Many athletes at the University of Dallas make it a priority to have their spirituality and sportsmanship go hand in hand, making sure to pray, read the Bible and strive to be better athletes on the field.
Ignacio Placencia, a missionary with the Fellowship of Catholic University Students, works with Varsity Catholic, which is one of the ways that athletes can get involved in their faith. He has first-hand experience of the student athlete lifestyle from playing a sport during his own college years.
Placencia believes athletes often have a higher workload than the average student since they have a much busier schedule with practices, games and trainer visits.
Placencia said, “I think sometimes what gets overlooked is, if we’re trying to be the best person possible, a fundamental core part of being the best person possible is also the spiritual aspect.”
He encourages all students to have a receptive conversation with Jesus and to find what brings them joy. He acknowledges the importance of letting the Lord take your life by having a simple dialogue with him, even if it’s only 10 minutes.
Braden Decuir, a junior theology major and #23 on the men’s soccer team, shared how spirituality exists on the soccer field. One of his contributions to his team is leading them as a team prayer which helps to get his teammates and himself into the right mindset before a game.
Decuir said, “During competing with each other, our emotions and intensities can get the better of us, but once we come into that game, we have to have that mindset of honesty, fairness, friendship, and then also knowing that the person you’re facing against is also worthy of dignity.”
Despite being opponents, teams should treat each other with dignity, which includes helping an injured opponent get back on their feet and making sure to respect the other team by not cheating or bad mouthing them even if the opponent initiates it.
Decuir said that his method of focusing on an upcoming game is by prayer or reading Scripture. When he is off the field and on campus, he participates in Men’s Society which is a campus ministry group that meets on Tuesday nights to listen to talks, attend adoration and offer confession to help UD men grow spiritually.
Elise Valdez, a junior biochemistry major and #6 on the women’s soccer team, explained how important it is for her to incorporate God on and off the field and believes that the two go hand in hand.
“Being an athlete, you have to be consistent with your habits and practice and how you’re eating and taking care of yourself. And the same thing kind of applies to spiritual life,” said Valdez.
Valdez shared how having the ability to play a sport is a gift, so dedicating time to pray before playing is something she really loves. Before a game, either an upperclassman or a coach would lead a prayer for all the athletes, including the opponents. She recalled when her team didn’t pray before a game it felt off since they weren’t dedicating the game to God, regardless if they win or lose.
“Sometimes we’ll say an ‘Our Father,’” Valdez said. “We’ll do this thing usually like before every game and we’ll say ‘Mary, Queen of Victory, pray for us’ and ‘Mary, Queen of Mercy, pray for them.’”
For athletes who don’t know where to start their journey, they can start by looking into the Church of the Incarnation. Decuir and Valdez shared that if you want to grow in your spiritual journey but don’t know where to start, just ask! There are many opportunities and encouraging classmates, on campus and on the field, to incorporate faith along with an athletic schedule, as long as you take initiative.