BY ERIN MADDEN
Working for the athletic department over the past year, I have had my fair share of incredible experiences, from covering our teams in conference and NCAA tournaments to getting to interview the best student-athletes on Franciscan University’s campus.
By far, my favorite part of working in athletics is getting to see the intrinsic link between faith and sports that is so deeply rooted in what our student-athletes do on the field and in practice.
Each team has a chaplain to guide them through the season and lead them in prayer. The Rev. Gregory Plow, TOR, is the chaplain for the men’s and women’s cross country teams. Before the two teams competed, Plow prayed and spoke with Franciscan and our sister school, Saint Francis (Pennsylvania). That’s just one example of how the men and women of faith lead our student athletes.
Many of our teams focus on specific virtues as they move through the season, giving them something to pray and to work on during those long, early practices. As the volleyball team traveled to Cleveland for an early season tournament, an assistant coach gave a talk on the virtue of trust and how it applies to playing the sport. She asked questions like, “Do I trust my teammates to do their job well? Do I trust the coaches to lead me?” That talk was just one of many that the volleyball team will hear this season.
Our teams also find ways to perform service among their busy schedules. The men’s basketball team plays a group of exhibition games at a penitentiary against a team of inmates. The games played are traditionally tough; the most recent competition coming down to the final few seconds as the inmate team pulled out the victory.
Prayer, the most central part of the Catholic life, is also one of the most important aspects to the life of the student-athletes. Teams come together before and after practice to pray. They pray rosaries and chaplets together, spend hours in adoration together and wear Bible verses on their jerseys.
Perhaps our teams are most famous for how they pray with opponents after games. In a world when other coaches are getting investigated and fired for praying with their teams, our student-athletes and coaches stand firmly on their freedoms of speech and religion, even if opposing teams turn down the offer to pray.
As 2 Timothy 4:7 says, “I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” I pray that our student-athletes follow the heart of this verse and remain steadfast in their faith and in their sport.