Where it all began…
Chattanooga Sports Ministries (CSM) is a part of the Chattanooga Football Club Foundation 501(c)3 nonprofit organization which is dedicated to serving youth in Chattanooga’s most economically challenged neighborhoods. Founded in 2006, CSM began as an experiment in inspiring young adults to mentor at risk youth by using the sport of soccer. As our program has grown and expanded over the years, our vision has as well. We now envision Chattanooga’s inner city transformed by providing safe, supportive, and healthy environments for our children, where every child has access to nutritious food, safe activities, an active and intentional support system, and are fully prepared to enter into adulthood.
To impact urban youth in Chattanooga at the intersection of faith and athletic engagement
To create a healthier and better connected Chattanooga
A letter from the director
Five billion people tuned into the 2008 Beijing Olympics, drawing the largest TV audience the world has ever seen. At the time, 70% of the world was actively engaged in something that is one of the most powerful tools known to man. Sport reaches more people than churches, smart phones, and the internet. Perhaps the reason is simply because inside each of us there is an instinctive desire to play. The majority of the world is involved in sport, whether it is cheering on a favorite team or competing locally in some form of organized play.
Not only are there billions of participants, there’s much to learn through this powerful tool. There are obvious lessons like learning teamwork and communication. Yet there are more subtle benefits. Socio-economic, cultural, and language barriers are forgotten as you are passing the ball or cheering at a football game. When you play and sweat with someone very different from you, a beautiful bond is formed; one that can break down walls of division and hostility.
These kind of upside down, cross-cultural and cross-economic relationships are important to Jesus. As a man, in a time of extreme male dominance, he spent significant time with women. As an adult, in a time where children were pushed aside, he invited them to come sit on his lap. As God, holy and blameless, He ate and drank with prostitutes, thieves and the lowest in society. Like Jesus, we want to connect with all parts of our community. We want the rich and the poor to become friends, Spanish and English speakers, disciples of Jesus and people who want nothing to do with Him. We have chosen to do this through the powerful tool of soccer, also known to be the universal language of the world.
In Chattanooga, we live in a divided city. Driving through our neighborhoods, you see the visible racial divide. Gang activity is prevalent and 21.1% of our city live below the poverty line. Studies have shown that youth with positive mentoring relationships are less likely to exhibit behavioral problems, break the law, or turn to substance abuse. Another study shows that youth from disadvantaged neighborhoods are twice as likely to attend college if they have a mentor. Our strategy to meet this need is to use the sport of soccer as a tool to create an atmosphere where coaches can build mentoring relationships with our youth. Through our programming, soccer connects the underprivileged youth of our communities with the wider the Chattanooga community.
Over the past 15 years, CSM has reached hundreds of Chattanooga’s youth. Players report experiencing positive relationship connections through their coaches, community members and teammates. Through these relationships, players also reported developing knowledge and skills centered around various practical life skills including leadership development, showing respect and kindness, learning perseverance in loss, problem solving, and communicating one’s own thoughts and feelings.
It’s a privilege to get to work with an incredibly diverse and talented mix of people. Our ultimate hope is that our players, coaches, and community would know and experience real hope, life and freedom.
Executive Director, Chattanooga Sports Ministries