A fundamental in the spiritual formation of our athletes: Praying with your line-up

Team Chaplains
Neumann University looks forward to hosting the National Catholic Education Association (NCEA) Soul of Youth Sport Conference from June 15 – 17. Here, Anne Stricherz previews her discussion on Spirituality and Sports, to take place during Session III on Monday, June 16. Anne teaches theology and coaches girls’ cross country at St. Ignatius College Prep in San Francisco, CA. She also teaches an elective course for high school seniors called Sports & Spirituality: We Are All Witnesses.

Coaches are endowed with an opportunity to help their athletes do more than develop their physical abilities, acquire scholarships or win games. It is no longer limited to just “x’s and o’s.” Indeed, the role is a special one; it can be a ministry—one that echoes and enhances the mission of our schools.

What can be gained is too valuable to leave to happenstance.  However, many coaches might be unsure of how to develop their program beyond the “play by play.” With some fundamentals in place, I am convinced any coach of any sport in any program can practice a few that will reap spiritual growth and intangible rewards.

An important fundamental is prayer. Athletics showcases this spiritual discipline like no other. We see athletes in prayer before a game—asking for God’s grace and oversight. We see others “give thanks to God” for a task well done. But prayer can be done at any time—before, during and after practice, on the bus ride to and from a game. It can be done individually and as a community.

One way that I like to pray is with my line-up. Every coach has one; an attendance roster will suffice. This is how you might do that.

  • Set aside a quiet moment to become still.
  • Take a deep breath (or three) and invite God into the busy-ness of the day.
  • Begin by praying for the team as a group.
    – What are our concerns or needs? What are we struggling with?
    – What am I grateful for?
    – What are my hopes for my team?
    How can we be more Christ-centered?
  • Review the name of every athlete on the roster. Pray for each person. Whose name stands out? Pay attention to these names because they might be in need of God’s grace.
    – What grace might this athlete need?
    – How do they challenge me? How are they challenging others?
    – Are they injured?
    – Have they changed?
    – Are they included or excluded?
    – Am I grateful for their gifts or their talents? Am I humbled by their love for others? 
  • Ask God for what you need as a coach—a servant leader—to minister to your athletes and your team.

This prayer practice is one that can be easily shared with other coaches on staff. It can be done in silence or out loud. It is both inspiring and humbling what my colleagues have shared in the context of this prayer.

The visual cue of a roster or line-up invites us to pay attention to every person that colors our programs. The narrative that forms through “Praying with your line-up” over the course of a season is a story you won’t forget. Neither will the Lord.


2014 soul of youth sport conference

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