When it comes to sports impacting my faith in college there have not been a lot of positives. Throughout high school, I would attend church every Sunday morning and Catechism every Wednesday night. I was the representative for my church - St. Patrick's - in the larger dioceses Catholic Youth Activities Planning Committee, a two-time NCYC participant and a frequent helper at my church's food bank. What have I done faith wise since coming to Iowa City over a year ago? Not much.
Now, I usually just go to mass every Sunday night if something else doesn’t come up, and I’ll periodically attend a bible study. It is somewhat discouraging when I look at how involved I am in my faith since coming to college and joining a sports team. I would be misrepresenting football to say it’s the big roadblock in the way of my faith. In truth, football is something that I, at times, use as an excuse of getting in the way of my faith, but it isn’t pushing itself there. The phrase, “I would, but I just don’t have enough time” isn’t completely true, and I, just like many other people, tell themselves this phrase often. In reality, I have the time to devote to my faith, but prioritizing it seems harder when there are so many other commitments I have each day. Because it takes more effort to prioritize my faith when my attention is focused elsewhere - school, sports, social life - it makes the time I do spend focusing on my faith all the more rewarding. So, I think to say that sports haven’t had many positive impacts on my faith is a lie. In truth, I have the time and resources in front of me to be more involved in my faith. I’ve done it before back in high school, so surely, I can do it again. The point I would say I’m trying to make is that as an athlete, you shouldn’t let time constraints of a sport be the reason why you’re skipping your weekly mass or why you aren’t showing up to a bible study. If you know your faith comes first, then put it there!
In this post, Amber Aesoph, a Health and Human Physiology major from Souix City, IA, shares how her faith has an impact on her sport, as she as a member of the track and cross country teams here at the University of Iowa. Amber was also the female recipient for the Newman Center's endowed athletic scholarship.
"I went to a Catholic school all my life, so coming to Iowa and being able to have an outlet like the Newman Center to keep me grounded is something I'm super thankful for. My faith is a very important aspect of my life, knowing that there's so much more to who I am than the sport I play and the school I attend. Seeing old and new friends every Sunday at Mass makes me feel at home and reassures me that I'm right where I need to be." - Amber Aesoph
For as long as I can remember, there have been two things in my life that I cared about more than almost anything else: God and Sports. I went to a Catholic school from kindergarten all the way to senior year and since I’ve developed the ability to walk, I don’t think there has been a year without sports. These two things have defined my life more than anything else. With religion I was involved in any way you could possibly be: Church, Sunday school, alter server, Bible studies, religion classes, rosaries, and bedtime prayer. As a kid, I did everything that you could do in the church. With sports I tried as much as you could possibly try: football, soccer, basketball, baseball, wrestling, track, and PE class. As a kid, if it involved physical activity and a way to win, I probably did it. Something I struggled with a lot when I was younger was figuring out which one was more important to me. Which did I want to spend more time doing? The younger I was the more important having fun and playing sports was, and the older I got the more important my personal development and love for God became. To my dad, sports was everything. Although he still participated in his faith, he pulled me towards sports being more important. “You have to get good grades and flourish in wrestling so you can go to a fantastic school, compete at the highest level, become very disciplined and hardworking, graduate at the top of your class, and go on to make a lot of money,” is a sentiment that my dad always shared with me growing up. My mom stressed the importance of religion. She always made sure we went to mass on Sunday and stressed the importance of participating. She prayed with me every night as a kid and taught the significance of my faith. So, suffice to say, I was being pulled two different ways my entire childhood.
Not until my senior year of high school did things really click for me. I had seemingly let sports win the fight for the most important thing in my life, and I was ready for the most successful year of sports ever. My athletic aspirations for that year ended abruptly when I tore my ACL near the end of my football season. Football: Done. Wrestling: Done. Track: Done. Some schools that I was talking to about possibly wrestling in college also pulled out of the conversation. The identity that I gave myself my senior year had been destroyed and I felt it in the worst way possible. Although this injury devastated my senior year, this was the best possible thing that could have happened to me. It took me a long time to realize that the battle between sports and God should not have even been a close fight. I had chosen wrong and felt the repercussions. Because I had created my identity in a non-everlasting idea, my entire life could fall apart from one slip up. I had to create my identity around an everlasting idea – Jesus. Soon after I decided to do this, I realized that creating my identity around Jesus didn’t mean I couldn’t play sports – it meant I had to play sports for a different and better reason. Growing up I played sports for my own glory, the feeling of achieving something great and receiving recognition and attention from others for my successes. Now, I had to compete for the glory of Jesus. He had given me these talents and all I wanted to do was show him that I was grateful. By competing and nurturing my abilities at the highest level, I could glorify the gifts that God gave me, instead of being prideful for the gifts that I developed. I stopped feeling pride for personal accomplishments but felt pride instead because Jesus was my king and the center of my life. Finally, the battle between sports and God had been completed, and sports submitted to God. After realzing my identity was built on an everlasting presence, there can only be one thing in my life that I care about more than anything else: my relationship with Jesus, my Lord and Savior.