Basketballs are bouncing, shoes are squeaking on the hardwood floor and young adults are experiencing something vastly different while getting exercise, making new friends and competing in a recreation sport.
Through the Orange County Catholic Sports League in the Diocese of Orange, coed basketball and soccer are offered to men and women aged 18-39 for Catholics and non-Catholics. Each team is organized by individual churches, young adult groups or just groups of friends and free agents, according to co-founder Rene Garcia.
“We have all types of people from all faiths come out to play and pray together in our league, from Muslims to Protestants to non-practicing Catholics,” Garcia says. “The goal of our league is to infuse our Catholic beliefs and principles with sports to attract young adults back to the Church.”
While the Orange County Catholic Sports League is based throughout the Diocese of Orange, young adults seeking a recreational sports outlet, quality social setting and a good work out also come from Los Angeles, Riverside and San Diego counties. The basketball games are played at Christ Cathedral, Rosary High School and St. Juliana Falconieri in Fullerton, while the soccer games are held at St. Jeanne de Lestonnac in Tustin on a turf field.
Everyone knows how competitive people can get playing sports. It’s human nature to strive for the victory and achieve your peak in athletics.
But in a league designed to enhance one’s spiritual life, as well as expand one’s social life and enjoy positive physical activity, there can be a fine line when deciphering levels of competition.
“The league is created for recreational purposes, but it has become very competitive,” Garcia says. “Many teams and individuals – due to the rules and nature of quality players and people – have pushed the league in that direction. Many individuals that join leave with a better appreciation for the sport, team cohesiveness and respect for everyone who participates. We are close to having a 47 percent return rate, which speaks volumes about our work. Many enjoy the facilities, equipment and refs, but they come back because they are able to make relationships here unlike other leagues.”
The Orange County Catholic Sports League, which was launched through the diocese’s Young Adult Ministry, has hosted basketball for six years in the Catholic Basketball Association, a season that runs from August through November. Soccer is in its ninth season and operates from December to May.
Garcia says softball is “in the works” to be added in the future, while the league also hosts events such as salsa dancing, dodge ball and a running club for those not interesting in basketball or soccer.
Each league is set up for each team to play 10 games, plus playoffs. In 2015, the CBA featured 11 teams.
“So we had five or six (basketball) games a weekend for 10 straight weeks, then we go into playoffs for the top eight to advance,” Garcia says. “Soccer follows the same format.”
Garcia and her sister, Estefania, started the Catholic Sports League from scratch, organizing teams and schedules, while focusing on its mission: A “league fusing the passion for soccer, basketball and other sports with other active young adults, 18-39 year olds and their faith. This league is associated with the Diocese of Orange to bring Catholics, Christians and those of other faiths for fellowship and competitive fun.”
The Catholic to non-Catholic ratio of young adults participating in the league (both basketball and soccer) is 50/50. The non-Catholic quota includes those of other faiths.
In soccer, the male-to-female ratio is 165/20 and 38 percent of the participants are between the ages of 21-25. The highest percentage of players attend St. Philip Benizi, Our Lady of the Pillar and St. Joachim.
In basketball, 87 percent of the players are male and 40 percent of all players are between the ages of 21-25. The parishes with the biggest draw are St.Thomas Korean Catholic Center, St. Philip Benizi and Christ Cathedral.
“We are pushing for parishes to help spread the word of the leagues, but we mostly do the coordinating,” Garcia says. “We look and come into contact with leaders and individuals whom have an interest in the leagues to form teams or just join.”
The Orange County Catholic Sports League can be found online at occsl.org or on Facebook at facebook/orangecountycatholicsportsleague. Here’s the scripture posted on the league website: 1 Corinthians 12:12 “…as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ.”