The Purpose of Sports - Build Virtue

At times the competition of sports can bring out the worst in us: jealousy, revenge, hatred, arrogance, fear. At times these weaknesses of ours then rub off on our players.

But sports can also bring out the best in us: heroic willpower, generosity, humility, perseverance ... at its core, this is the true purpose of sports, to build virtue.

Here is a testimony of exactly that. A moment of competitive athletics that brought out the best in everyone present. The photo speaks for itself. I'm sure everyone there that day will remember this forever.

Our game this past Sunday was a very intense one as far as grade school football games go.  The game itself matched two undefeated teams who have always competed very well against each other over the last few years, with our St. Gertrude Bulldogs often getting the better of the outcomes.  We have a great deal of respect for the Summit Reserve players and coaches and knew going in that the game would be physically challenging.  We had no idea just how challenging it would be.

Until mid-way through the 4th quarter, the game was the most physically, tactically, and mentally challenging game in which I have ever coached.  The teams were evenly matched and both had driven inside their opponent's 3 yard line without scoring during the game.  That all changed in an instant when one of our boys made an open field tackle on a wingback reverse to Summit's #32 - one of their top players.  In the midst of the tackle, #32landed awkwardly on his shoulder and neck and immediately cried out in pain.  While he was moving his arms and legs, he was clearly injured.  Immediately, all of our boys dropped to a knee as they've been coached to do.  The injured player was attended to by a doctor who was an assistant for Summit, a trainer that is at all of our home games, two dads from our program who are trained EMTs and a mother who is a nurse.  I ran and grabbed a back board as another member of our program called 911 for the EMTs to come per the orders of Summit's assistant coach and doctor.  Needless to say, many players, coaches, parents, and spectators fell silent and began praying for the best outcome for the Summit player.

Then one of the most remarkable experiences I have had in any setting, much less on a football field, took place.  The head coaches from both teams gathered the competing teams at mid-field and we all joined hands, alternating Summit and St. Gertrude, in a prayer circle that spanned 20 yards of the field.  A coach from Summit took the lead for the group, explaining that even though we were in heated competition, we were all brothers in the game of football and all children of God.  He continued that it was our brother laying there and that he needed our prayers for safety and healing.  We all prayer together, some crying, some fighting back tears, just hoping for a sign that #32 would be okay.  We got it as he gave us all a thumbs up as the response team carried him to meet the ambulance.

After a few minutes of warm up and some discussion about finishing the game, the contest resumed.  After 32 minutes of hard fought football by two great teams, the score remained 0 - 0.  Summit won the coin toss and chose to go on offense first.  Our Bulldogs held Summit out of the endzone on 4 plays from the 10 and then proceeded to punch it in on 4th down and inches for the overtime win 6 - 0.  But, the example of character, perseverance, courage, and charity that was shown by all the players on both teams was so incredibly humbling for all of us there - especially the coaches involved to see these young men show such love and compassion in the face of such adversity.  We have no doubt we will see the Summit Knights again before this 2011 season is over and we hope #32 is competing with them again when we do.  Different color uniforms or not, they are still our brothers in football and in Christ.

Brian Redden
St. Gertrude Football
Reserve Assistant Coach