August 12, 2011

CYO tries to hold the line in ‘the tug of war’ of youth sports

By John Shaughnessy

When kickball season begins on Aug. 18, it will signal the start of another year of sports in the archdiocese’s Catholic Youth Organization.

It will also mark the continuation of what Ed Tinder calls “the tug of war” concerning youth sports.

“You have a tremendous number of human beings who come together in a competitive environment,” says Tinder, the longtime executive director of the CYO. “As a staff, we’re constantly interacting with the public—many times on an emotional level. People are emotional because their kids are involved.

“Our jobs are like a big tug of war. On one side of the line, there is society’s view of sports, with its emphasis on winning, athletic development and sports specialization. We’re on the Church side of the rope, trying to pull the youth side of sports into the educational side—helping develop young people physically, mentally, socially and spiritually. We know we’re not going to get everybody on our side of the line, but you should never let go.”

Tinder shares a similar philosophy when he talks about the emotions and attitudes that can develop when Catholic schools face other Catholic schools in athletic contests.

“In CYO, I grew up with St. Jude doesn’t like St. Barnabas, and St. Luke doesn’t like St. Pius, and Roncalli doesn’t like Cathedral,” he says. “But Roncalli should like Cathedral because it forces them to prepare better, to play hard, to focus, to execute. And the same should be true for Cathedral about Roncalli. So when the game is over, there should be a mutual respect and appreciation for what is accomplished.”

While the CYO strives to emphasize the better qualities of youth sports, some of Tinder’s favorite moments stem from a CYO coach letting his emotions get the best of him or her during a game.

“I like it when coaches get in trouble,” Tinder says with a smile. “To me, there is no more meaningful moment than when a coach stands in front of his or her team and says, ‘I made a mistake. I let the emotions carry me away.’ I think that says more to a team than if that opportunity had never happened. You take that mistake and turn it into a very teachable moment. I tell coaches that that moment will stay with their kids the rest of their lives.” †

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