The Role of Sport and Institutions With a Faith-Base Serving Society

"Sport is a tool for communicating the values, which foster the good of the human beings and contribute to build a more peaceful and fraternal society. Let's think about loyalty, perseverance, friendship, sharing and solidarity." - His Holiness Pope Francis Bergoglio, 2014

Throughout the two years of his papacy, Pope Francis has acknowledged and encouraged the relationship between sport and society. Leading up to last year's FIFA World Cup tournament in Brazil, the native of the soccer-loving host country communicated his belief in institutional support for utilizing sport as a tool for education, peace and development.

Pope Francis' vision -- of utilizing The Vatican and his papacy as platforms to influence change, initiate dialogue and produce substantive outcomes through sport and faith-based organizations -- is a reflection of the founding missions of many American and global organizations serving humanity through sport and recreation.

To highlight the institutional connection between organizations with a faith-base, spirituality, sport and society, the following summarizes five major organizations that have historical ties to sport, recreation, social development and citizen engagement. These organizations stand out when considering the role of sport and institutions with a faith-base serving society:

  1. National Catholic Youth Organization Sports
  2. The Salvation Army
  3. Young Men's Christian Association
  4. Boys & Girls Clubs of America
  5. Big Brothers Big Sisters

National Catholic Youth Organization Sports (NCYOS)
The National CYO Sports (NCYOS) animates Gospel values in Catholic youth sports to encourage young people to live as disciples of Jesus Christ. National CYO Sports, a service of the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry, educates leaders about opportunities in sports for evangelization, catechesis, and growth in their knowledge of intimacy with Jesus Christ. Initiated by Bishop Bernard J. Sheil of Chicago in 1930, CYOs achieve their goals by providing: 1.) Quality resources and services; 2.) Training and consultation for leadership; 3.) A network of individuals and organizations committed to excellence in Catholic youth programs; 4.) Advocacy for Gospel values in youth sports programs; and 5.) Mission effectiveness assessments.

NCYOS is not a policy-making organization. Rather, it is a place for leaders in Catholic faith-based sports to meet, to share ideas, to recommend resources and to provide a forum for the continuing development of this ministry, always with Gospel values at the core.

The Salvation Army
Founded in 1865 by William Booth, a London minister, The Salvation Army, an international movement, is an evangelical part of the universal Christian Church. Its message is based on the Bible, its ministry is motivated by the love of God, and its mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ while meeting human needs in His name without discrimination.

The Salvation Army boasts an International Headquarters' Sports Ministry Desk to encourage, support and resource Salvation Army Sports Ministry leaders around the world to find connections, to build relationships and to help people and communities to enjoy healthy lives in bodies, minds and souls. It does this as part of The Salvation Army's mission to 'save souls, grow saints and serve suffering humanity'.

Young Men's Christian Association
Founded in London, in 1844, today the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) engages more than 10,000 neighborhoods across the U.S. and has influenced millions of lives worldwide. George Williams, a farmer-turned-department store worker, joined 11 friends to organize the first YMCA a refuge of Bible study and prayer for young men seeking escape from the hazards of life on the streets.

In 1853, the first YMCA for blacks was founded by Anthony Bowen, a freed slave, in Washington, D.C. The first YMCA buildings constructed with gymnasiums opened in 1869. In 1881, Boston YMCA staffer Robert J. Roberts coined the term "body building" and developed exercise classes that anticipated today's fitness workouts.

In December 1891, at the International YMCA Training School in Springfield, Massachusetts, the school's director, Dr. Luther Gulick, gave physical education teacher James Naismith two weeks to come up with an indoor winter game to challenge a class of future YMCA directors. Naismith hung peach baskets to the bottom of a second-level running track and taught the men his new game: basketball. Today, basketball is second only to soccer as the most popular sport in the world.

During the 1890s, YMCA instructor William Morgan thought basketball was too strenuous for businessmen, so he blended elements of basketball, tennis and handball, and called his invention "mintonette." In 1896, at the International YMCA Training School in Springfield, Massachusetts, the name "volley ball" was first used to describe the back-and-forth manner in which the ball flew over the net. Today, more than 46 million Americans play volleyball.

Boys & Girls Clubs of America
The Boys & Girls Club Code:
I believe in God and the right to worship according to my own faith and religion.
I believe in America and the American way of life...in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
I believe in fair play, honesty and sportsmanship.
I believe in my Boys & Girls Club, which stands for these things.

The Boys & Girls Clubs of America had its beginnings in 1860 with three women in Hartford, Connecticut: Mary Goodwin, Alice Goodwin and Elizabeth Hammersley. Believing that boys who roamed the streets should have a positive alternative, they organized the first Club.

In 1906, several Boys Clubs decided to affiliate. The Federated Boys Clubs in Boston was formed with 53 member organizations -- this marked the start of a nationwide Movement and our national organization. In 1931, the Boys Club Federation of America became Boys Clubs of America.

Boys & Girls Clubs of America believes that character development, the basic building block in personal development, should be an integral aspect of every Club program and activity.

Boys & Girls Clubs annually serve nearly 4 million young people, through membership and community outreach, in over 4,100 Club facilities throughout the country and BGCA-affiliated Youth Centers on U.S. military installations worldwide.

Big Brothers Big Sisters
In 1904, Ernest Coulter recognized that caring adults could help kids stay out of trouble, and he set out to find volunteers. That marked the beginning of the Big Brothers movement. Around the same time, members of a group called Ladies of Charity were befriending girls, later becoming Catholic Big Sisters.

Both groups continued to work independently until 1977, when Big Brothers Association and Big Sisters International joined forces and became Big Brothers Big Sisters of America.

More than 100 years later, Big Brothers Big Sisters remains true to its founders' vision of bringing caring role models into the lives of children. And, today, Big Brothers Big Sisters currently operates in all 50 U.S. states and in 12 countries around the world.