A decade of competition, comradery and Christ

During Catholic Challenge Sports’ 10th anniversary celebration, participants enjoyed a game of bubble soccer. (Carolyn Brown/Key photo)

By Sara Kraft

“Catholic Challenge Sports is a great, not-just another sports league,” explained real estate developer Ferd Niemann IV.

Catholic Challenge Sports (CCS), a ministry under the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph City on A Hill young adult ministry, celebrated ten years of existence this fall. Catholic Challenge Sports is a non-profit, sports-based ministry whose mission is to draw young adults in their 20’s and 30’s into a deeper relationship with Christ and foster community through athletic competition in the KC metropolitan area.

“There’s more to it than if a team just won or lost,” explained Catholic Challenge Sports President Andy Flattery. “What’s cool about this league is a common ground that everyone at the core is a serious Catholic. It just doesn’t end at sports. There’s more to it. It’s meant to be a gateway to young adult community.”

The league was founded in 2007 when Matt Maes noted a need in the young adult community. Matt, an Atlanta native, had noted the success of the Atlanta Catholic Sports league in the Atlanta young adult community and sought the same experience. City on A Hill Young Adult ministry was in its infancy and had nothing in its lineup to meet people on the periphery. A sports league would be more welcoming to those new to the young adult community.

Catholic Challenge Sports is a springboard to inviting people to be involved in the other aspects of the community. “Kansas City has a community of young adults thrown out in the world but without the responsibilities of a family. Where do you connect with other young adults?” questioned Matt. “We wanted to create a new experience to welcome new individuals into the Catholic young adult community, especially those who might be afraid to join something new,” explained Matt. In Matt’s experience it worked because “competition fosters comradery. Comradery, in the right environment, leads to a deeper relationship with Christ.”

The league’s first sport was dodgeball because it is goofy, doesn’t have to be overly competitive, and is open to various ability levels. Within the first year, Catholic Challenge Sports had three sports and over a hundred participants. Now, Catholic Challenge Sports is run by a board of eleven members. In a calendar year, the ministry now boasts several hundred participants with sports leagues in dodgeball, kickball, softball, volleyball, and flag football. Additionally, one-time events, such as a 3 on 3 basketball tournament, ultimate Frisbee tournament and a Superbowl party are held to help get Catholic Challenge Sports’ name out in the community.

The sports league wasn’t meant to be a faith teaching experience; it was meant to be a faith-living experience. “Catholic Challenge Sports is our most successful ‘open-door’ apostolate,” explained City On A Hill Director Father Andrew Mattingly. “It draws people in that have little to no interest in the Catholic faith. Seven to eight weeks playing on a team helps to invite people deeper who have little to no connection to the faith.”

The main ministry of Catholic Challenge Sports is focused on bringing people into community. “A year and a half ago, we had a young man on our dodgeball team. After dodgeball, he got involved in all the other sports and started spiritual direction. He is now in seminary. Catholic Challenge Sports helps people get to the next level,” stated Andy.

Ferd first started playing Catholic Challenge Sports in 2008 and began to get involved in City On A Hill in 2009. “Catholic Challenge Sports was very helpful in my life,” stated Ferd. “At first, it was an avenue to play sports with other young and successful individuals. It was the first time I met cool and normal people who also had a relationship with Jesus.” He stayed heavily involved until getting married in 2015. “Our friend group is still people we met from City On A Hill. Six of us guys have peeled off and have done a men’s group for the last several years,” Ferd explained.

Catholic Challenge Sports celebrated ten years with a special Mass, a picnic, and root beer floats. There were fun events, like a blow-up obstacle course and bubble soccer. The event was full of alumni, now married, many with children running around at the event. “It was neat to see the families that have come out of Catholic Challenge Sports,” stated Andy.

For more information about Catholic Challenge Sports, visit https://www.catholicchallengesports.com/.



No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

October 29, 2020
The Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph