve the needs of all youth and reflect the diversity of the community. They enable the gifted to excel, the less gifted to participate and improve. "Star" athletes and teams do not receive exclusive attention.

Principles of fair play and sportsmanship must govern every game. Dishonesty has no place in Catholic-sponsored competition. Competitors must not borrow from professional sports questionable techniques for winning at any cost.

All participants should have the respect of others on their own team and the opposing team. Competitors should regard the opposition as friends, not enemies.

Participants should have a spirit of loyalty to Catholic ideals, to parish, to coach, and to the team. They should learn patience with and tolerance of those with less ability. They should feel grateful to all who make the program happen. Speech and actions should reflect Christian values.

At times, during the heat of competition, a participant may temporarily forget some rule of conduct. Prompt correction can turn even failures into learning experiences.