Balancing faith and sports

Marnie McAllister
Marnie McAllister

It’s almost time for fall sports to begin and for old rivalries to flare. And it’s time for families to resume the perennial struggle to find a balance between school, athletics, other activities and church.

A new movement around the Archdiocese of Louisville to help infuse faith into athletics may help families set their priorities this year.

At the end of July, about 500 male athletes from Catholic schools in the area gathered at St. Patrick Church to pray the rosary and prepare for the fall season. The service was organized by SportsLeader, a Louisville based program that aims to help coaches instill faith and virtue in their players.

Sportsleader co-founder Paul Passafiume told Record reporter Jessica Able earlier this summer, “We need to be boldly Catholic. We need to confidently impart devotional practices to young people.”

Passafiume was invited to speak at a Vatican-sponsored conference in May, where he gave a presentation on forming coaches “to become virtuous mentors of their athletes,” he told Able. He and Pope Francis say that young athletes will do what their coaches do, not necessarily what they say.

Pope Francis said in a message to that Vatican conference, “The responsibility of a coach is great, who often has the privilege of spending many hours a week with young people and of having great influence on them by his conduct and personality.”

Athletic pursuits are also valuable for the student, he added, noting that participation teaches sacrifice, loyalty and self-control.

But being a person of faith, is just as important, he said.

“Faith gives us that gaze of kindness toward others and it makes us overcome the temptation of a rivalry that’s too heated and aggressive; it makes us understand the dignity of every person,” he said.

For this reason, it’s essential that coaches provide good examples to their young charges and encourage young athletes in their faith. Parents have a responsibility, too, to support coaches and ensure their children’s faith formation isn’t lost among their many other commitments.

Marnie McAllister
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Marnie McAllister
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