A new faith-based sports association recently founded in Roosevelt County has nothing to do with the recent local uproar concerning prayer, according to founding members.
More than 100 Portales residents piled into city hall last month during a city council meeting to express their opinions on the issue of Portales city league sports coaches being asked not to pray with their teams' players before games due to non-Christian athletes taking offense.
City councilors and attorneys told residents their hands were tied, saying it was important to not make any players feel ostracized.
"With everything that was going on with prayer debate, we fully understand that the city had to do what they had to do," said Rick Wilcher, a resident who was involved in the creation of the Roosevelt County Sports Association, a faith-based youth sports organization, which has been in the planning stages for almost a year.
"They (city councilors) were just doing their job and this decision (to create the RCSA) had nothing to do with that, but at the same time, it awakened a bunch of the Christians in the city that we should have started something like this a long time ago to minister to kids and allow them to walk freely in their faith."
Wilcher said the organization came into being in February, but it has just "really taken off" in the last two months with more parents and their children taking interest.
"It's amazing how fast it's coming along and how much support we're getting," Wilcher said. "We're very happy with the city league and Mike (Doerr) and what he's done with the kids, but we're very grateful to God to have this opportunity to minister to these kids and help them to grow in their walk with God."
Wilcher said RCSA teams will only play against each other, not city league teams, and it includes junior high level teams instead of just elementary.
"Maybe later on, we could have a tournament with the city league teams," Wilcher said of future possibilities with the new-found association. "That would be great. We sure covet people's prayers. We'd like to see this new ministry bathed in prayer. That would be a great help."
City league sports director Mike Doerr said he would be more than willing to work with the new sports league and help them in any way that he can to ensure the small community of Portales can support two leagues.
"I encourage private industry all the time," Doerr said. "We incorporate the county schools and they are committed to our league, so we're just going to go on as normal. I wish them the best with their league. I hope that we can work together, because I'm hoping that we can all remember that this is about the kids and not the adults and their differences. It's about providing quality opportunities to the kids at a low cost and providing them with a good time."
Wilcher said along with a lot of parents showing interest, many others are showing interest in volunteering as coaches in the association.
"I really just think it would be a great opportunity to have something like this to reach kids who don't necessarily experience the word of God at home," said Barbara Jones, mother of twin 11-year-old boys, Austen and Hunter. "Just to have a faith-base sports organization like that would be great. I think it's something every community needs."
Janice Sisneros, mother of 8-year-old Amanda Ornelas and 12-year-old Sophia Ornelas, agreed with Jones.
"I really didn't like that one person could change it for us all," Sisneros said of prayer being stopped in city league sports. "I like that we're all on the same page. "I like the idea that it's non-denominational and I like the idea that kids are brought up in Christianity."
"And there's always a choice," she added. "Anyone who doesn't want to (pray) can go into the city league."