Thanksgiving Amidst Loss - Handling Defeat

Like  Tweet  Pin  +1  in


For some of you, your season has ended. In the midst of that championship joy or season-ending disappointment there is much to be THANKFUL for.

I wanted to share a few things that I thought were well worth your time, consideration and reflection on this beautiful feast of Thanksgiving.

One of the most difficult things to do as a coach is the post-game speech and subsequent communication after an emotional loss, especially a season-ending loss when you don’t get to play as a team ever again.

You, your coaches, your players are in tears … your hearts broken … feelings of anger, sadness, regret, “what if?”, “if only”, disappointment fill your heart, mind and soul and it is very, very difficult to compose yourself and create a message, a vision, an anything … that is virtuous and up-lifting.

It is just plain hard.

I wanted to share a few things from a SportsLeader coach, Joe Walters from Peoria Illinois Notre Dame HS, who recently had to do this and quite frankly his post-game email to his football family is among the best I have ever seen.

Screen Shot 2014-11-26 at 11.34.26 AM

Click on the image to watch the video


Losing with virtue - with class, perspective, vision & respect is extremely challenging.

Regardless of the sport you coach or the organization you lead, please consider sharing this with all of your coaches and anyone else you know who might benefit.

It is easy to be virtuous and grateful and of “good perspective” after a win but after a loss …

Further below is a note from Sister Sara Kowal to the football team prior to the game … what an incredible message and worth sharing as well.

Virtue = Strength, 
Lou Judd 
New Offering: Virtue by Email Program


Football Family,

Valiant effort! We went down in a fight. Back in Texas we would say we died “with our boots on”. Our very last play was played with great effort. Always remember that!

When a football season ends like this the loss stands out strongly in your mind for the few hours and days following, but it will subside and be replaced by the sweet wins. The wins will stay with us for eternity. They define us.

In the not to distant future we will look back and see these guys as warriors. We won’t remember the loss, but rather the victories, the lessons learned, the battles fought and the bond of brotherhood we built.

Thank you for unifying a school and city!

You are courageous Christian men, hold your heads high! We have (along with many others) prepared you for life. As the priest says at the conclusion of Mass, “Go forth”. Take these relationships and lessons and go make disciples of men. Make our church a source of great pride, make our city better, and lead our state and country to greater heights.

photo 2

The Brotherhood


When used correctly and embraced by the pupil, football is a perfect teaching tool and maker of men. And it is used correctly at PND. Boys don’t play prep football in order to get college scholarships; they play so they can be appropriately called men after the season. Our players are now men. They have done the things men do on and off the field time and time again. Football players are the “fathers” of the school and we ask them to lead our family into deeper relationships with Christ. Be Christ like fathers as you return home after the break.

You are ready. We rest comfortably in our homes knowing that we have sent the best into the world.

Each morning all season I prayed for God’s will to be done in the program. I prayed that I would be a vessel of his love poured out on the team. I prayed that I would be a perfect Christian example for them. I also prayed that Gods words would come through me and not my own. Some days it was extremely difficult, but when I called upon his strength I was able to follow his plan. We prayed (a lot), we went to confession; we leaned to love not only our teammates but the opposing team as well. We sacrificed for each other (I’ll share some of these miraculous story’s at the banquet). When I got home last night my daughter asked why I was the only one not crying. Believe me I hurt for the team, but I told her, “because I gave the season to God and believe that his will is being done”. I hope you believe the same.

FB-fz 002

Strengthening our future leaders.


After the game we went back to the school chapel and thanked God for all of his goodness and asked him to help us understand the way it ended. He has answered us. It has not ended; the seniors have work to do in our school and the world. The underclasses have a legacy to carry on. There is no end, only a short break in a long string of PND football wins.

Our underclassmen committed to honor their big brothers by always working hard. They will not let them down and will have the best off-season to date. They will fight the urge to quit now that they have such big shoes to fill. Be not afraid! They will embrace the challenge! When you feel tired and week remembers this season, remember the sacrifice that your big brothers made for you.

​Have hope, the hope Christ gives.​

This year we employed SportsLeader to help us with virtue and faith formation. Three things they helped us with were the “Player Retreat” to kick off the season, the “Father and Son jersey ceremony”, and the “Letter for Mom”. We also implemented game day Mass and confessions plus a prayer service the night before our games.

The “Player Retreat” allowed us to start becoming brothers which ultimately led us to be able to sacrifice for one another as Christ did for mankind. As a football coach I have found that a player can only give so much for his own selfish reasons, but he can give so much more effort if he is sacrificing for another person that he loves. The retreat kick started that for us. It taught us how to love one another.

IMG 3600

Team retreat


The “Father and Son” ceremony gave us a chance to see how much our fathers really love us. The players heard things that their busy dads just don’t get time to say. Lots of tears were shed and I am thankful that the world slowed down one night so our dads could tell us how proud they are for us and that they loved us.

The “Letter for Mom” was the most heartwarming event we had. Young men just don’t say how they feel about their moms enough. They don’t say “thanks” and how much they love them. Moms work so hard for their football players but don’t get the credit they deserve. We dedicated the game to our moms the next day, and honestly played the best game of the season. The moms were so loud in the stands and the players gave their all. I don’t think we would have won that quarter final game if it had not been for the ceremony and our mothers interventions for us. God’s mother as well!

On game days we would celebrate Mass 4 hours before the game. We wanted the players to get their minds off football for a while and praise God for his great works. After Mass the Priest would offer to hear confessions while the team was eating their pre-game meal. Instead of eating (and football players can eat) the players would line up to confess their sins. This was inspirational to me and I felt it was like they were giving their lives to Christ all over again over carnal desires.

photo 1

Team Mass


The night before games we traditionally would have a team meal, but opted to drop it for a prayer service. During the service I would read scripture and give them a short lesson on a Christian precept, like faith, confession, love, etc. I tried to relate it to the upcoming game. The players and coaches would get up and talk about whatever was on their hearts. It could be about the game or something more important like a sick family member or their relationship with Jesus.

I LOVE YOU!!! You made me a better person this year. You owe me nothing; you have no debt to me. If any debt is owed, it is from me to you. You taught me to believe. You responded so well to God’s directions that it made me see that what he was asking me to do was real. The only thing that I ask of you is that you always keep us in your prayers as we move the program forward. Rally around us in the good or bad. Be proud of where you came from. It was no accident that you are IRISH.

God Bless and Go Irish!!!


​p.s. please light a candle and say a prayer at Mass today for the young men as they go forth..​.

Joseph Walters 
Head Football Coach/Director Of Student Services 
Peoria Notre Dame High School

IMG 3765

Dear Young Irish Men, 
May Love Always Triumph! 
Many blessings on the feast of the Presentation of Our Lady! May our dearest heavenly Mother and intercessor intercede for you today, tomorrow and always.

Recently, I read a study that found that when the mother is the first one to become Christian in her family, 17% of the time the children will follow. When the father is the first one to become Christian, 93% of the time, the children will follow his lead.

I ask you to take a moment to reflect on this powerful truth about the power of male leadership. This is not a truth that applies only to small families and homes. This school, this city, this Church is also a family that needs the leadership of good men to follow. And people will follow. Each one of you then must search your own hearts then and ask yourselves, "Where am I leading people to?"

This afternoon, during my time of Adoration, I happened to read from the book of Joshua, where it is speaking of the complete victories of the Israelites over their enemies when they enter the Promised Land. Systematically, they conquer every people in their paths. As I was reading, I thought of you, how you have, without flinching, beat all of your opponents, one by one. At the end of this section in Joshua, it reads, "Joshua took all these kings and their land at one time, because the Lord God of Israel fought for Israel." (Joshua 10:42)

IMG 3668

PND at a team-building event watching the movie When the Game Stands Tall


It is interesting if we look at history, how the Jews were this weak, small and insignificant people. Yet, they still remain today, after innumerable setbacks, persecutions. As well, they have contributed to culture, society and morality as no other people ever has. Why? Because of that one verse: "The Lord God fought for them." This is the reason for your victories thus far. You have given the season to Him, and He has 'fought' for you.

As I prayed though, I sensed that the Lord was saying, "The teams they have played so far are not the enemy they must conquer." And this is true - each one of the young men on the other side of the field is your brother. What is that true enemy that the Lord is asking you to fight against with such tenacity? It is all that is in your that is selfish, sinful, self-seeking and displeasing to Him. It is sin. This is the enemy that He is truly asking you to conquer in its totality. And this also has happened in you this season. Each one of you, individually, has allowed the Lord and his grace to root out areas in your hearts and lives that prevent you from being the man He is calling you to be. This is the true victory.

As you find more success on the field, many more people will look to you - in the school, on the other teams, in the city. The question and challenge for each one of your hearts is, "Where am I leading people to?" Is it Christ and his goodness, his truth, his love? People will follow you. Think of this school as a family in which you serve as father figures. 93% will follow you and your example. Where will you lead them? What will you do with the success the Lord is giving you because He is 'fighting on your side'? According to your season's motto, how will you allow all this to truly give God the glory?

1625542 10152197504112167 4300908797383350277 n

Most Reverend Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, C.S.C. Bishop of Peoria


The choice is yours, and it is choice that each one of you individually must make. They will follow. Where will you lead? Before your game tomorrow, we Sisters will be leading a special Holy Hour tomorrow at the Cathedral before the official pilgrim image of Our Lady of Fatima. I will be interceding for you all in a special way before her, our Mother and our patron, that you may be victors. Not simply victors on the field - which I will certainly pray for - but that the real victory may be in your own hearts. That you may make the kind of choices that make you men of character, goodness, love, self-donation, and holiness. So that in this way, you may use the success you have been given to lead others down the same path.

They will follow. Where will you lead?

We love you all and we hold each one of you deeply in our heart and prayers.

"We are more than conquerers through him who loved us." (Rom 8:37)

United in the Hearts of Jesus and Mary,

Sr. Sara Kowal, scjtm 

Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary.

Theology Dept.

"We are capable of heroic choices of not settle for less." - Mother Adela, Foundress SCTJM

1911142 1572327742986184 8312741885086301972 o

Where will you lead?