Andrew Watson, currently a youth minister at Holy Trinity, recently joined the league and offered his perspective as a new player in the league.
What are your impressions of the league and how did you find out about it?
I found out about the league at a local meeting of youth ministers in South Orange County. We meet every month and that particular month Rene [Garcia] stopped by to advertise and promote the league. As a huge soccer fan, I was instantly impressed and excited that there was going to be something like this available at a Diocesan level. Fortunately, the season hadn’t started yet because I wouldn’t have been able to play, as I was extremely busy with work. So I was definitely impressed when it started at how easy it was to register, get info and find a team to join, etc.
Being a youth minister do you think this is a great way to keep future young adults connected to the church after confirmation?
Absolutely! I think it is definitely one of many ways in which we can try and ensure young people stay involved in the church after Confirmation. I think sport is obviously a huge pull for young people in our Church and that it can be a great way to evangelize and build relationships. We often go to baseball games or other sporting events with some of our youth and it is always a great experience. However, as a youth minster, I find that it can be difficult to organize actual games of soccer for example. A Diocesan league therefore is perfect. Soccer is truly the world’s game and brings together people of all cultural, social and even faith backgrounds. High school is, of course, the priority with young people when it comes to sports, but after confirmation and graduation this provides a new avenue to enjoy soccer in a faith-filled environment.
What has your experience been so far in the league?
I have really enjoyed being a part of the league and in particular the team I joined. On a personal level, I was honestly surprised at how welcoming everyone has been – from those who run the league to the guys on my team. I didn’t know anyone else who was part of a team, so I was just placed on a team that needed a few extra players. As a relatively new youth minister and parishioner of the Diocese of Orange it was probably the best scenario for me. I got to meet some new people, play the game I love and become involved in and support a Diocesan initiative. As for actually playing, this league is no joke. People might think because it is a church-sponsored or Catholic league that it either won’t be competitive or will be somewhat timid. That is simply not true. The games are fun, fair and played at a high level whilst retaining the values that we hold as Christians.
What do you like or dislike about the league (organization, setup, refs, teams, field, etc.)?
I love the fact that we have good officials and a good playing surface! I have played in adult leagues in Orange County before and we have always suffered with poor playing conditions and a lack of qualified officials. It was fantastic to see that the field we play on was safe and good to play on. The referees are also extremely knowledgeable and fair with the players. Actually, one of the best aspects of this league is that the referees are managing a game involving young Christian men and women and acting accordingly with their interpretation of the game. Also, I really like the fact all the games are played on one day at various different times, it allows us a chance to work that into our busy schedules and have the opportunity (if you have the time) to see all the different teams throughout the day.
What differences do you seen comparing this Diocesan league with outside leagues you have played in?
I honestly see a huge difference in the league compared to leagues I have been a part of in the past. Other than the organization of the league, which is great and much better, that other leagues I have played in, this league creates an environment of competitive soccer without the somewhat inevitable add-on of, let’s say, inappropriate behavior. I have played in leagues in both my home country of Scotland and here in California and they have always been plagued by fighting/disciplinary problems etc. The Diocesan league sets a standard of not only a good/tough playing level, but also ensuring the standards we hold as people of faith. We can therefore enjoy the game we love, compete and still evangelize and continue our efforts of being more Christ-like in our interactions with others.
Do you think prayer is a good idea at the beginning of the each game and the approach of refs/organization with each individual?
Prayer before the games is perhaps my favorite thing about this league! With prayer being absent in other leagues it is refreshing to see people come together in a huddle before the game, from both teams, to give thanks and praise to God for all that we have. Too often you see people on TV and elsewhere, lazily cross themselves or point to the sky without really thinking. I’m not saying that’s necessarily a bad thing but I have seen this transferred to younger people, who are not even religious, doing so just because they saw someone famous do it. So with us praying before the game out loud and in unison, it reminds us of the power, tradition and importance of prayer. It reminds us of why we are there, why we should be thankful and our duty during the game.
Do you think the Diocese is doing a good job supporting this project to address young adults through sports?
I think the Diocese is doing a great job of addressing young people through sports. In Scotland, soccer is king and we don’t really focus on any other sports. When I moved to California I was shocked at how much various sports play a role in people’s lives. With that though, there is also a downside. Sport can be given too much time and attention and can sometimes divert our attention from what is really important. High School sport especially! So I believe that if the Diocese can continue to offer and promote faith-based sporting events as outreach to young people we can build a culture that promotes glorifying God through our participation in sport.
Do you feel like you are meeting new people that are closer to God, making relationships, and do you think it is a safe environment?
I have met so many great people since I joined this league. I have also been fortunate enough to bring others to league after experiencing it myself. Building relationships with new people or people who you perhaps don’t know so well is one of the parts of life in which I see God working the most. We might not talk about God as we are waiting to play, warming up or after the game, but the fact we are there because we share beliefs is huge. It can start a conversation; it can start a conversion even, and is also a great way of evangelizing to those who perhaps are not Catholic or Christian. We are all at different places when it comes to our faith and God is working even if we don’t see it. Having a safe environment and culture that promotes that through soccer is such a blessing to our Diocese and community.