By: Sarah Rose McEachern
With the fall sports season well underway, many student athletes are juggling classes, training, and game schedules, all while endeavoring to stay rooted in Christ and grow in their faith. The stress of trying to balance these many aspects of life is small in comparison with the benefits that intercollegiate sports provide to both the individual and the school as a whole.
One of these is the community-building that goes on off the field. When students join a team they become part of a family. From team dinners in the caf’ to 4-hour returning bus rides in sweaty uniforms, special bonds are formed between players, and friendships are made to last a lifetime.
Not only do these friendships change the lives of those on the team, they also promote school unity. Events like this week’s ‘Rugby Ruckus’ and posters in the JC Williams Center, announcing AMCC (Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference) championship results keep other students aware of the way our school is being represented to the rest of the world and encourage Baron pride in the accomplishments of our athletes.
This reputation of Franciscan University Athletics is one that continues to grow as the program matures, but it is not limited to the physical prowess of our athletes. A huge part of it is the character they show throughout competition, always putting God at the center of their work.
Something that stood out to me recently, as I attended the men’s soccer game, was the way our players deported themselves on the field. While the opposing team members haggled over ref calls, yelled in the face of one of our players about a yellow card foul, and shouted expletives when things didn’t go their way, our men focused all their energy on playing the game to the best of their ability.
When the game ended, a 6-0 loss for Franciscan, the teams lined up to shake hands as usual, but then one of our players invited the other team to join them in the middle of the field to pray. This again happened following the Rugby Ruckus loss, and while this may be the norm for Franciscan, it stands out to other schools. How many teams, after suffering defeat, would demonstrate this humility? The positive actions of our athletes put the focus of sports where it needs to be—on the glorification of God though the talents He gave us—and they are sending this message to hundreds of other students at surrounding universities.
Our athletes cannot embark on this journey of evangelization alone, however. They need the support of their fellow students through encouragement and prayer. As a member of the track and field team, I know how energizing it is to hear just one voice shouting my name as I near the finish line in a race. If one person can help in this way, think how powerful a sea of screaming green and gold supporters on the sidelines could be in boosting the morale of our players.
So, while our athletes stand as a symbol of this great university that we are so privileged to attend, we should stand behind them. Let us not forget to acknowledge their dedication in representing us. While it’s still warm, I encourage you to get to a few games or matches and cheer on your fellow students. Let’s Go Barons!