June 12, 2019
“One family, one team” are the words that echo in the St. Thomas Aquinas School gymnasium in the West Farms each Saturday. Over a hundred teenagers dressed in different bright-colored t-shirts flood this gymnasium each weekend in order to play volleyball through an athletic league called Matters of Sports (MOS). MOS is a unique 10 to 12-week program offered to teenagers ages 14 to 19 where they pay nothing material to participate. But they do pay with something else.
“All we ask of the kids is to give us 100% commitment and if they can do that, you are a part of this family,” said Officer Matos, one of the founders of MOS.
The free program was created by Rosaly Santana-Matos and her husband, Victor Matos, who has been NYPD officer at the 48th precinct since 2003 and Youth officer since 2013. Through their experience with community work for the NYPD and United Chaplains State of New York (UCSNY), the Matos family said this program was created to provide kids with a space where they can come and feel safe.
“Our vision was for everyone to be able to participate, no matter what race, religion or background,” said Mrs. Matos
At first, to make MOS possible, the Matos family used to fund everything themselves. It was not until about a year ago that Bronx Community Board 6 partnered with MOS to add additional funding. According to the Officer Matos, District Manager John Sanchez, was able to coordinate this because he believed in what MOS was doing for the community.
“MOS provides a vital experience for teenagers looking to enjoy sports in a safe environment on weekends,” Sanchez said. “Bronx Community Board 6 continues to fund it because it’s an investment in our youth and community that is tangible. There are too many unused school gyms in New York City that should be utilized to offer the same programming MOS provides,” said Sanchez.
The program was created in 2017 and it now has about 200 kids registered and has created opportunities for teenagers like 18-year-old Felix Paulimo, who was one of MOS’s first recruits. Before MOS he had never played a game of volleyball but because of the opportunity, he has been recruited to play college volleyball with a scholarship to Mount Saint Vincent.
“With this program [MOS], I was able to try new things and adapt. It taught me teamwork and communication,” said Paulimo.
The Matos family said they hope that their program can create more scholarship opportunities so that the kids can continue their education into college. Also, they try to encourage them to participate in other sports.
“There are so many scholarship opportunities with so many different sports out there that these kids may not know about,” said Mrs. Matos.
Officer Matos mentioned that MOS has a double meaning, as it also stands for “Members of Service” which is inspired by the number of volunteers they get from the FDNY, EMS and NYPD. These members serve as players and coaches to help the program run properly.
“To see members of service join hands in such a positive way, I can only pray that it gets bigger and more members of service to join. To know we can leave such a positive impact towards our youth is very inspiring,” said Officer Matos.
Althea Radican, who is an Emergency Medical Services (EMS) worker, is a volunteer that takes time out of her schedule every week to coach her team called the Soul Spikers. She says it’s nice to see the kids out of the streets and out of trouble. Radican encourages her players to “stick with it” because they are going places.
While last Saturday was the last week of the program, the Matos family looks forward building their MOS family in the future. They hope to bring sports like softball, soccer, dodgeball, tennis and even sports that kids don’t know about.
“We see a future with us getting more kids for our program and more community leaders involved,” said Mrs. Matos.
For more information visit: Matters of Sports