Faith helps athletes focus

By 
  • March 12, 2010
{mosimage}TORONTO - Sudbury’s Marymount Academy Catholic High School volleyball player Jordana Ealdama says sport has a spiritual connection.

“If you believe in yourself and let God in your life, you can achieve your greatest goals,”  Ealdama, 16, told The Catholic Register from Kenora, Ont., where the school’s senior volleyball team was playing at the Ontario championships.

Coach Tammy Jutilla said she’s tried to instill in her players the importance of having faith and trust in God’s plan, and knowing “where that strength is going to come from.” It’s not all about winning but also about dedication and playing as a team, she said. Jutilla said the team’s success this year has been due to its commitment to improving and working together.

For Neil McNeil weightlifter Patrick Bass of Toronto, his Catholic faith helps him keep his focus. So far, this has translated into his school work where he received the top mark in his math class, compared to a 58 per cent last year.

And it’s translated in a big way in his one-year weightlifting career. Bass, 16, won gold at the Ontario Winter Games in Gravenhurst, Ont., and the Ontario Junior Championships in North Bay. He placed second at the 2010 Canadian Junior Championships.

Aside from sports, Bass is also involved with the youth group at St. Theresa’s parish in Scarborough, where he plays guitar and sings with the band for the 10 a.m. Sunday Mass.

The Olympic weightlifting program at Neil McNeil began three years ago. Teacher Eamonn Dorgan, a two-time Canadian national wrestling champion and 2007 Commonwealth wrestling gold medallist, invited his coach, Hani Kanama, to start a program for high school students. The program would also include a focus on at-risk students or students with behavioural issues.

“I truly believe in the words ‘What you do to the least of my brethren, you do unto me.’ I do the best I can in the mentoring of all my student athletes, but especially those that need it the most,” Dorgan told The Register in an e-mail.

According to Kanama, who volunteers his time to coach the students, many have benefited from the program because they learn about discipline which helps them deal with issues outside of school.

Kanama has asked some of his senior weightlifting athletes to be mentors for the high school students, including Bass who received tutoring from a university student studying nuclear physics.

Once students become better people, they also become better athletes, he said. Kanama recalls a student who used to be called to the principal’s office every day but is now on the right path and winning medals after being in the program.

And the weightlifting coach also sees a link between faith and sports.

“My guys know better not to drink, not to smoke, become a cleaner person. I think if you’re focused only about good things, it’s natural to become better connected to your religion,” he said.

“If (the athlete’s) focus was on drinking and partying,” Kanama added, “he’s not going to be looking to go to church or following his faith.”

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