The Catholic school athletic programs exist in the Diocese of Belleville to enhance the relationship between faith, religious practice, and the activities of daily living. Sports programs are an integral part of the Catholic educational and catechetical mission.
All activities within the Catholic school environment are designed to assist this mission by helping young people develop a strong moral character* based in faith. The educational experience is meant to bring the entire person (mind, body, and spirit) closer to his or her realization that every child is made in the image of God. This character development must underlie the total daily school experience.
Every aspect of the school experience must contribute to this endeavor from the quality and thoroughness of academic work, to how the students behave and treat one another, and to how they play on the playground. Formal athletic programs offer a unique opportunity for adults to supervise youth in the application of Christian principles learned in the school environment to the often highly emotional past time of sports. Athletics is one of the most effective ways to teach “applied Christianity.”
For instance, school athletic programs present ideal opportunities for teaching youth important life lessons: setting and meeting goals, controlling impulses, overcoming challenges and obstacles, and learning to sacrifice for the good of others. Playing sports can teach youth self-discipline, respect, responsibility and perseverance, and generate moments of pride, satisfaction and joy, regardless of the wins and losses a team may experience.
All of these virtues and social and emotional abilities are at the core of the Gospel message. Making connections between such virtues and abilities and the person and teachings of Christ is one of the challenges of making a sports program a truly Catholic experience, which is the challenge facing every Catholic school.
It is imperative that school leaders and coaching staffs work closely together to ensure that the athletic mission contributes to the school’s overall spiritual mission. The school’s academic and athletic programs, as well as all school activities, must contribute to the spreading of the Gospel. Teaching and coaching philosophies within the school must be frequently evaluated to make sure they are reflecting the values of Jesus.
*A strong character is formed and maintained when an active and well-formed conscience becomes a consistent moral guide, and such virtues as patience, generosity, honesty, obedience, compassion, understanding, respect, tolerance and prudence become habits of thought and action.