Student athletes at Hamilton, Ont.’s St. Thomas More Secondary School take part in the “Play Like a Champion Today” retreat. Photo by Giovanni Carboni

Students inspired to play like champs

By  Catholic Register Special
  • May 3, 2015

HAMILTON, ONT. - At Hamilton’s St. Thomas More Catholic Secondary School, members of the senior soccer teams are learning more than just tactics, strategy and skills specific to their sport; they’re learning how faith contributes to their game.

An athletes’ retreat gave players on the boys and girls soccer teams a chance recently to pause from their training and focus on their mental and spiritual well-being. 

“High school sports are an integral part of the educational experience, they connect the body, mind and spirit,” said Sandra Moretuzzo, St. Thomas More’s Physical and Health Education/Co-instructional Department Head and coach of the senior boys’ team.

Moretuzzo co-ordinated the day of reflection using a detailed leaders’ guide on the University of Notre Dame’s “Play Like a Champion Today” retreat. The retreat is specifically designed for student-athletes to connect their athletic pursuits with their spiritual development and strengthen their Catholic faith. The retreat allows high school athletes to unpack the multi-dimensional nature of sports and explore how they nourish the mind, body and soul.

“The relationships built, the lessons learned and the memories made give athletes a great deal to think about, reflect upon and be thankful for. The lessons learned by high school athletes apply far beyond the field of play, helping students grow mentally, physically and emotionally,” said Moretuzzo.

The program was introduced by retired Superintendent of Education Mary Cipolla as a way to strengthen the Catholic spirit of sport. Boys’ and girls’ senior soccer are the first teams to participate in the “Play Like a Champion Today” retreat at St. Thomas More. The theme chosen from the guide for the soccer retreat was “Stride with Pride.”

The retreat focused on team building and team cohesion within the context of faith. Student athletes took part in icebreakers, team-building activities and group discussions on characteristics of successful teams, leadership trait identification, the creation of a team motto and prayer and meditation, followed by an evaluation of the retreat experience.

The retreat experience builds on the school’s improvement plan which includes a focus on student voice and leadership, said Moretuzzo.

“It is through the creation and implementation of this retreat that student voices are heard as a result of student athletes being at the forefront in the development of the retreat theme and activities,” she said.

“The Catholic community, culture and service system goal centres on the creation of a positive and inclusive Catholic school climate engaging students through an equitable, inclusive and supportive school environment fostering the development of body, mind and spirit. Through this retreat experience, (St. Thomas More) is providing opportunities for student voice and authentic self-expression.”

Moretuzzo plans to offer the retreat to teams from each sport throughout the year, and also extend the experience to competing schools “to participate together in the spirit of camaraderie and sportsmanship.”

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