All Bishop Luers athletic coaches gathered July 13 to learn more about the program’s initiatives – to build a structured, intentional and specific method and curriculum to help form leaders and teach virtue.
Lou Judd, director of SportsLeader, presented the talk and spoke about the implementation of the program’s four pillars: virtue, mentoring, ceremony and Catholic identity. “Coaches are among the most impactful leaders in today’s world,” Judd said. “Our hope at SportsLeader is that if we can help strengthen the faith, the virtue, the leadership of coaches, then those coaches can bring it to and transform the athletes. We firmly believe if you can transform the athletes within a school, we’ll transform the school.
There are over 1,000 Catholic high schools in this country. Judd said, "If we can transform the coaches and athletes there, we can transform this country and the United States can transform the world.”
Jim Huth, principal of Bishop Luers High School, believes SportsLeader will use the school’s athletic program to bring students into a closer relationship with God.
Two years ago, Huth attended a SportsLeader conference in Cincinnati, Ohio. Athletics at Bishop Luers incorporates the Catholic faith, and SportsLeader is another building block of this incorporation of the faith in the community.
At the conference, Huth was impacted by a statement of Bishop Thomas John Poprocki of Springfield, Ill. Bishop Poprocki said when students play sports, they volunteer themselves to come. When they are in this volunteer position, it’s a perfect time to grow their faith and form them into better people, better Catholics. Huth related Bishop Poprocki’s metaphor: “We want them to enter through their door – the sports they love to play – but we want them to exit through our door.”
”In other words we want them to exit formed in the image we want them formed in,” Huth noted. Huth hopes that the SportsLeader program will push out the message, “This is Bishop Luers High School.”
“This is a place where you are going to be formed in the image of Christ,” Huth added. “You are going to be asked to grow in your faith, to grow in your identity – even if you are not Catholic – you are going to grow in your relationship with Christ. Through (SportsLeader), this is an incredible opportunity to use our athletics as a way to help form children because they want to be there.”
Some of the ways this will be implemented is by concentrating on a virtue of the week. SportsLeader will send out a virtue of the week to the coaches and use that as a mechanism of prayer, mechanism for conversation, and a mechanism to help monitor through practice. If the virtue, for example is diligence, the coaches may relate how Christ hung to the cross for three hours. The virtue can be exemplified in the sport. The program also offers ceremonies: fathers presenting a jersey to their athlete, athletes writing a letter to their mom. “It’s hard,” Huth said, “but I think it’s going to be worth the journey when we get to the end.”
Huth detailed, “We are a Catholic school, and we are going to express ourselves as Catholics.”
“We’re going to ask teams to pray,” Huth said. “We’re going to act as a Catholic family at games, and we’re going to help each other with that. The concept of our Catholic identity, ‘who we say that we are,’ to the community will be shown through the actions of our students.”
Bishop Luers Athletic Director Kevin Godfroy sees great potential with the school’s relationship with SportsLeader. He sees the strength in evangelization and community building. “I think it will be a great opportunity for relationships to be built between our families, by seeing the emotional ties they have with their own children and help connect each other.”