Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Catholic schools’ athletic league makes sports
accessible to children, regardless of cost

by Mitch Finley, Inland Register staff

(From the April 10, 2008 edition of the Inland Register)

For many years, the Knights of Columbus in the Spokane area sponsored a sports program for students from Catholic schools and parishes. In the last few years, however, forming and guiding athletic activities for elementary students from Catholic and other non-government schools and Catholic parishes has been taken over by a new organization, the Spokane Catholic Schools Athletic League. Deacon Doug Banks, principal of Spokane’s St. Thomas More School, is a key figure in the formation and development of this new athletic league.

“Actually,” Deacon Banks said, “we welcome not only students in grades three through eight from Catholic schools and parishes, but we have opened the league to students from other private schools, including St. George’s School, Northwest Christian School, and Valley Christian School.” The league also accepts students from St. Michael Academy at Mount St. Michael in Spokane, and Immaculate Conception Academy in north Idaho.

The Athletic League offers football, flag football, basketball, baseball, softball, track, volleyball, and cross-country running. “This coming school year,” Deacon Banks said, “we are going to begin a four-week wrestling program for grades three through eight. We function only during the school year, we have no summer activities.”

Dave McKenna, coordinator of the League, is personally connected because when he was 12 years old he started playing with the Knights of Columbus-sponsored sports league that was the forerunner of the present league. Now head football coach at Gonzaga Prep, McKenna also teaches Science and Math and works in campus ministry. “I organize and help facilitate things in general,” he said. “My role is to work with the athletic directors from the schools. They are great. They’re a huge benefit to our students. We thank Gonzaga Prep and the other schools for letting us use their facilities.”

Each elementary school recruits its own coaches, either parent volunteers or personnel from local high schools or universities.

“For over 40 years,” said Deacon Banks, “the Knights of Columbus at St. Aloysius Parish offered a program of athletics for the Spokane Catholic schools. As that program began to lose its momentum a bit, we started this new league. Sam Compagno was the leader/director for the Knights of Columbus athletic league for almost 30 years, and we owe him a great debt of gratitude for all his years of service.”

Deacon Banks also singles out Pete Hanson, of St. Aloysius Parish, as being very influential in the formation of the new athletic league. “He worked with me to build up the league’s council, which is made up of the athletic directors, both paid and volunteer, from Catholic schools in Spokane and Spokane Valley. We re-wrote the athletic handbook at that time to help in the governance of the league. Then in 2005-2006, Gonzaga Prep offered to provide a facilitator to help with our athletic directors council and help in the organizing of game sites and games, and that kind of thing.”

Kathy Hicks, principal at All Saints School in Spokane, also was influential and very helpful in the early stages of the League, Deacon Banks said.

According to Deacon Banks, the League has grown steadily in the last four years. “We have a strong football program and strong participation in most of the sports, and we’ve added cross country and wrestling, and we’re looking to add lacrosse. Traditionally, the program was for grades 5 through 8, but we’ve begun to add grades 3 and 4. We’ve added 3 and 4 in cross country, wrestling, and flag football. We want to add grades 3 and 4 to a beginning lacrosse program, too.”

The League’s council is made up the athletic directors from the schools participating in the League. The council also includes a Catholic school principal – at present, Deacon Banks – who is appointed by the diocesan superintendant of Catholic schools to be the liaison between the council and the principals.

“One of the things I’m really proud of,” Deacon Banks said, “is that we provide athletics to everyone regardless of cost. Kids who want to participate in other sports leagues in the Spokane area have to spend hundreds of dollars. To play football for the Spokane Youth Sports Association, for example, costs between $150 and $200. Most of our kids play for nothing, although some schools do charge maybe $30. We really do provide a program that allows kids, regardless of finances, to participate in athletics, and I’m really proud of that.”

Whether a youngster is in one of the Catholic or other schools served by the league or not, if a youngster’s family is active in a Catholic parish he or she is welcome in the Spokane Catholic Schools Athletic League.

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