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Archdiocesan Youth Athletics Initiative: History

This page provides a brief history on the development of the Archdiocesan Charter on Catholic Youth Athletics, officially promulgated by Archbishop Schnurr on March 1, 2014.

History and Background

bernardin2In order to understand the Archdiocesan Youth Athletics Charter one needs to grasp the unique history of elementary-age and parish-based youth athletics in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. On April 13, 1981, then Archbishop Bernardin sent out a press release announcing his decision to discontinue all Archdiocesan involvement with parish-based and elementary-age youth athletics. (Note: Catholic high school athletics were then, and are now, differently governed and aren’t part of the Charter.) Prior to that there was a paid, full-time Archdiocesan Athletics Director who organized youth athletics, leagues and tournaments; afterwards these were handled by local leagues. Decades later when Archbishop Schnurr assumed leadership of the Archdiocese, this was still the case, except it had grown far more complicated over the ensuing years, with a proliferation of various leagues and athletics organizations, some of them quite loosely affiliated with the Catholic Church while still retaining the name “Catholic.”

Arch SchnurrIn January, 2009, the Director of the Office of Youth & Young Adult Ministry (OYYAM), Dr. Sean Reynolds, updated Archbishop Schnurr on this situation and asked him what, if anything, he wanted to to do about it. The Archbishop directed him to learn more about what was going on, how people felt about it, and to report back to him.

In 2009, the OYYAM sponsored seven public listening sessions across the Archdiocese, and an eighth public session on youth athletics best practices with then National CYO Sports Executive Director, Dr. Greg Moser. The listening sessions and the session with Dr. Moser led to an emerging picture of parish-based and elementary-age athletics in the Archdiocese. A follow-up gathering took place on Jan. 15, 2010, at which a broadly representative group from across the Archdiocese unanimously affirmed the following conclusion statements based on what we had learned from the listening sessions:

We need…

  • Clear and robust Catholic identity in youth athletics;
  • An evangelizing mission that understands youth athletics as a form of youth ministry in the Catholic Church;
  • Enhanced and sustained leadership development, Christian virtues, life skills and character development in youth athletics;
  • Clear and reasonable guidelines affirming the priority of Catholic faith formation and worship on Sundays, Holy Days, and during liturgical seasons;
  • High standards of sportsmanship and fair play established and maintained by trained and skilled coaches and athletics leaders, along with accountability systems to ensure that standards are met or exceeded;

The group also unanimously affirmed the recommendation to the Archbishop that it was time for the Archdiocese once again to get involved in youth athletics, and that these needs could only be addressed if the Archdiocese were to step in to provide some central leadership.

sportscollage200x150Dr. Reynolds reported these findings to the Archbishop, and then worked with the Archdiocesan offices that handle finances and risk management to explore whether the Archdiocese could and should significantly increase its involvement. Then at a meeting of Archdiocesan leaders, the Archbishop made it clear that (a) the driving motivation behind greater Archdiocesan involvement must be our mission of evangelization; and that (b) the Archdiocese ought not take over youth athletics, but should work with the existing leagues, organizations and leaders to address needs while honoring the legacy of the existing leagues and organizations.

Dr. Reynolds then recruited a broadly representative group of people to serve as an Archdiocesan Youth Athletics Task Force. The Task Force included representatives from all three regions of the Archdiocese, including pastors, deacons, catechetical leaders, youth ministers, high school campus ministers, commissioners of GCL and GGCL high school athletics, league leaders, parish- and school-based athletics organization leaders, athletics directors, elementary school principals, coaches, and parents. The Task Force first met in January, 2012, and continued to meet on a bimonthly basis through June 1, 2013. At its final meeting the Task Force unanimously approved the Archdiocesan Charter on Youth Athletics.

AoC Athletics Charter CoverIn the months leading up to that June 1 gathering, subcommittees were developed; consultations with Archdiocesan leaders took place; multiple revisions were crafted; an early draft was reviewed by the Archbishop, Bishop and Chancellor; language was argued, fine-tuned, and settled by the Task Force. Then the draft Charter was reviewed and edited by Archdiocesan attorneys.

After that a series of internal consultations took place with the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council and Priests Council. More revisions took place, and a sixth draft was formally approved by the Priests Council on Feb. 3, 2014. After a few more reviews, the final document was approved and promulgated by Archbishop Schnurr on March 1, 2014.

The Archdiocese of Cincinnati Charter on Catholic Youth Athletics represents the culmination of all of this consultative and collaborative effort. As per the Archbishop’s instructions, it proceeds from the assumption that Catholic youth athletics presents a wonderful opportunity for family evangelization and youth ministry. In fact, it essentially redefines youth athletics as a form of Catholic youth ministry, in which coaches, athletics leaders, parents and church leaders share a common vision and practical responsibilities to ensure that our youth athletics are aligned with the mission of the Catholic Church, give witness to our Catholic faith, and lead young people to follow Christ in the Catholic faith community.

The Charter also offers a form of youth athletics governance that honors the Archbishop’s instruction not to take over youth athletics but to develop an approach that builds on existing leagues and youth athletics organizations, establishes standards for Catholic youth athletics and develops the means to assess whether those standards have been met. To accomplish this, the Charter calls for the establishment of an Archdiocese of Cincinnati Youth Athletics Commission that will assess compliance with the standards, recommend approval of athletics organizations and leagues that are in compliance with the Charter, and handle instances of non-compliance.

With the approval of the Charter, the Commission will be created and supervised by the Office of Youth & Young Adult Ministry, and will serve as a broadly representative group of Catholic men and women who care deeply about their Catholic faith, youth ministry and youth athletics, and who are committed to the Archbishop’s vision of Catholic youth athletics as a form of evangelizing youth ministry.

Please pray for this initiative. It is our hope that this Charter will help us to make things better for our kids, and with God’s grace our efforts will bear great fruit for the young people and families of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.

For more information, check out any of the available documents below:

Archived Meeting Minutes Other Relevant Documents
Minutes from June 2013 Task Force Meeting Scheduling Criteria for Sunday Mass, Triduum and Religious Education
Minutes from March 2013 Task Force meeting Youth_Athletics_Charter_Draft #7
Jan 2013 Athletics Initiative Update Charter Intro_8-13
Notes from Sept. 8, 2012 Task Force Meeting Jan 2013 Task List
Notes from July 14, 2012 Task Force Meeting Dec 2012 Local Flow Chart
Notes from May 19, 2012 Task Force Meeting Dec 2012 League Workflow
Notes from March 24, 2012 Task Force Meeting Dec 2012 Youth Athletics Organizational Chart
Notes from January 28, 2012 Task Force Meeting Task Force Mission and Purposes
January 2012 Athletics Initiative Update Task Force Introduction (PDF of PPT presentation)