LAND O’ LAKES — Behind Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Church, there is enough land for multiple soccer fields. Last July, the recreation committee approached the pastor with an idea to develop a youth soccer program that would promote sportsmanship and Christian values.
After getting approval to proceed, a 30-page business plan was developed. Next, the committee contacted Catholic churches nationwide to find out what was necessary to make the program successful. The staff of volunteers contacted local businesses and professional sports teams for donations. To promote the program, a banner was put up and committee members met with families outside the church after Sunday services.
“It is a calling from God, a true ministry,” sports director Patrick Poland said. “Our goal was to get 60 players to sign up. We were amazed when more than 160 players registered.”
Before and after each practice and game, the players, ages 4-18, hold hands and pray. The emphasis is as much on developing Christian values and sportsmanship as it is on honing athletic skills.
Traditional soccer games feature 11 players on each team, but games in this program are either 3-on-3 or 4-on-4, with no goalkeepers.
“The kids have to touch the ball more,” said Poland, an Indiana native and a St. Leo University graduate. “There is constant passing and much higher scoring, with teams getting up to 15 goals per game. It teaches them how to interact with teammates and opponents.”
Practices are held Thursday and Friday evenings, and games are played Saturday mornings.
A spring season is planned for April and May, with registration continuing through March. The cost is $70 per player, with discounts for multiple children from one family.
“If we can give them a base to develop in a positive, Christian manner, we consider the program a success,” Poland said. “We want to build a community here. Soccer is the vehicle.”
For more information, visit the website at www.olorsports.org or contact Poland at [email protected]