How One High School Soccer Program is Seeking to Change Lives

It is my firm belief that sports provides the Church one of the best means of forming and evangelizing our youth. I say this over and over again. I often wonder how many coaches on our nearly 1200 Catholic high schools in the US are seeking to capitalize on this opportunity. I would like to highlight one of those coaches here, Rick Wolf from Regis Jesuit High School in the Denver, CO area. I asked Coach Wolf, who also serves as a Theology teacher, what he does and why. 

How do you view your role as a coach? It is my responsibility as a Catholic educator and as a man who loves his faith to bring this gift to the young men I encounter.  Anything short of providing the boys the opportunity to think about their relationship with Christ, and how that relationship can manifest itself in all of their endeavors, including soccer, would be negligent.  Soccer was incredibly important in my life when I was in high school, yet I never made the connection between my faith and my sport.  I would have only benefited from some faith formation in my youth soccer experience.

How do you live out that vision? Our goal in the program is to use the sport of soccer as an opportunity to grow as players, teammates, men, and most importantly as an opportunity to grow in our relationship with God.  We do this through respect of the sport (the rules, the traditions), respect of ourselves (how we treat our bodies), respect for others (teammates, coaching staff, opponents, referees, classmates, teachers), the importance of focusing on our academic endeavors (grades, classroom behavior) and the respect we give to the necessity of growing in our relationship with God, His Son, and the Church (participation in retreats, Masses, daily prayer, etc.).

Along with utilizing resources like Compete Inside, we will have Mass during the preseason camp, weekly Masses once the school year begins, and we have prayer before and after practice and games.

I think in large part the boys expect this faith-centered focus in the program because they experience it in the classroom as well.  I’ve learned that I have to be patient with the players.  It is different than the club soccer mentality, they are all coming from a different faith experience, and many of them are struggling with their relationship with God and can sometimes bring nothing more than tolerant skepticism to the formative events within the program.  All of the events I mentioned above are mandatory, and the boys are incredibly respectful while participating as the older boys in the program who have a solid faith life demand such respect from their teammates. 

Game Pic 2 Regis

How do you balance all of this faith/formation stuff with trying to win?   In my opinion, winning at the high school level must be secondary to the formation of the student athletes.  Winning should not be a requirement for a coach to keep his or her job, rather the coach should be held accountable for the character formation that he or she is implementing.  Working at a Jesuit School has given me the opportunity to not only focus on the character development of the young men I coach, it has allowed me to focus that character development through the lens of the teachings of Jesus Christ and the examples of a life dedicated to Christ that the Saints of the Church provide.  I love to win, and I hate to lose.  Make no mistake about that, but at the end of the day I want my players to understand that soccer, like all things in this world, can lead to a deeper relationship with Christ.  In the First Principle and Foundation, St. Ignatius stresses the importance of detachment from the finite things of this world.  We shouldn’t desire success or failure, a long life or a short one, health or sickness, wealth or poverty, that the only thing we should desire is the grace to allow all of these things to lead to God deepening his life in me.  This is ultimately what I want the boys to understand.  We work hard to glorify the gifts that we’ve been given, and we use every experience therein to grow closer to a God who loves us.

 

It has been a joy to get to know Coach Wolf over the last few years. I am tremendously grateful for his work and am honored to highlight a piece of it here. Hopefully we can showcase more coaches who, like Coach Wolf, are using sport to build the Kingdom.

To learn more about Regis Jesuit High School, or to reach Coach Wolf, please visit www.regisjesuit.com.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmailby feather

There is 1 comment so far

  • Cooper Cohen
    3 months ago · Reply

    Such a phenomenal cadre of faith, brotherhood, and athletics. Keep up the faithful work Mr. Wolf! Thanks for all that you do.

Leave a Comment

Don't worry. We never use your email for spam.