Sunday, October 25, 2009

What Matters Most about Athletics

This is Mr. Weber's assembly address to JPII students on October 26, 2009.

First, I want to thank the JPII Chamber Choir and Mrs. Elbehar for singing at Mass at Our Lady of the Lake on Sunday. I was delighted to be there--first, because you greatly enhanced the liturgy, and second, because I am proud to be the headmaster of a school with such an excellent choral program and am happy when others hear you. Good work.

I was also able to see my two favorite football teams play this weekend, in person. The first was our game against BGA Friday night down in Franklin. It was a competitive, well played game, but we lost 23-20 when they hit a FG late in the game to break the tie. On Saturday, I was invited to fly up to Notre Dame to watch the Irish play Boston College and happy to say that the good Catholics won, 20-16, due largely because of the stellar play of JPII’s Golden Tate, who had 11 catches for 128 yard yards and two TD’s. He’s so good that the same thing that happened at JPII is now occurring at Notre Dame stadium: whenever he gets the ball in open space, everyone instinctively stands up, anticipating something special is going to happen. I had fun.

I also understand our girls soccer team won their first play-off game on Saturday—a hard fought game against BGA in which they won 2-1, so they're now proceeding to a second round play-off game. Congratulations to our girls' cross country team that finished first in the mid-state regional tournament. They and the boys will run in the state finals on November 7. Our girls volleyball team finished around .500, a big step forward from last year. Good job, girls. And last week, our hockey team beat Hendersonville 3-1. Congratulations to all of you.

Athletics play a huge role in our society today and it’s an important part of our high school life here. As we wrap up the fall season and begin making the turn to our winter sports—in fact, I understand the basketball program has its first official practices today—I think it’s important to remember what’s truly important about high school athletic programs. As much as we all want to win, and as much as winning is more fun than losing, five or ten years from now, unless your team went undefeated and won a state championship, you won’t remember your won-loss record. You will, however, remember the good time you had with your teammates, the laughter in the locker-room, the bond of brotherhood or sisterhood you felt with them as you together experienced the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat. You will remember the relationship you had with your coaches, who went through those times with you, whom sometimes you hated because they challenged you to perfection, whom most of the time you respected precisely because they expected and demanded so much from you.

If you’re an athlete who has finished your season or if your season is nearing completion, I suggest you ought to measure success by two simple questions: Did you have fun? Did you become a better person?

As much playing a sport can be time-consuming, difficult, sometimes monotonous, filled with disappointment if you’ve lost a close game or if you’ve been blown out, the bottom line is did you enjoy it? We forget too quickly that when it’s all said and done, we should be having fun. I coached my son’s football team when he was 11 years old, and we ended up having a good season and made it to the championship game. However, the day of the championship it was very cold, and rained harder than any day I remember, an utter deluge. It was miserable--the field was nothing but a mud pit. We lost the game 7-6. On the way home, I looked over at my son, who was both shivering cold and covered head to foot in mud. I asked him “So you glad the season is over”? He turned his eyes to me—the only thing not covered with mud—and said “No, Dad. I wish I could play football the whole year.” Well, he was only 11 and didn’t have a lot of other things pressing him for his attention like you do. I understand that at the high school level, even if you love what you’re playing, there’s a certain amount of relief when the season ends so you can spend a little more time with friends, or sleep on Saturday mornings, or catch up in your studies. But if you love the game, after some time off, you begin looking forward to the first practice of next season. So I ask you, those of you just finishing up your season: Did you enjoy it?

The second question is: Did you become a better person? Too often today we focus on about self-fulfillment, “getting mine”, stat lines, getting our names in the paper. But athletics teaches us to put the team before self. It teaches us to become more disciplined, to become tougher, to work harder. Sports challenges us to seek perfection, to “do my job” even if others are failing theirs, to work for long term ends—a game in October, when I am running sprints in July. These are values that make us stronger, better people. It’s an important question: You’ve just invested an enormous amount of your time and energy into your sport this season. Are you a better person for it?

If you can say you had fun and are a better person for it, you’ve had a great season. My congratulations and thanks to all of you who represent your school so well. We are proud of you; I enjoy watching you play.

1 comment:

Jared Dees said...


It is great to see that principals/presidents/headmasters in Catholic schools get this. I think you are right "on the ball" with your comments. I have to give JPII credit as well. It is my experience there as a teacher and coach learning from other excellent coaches that has allowed me to do what I do now at the University of Notre Dame for the Play Like A Champion Today sports education program. Keep up the great work Knights!