- Faith Life
As Christians, it should not be surprising when we are told that we should strive to live as Christ lived. This should take place in all areas of our lives, athletics included. However, with the popularity of professional athletics, many kids and parents see participation in athletics only as a means to an end, whether that end is recognition of being a starter, star player, or earning a scholarship. As a result, the Christian mindset often takes a backseat during competitions and is replaced with self-centered decisions. On top of the focus on self, media coverage of collegiate and professional sports promotes asserting dominance over and embarrassing opponents while emphasizing “no mercy.” Self-centeredness and mercilessness are the exact opposite of Christ’s message of how to live our lives. How can we reconcile our personal faith and our athletic endeavors to living AND competing like Christ?
The answer lies in our motivation. If we are only motivated by recognition and other self-interested goals, it is impossible to compete like Christ, and competition is ultimately unfulfilling. So, what should our motivation be? Saint Paul gives us the answer in 1 Corinthians 9:25: “Every athlete exercises discipline in every way, they do it for a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one.” This verse is a launching point for discussing what is truly important versus what society tells us is important. Perishable crowns fade over time, while imperishable crowns are everlasting. We know what those imperishable crowns are because it has been revealed to us that “God is Love” (1 John 4:8) and that “Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, love is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails” (1 Cor 13:4-8).
Our athletic pursuits should not solely be focused on wins, stats, and accolades but rather on using athletics to become the version of ourselves that God has called us to be so that we can advance His kingdom here on earth. Ironically, if we have a team focusing on the imperishable crowns, as Saint Paul describes, it would allow us to reach our athletic potential and give us the best chance to earn the perishable crowns that society tells us are most important.
We want to win as much as anybody else in the country; however, we are not willing to sacrifice the imperishable crowns for the perishable. We are striving to have both in our programs, and the way to do that is to focus on how Christ taught us to live. This year, our athletics office has partnered with Virtue=Strength to provide our athletes with training in the virtues that Christ displayed. All of our in-season coaches will focus on the virtue of the week with their teams and incorporate talking points before or after practices. This week, each of our fall sports is discussing the virtue of Dedication: The strength to be firm on one’s direction and purpose. Athletics at Pope John Paul II Preparatory School is a training arena for young men and women to become strong in mind, body, character, and spirit. What better way to do that than consistently teaching virtues to our athletes through the platform of athletics?
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “Only in God will he find the truth and happiness he never stops searching for” (CCC 27). When we stop using athletics to fulfill us and start using it as a tool to lead us to ultimate fulfillment, we will be able to not only live like Christ but also compete like Christ.
Brian Sneed, Assistant Athletic Director and Head Football Coach
About the Author
Brian Sneed is a Nashville native and a 2006 Pope graduate. While at Pope, Brian was a multi-sport athlete. Brian continued his football career at Centre College in Danville, KY. After graduating from Center with a BS in Mathematics with a minor in Secondary Education, Brian returned to Pope in 2012 to teach mathematics and coach football. He left Pope for a short time to work at his alma mater, Centre College, and in 2016, he returned to Pope as the assistant athletic director. He was named head football coach in March 2022.