Football team incorporates spiritual formation into pre-season preparation
“Talent is God’s gift to you. What you do with it is your gift back to God.”
This is one of the inspiring quotes the Everest Collegiate High School football team heard during a recent “Virtue Camp” that kicked off the boys’ off-season training this summer.
In addition to team building activities like dodge ball, swimming, and camping overnight on the football field, the team was privileged to hear presentations from three men who shared the competitive advantages of living a life of virtue.
The quote mentioned above came from Dr. John R. Wood, author of Ordinary Lives, Extraordinary Mission: 5 Steps to Winning the War Within, and founder or Mobile Eyes, LLC. His practice provides optical care to patients at nursing homes and developmental disability facilities.
“As an all-star athlete in high school and college, John knows the hard work and dedication it takes to obtain a certain level of greatness,” said Everest Football Coach Mike Pruchnicki, who organized the camp. “His knowledge of the faith and his ability to teach has allowed him to encourage others to strive for their own level of Catholic greatness — sainthood.”
Senior cornerback, Adam Legg, said of Dr. Wood’s presentation, “This was a tremendous advantage to our football team, and also to our lives in general. The main message he got across was that… we must win the internal war we have with ourselves. We need to know our enemies, the things that will prevent us from reaching heaven, and to know our allies, the things that will help us to attain the ultimate goal.”
He said Dr. Wood quoted the famous line from the movie, Spiderman: “With great power comes great responsibility.”
“We are given all these talents and gifts, even our Catholic faith, and it is our duty as people of God to share the faith with everyone around us,” said Adam.
Also presenting during the camp was Lewis Caralla, an assistant strength and conditioning coach at the University of Michigan, who discussed what Everest quarterback Sal Mastromatteo described as the “mental side of the game” of football.
“He talked about virtues such as integrity and discipline,” said Sal. “Those virtues, and others, lay down the foundation of a great football player. In the end, we should all be looking to better the team, not the individual.”
Senior linebacker Ben Bellestri called the camp a “truly enlightening experience.”
He was most inspired by speaker Nik Hoot, a high school wrestler from Indiana who spoke to the group via Skype. Born in Russia in 1996 after surviving a botched 24-week abortion, he was adopted and brought to the United States. Nik’s traumatic entrance caused him to lose part of both of his legs in the process. (His story is at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uHw3jgXIYLI on YouTube.)
Ben said he was impressed with how Nik “never gave up.”
“This past year, Nik came within one point of qualifying for the semi-state competitions (in wresting),” he said. “Nik is a true figure of perseverance because his disabilities never slowed him down.”
“He spoke about his life and what struggles he has gone through. It was a truly eye-opening talk. He showed us that no matter what hurdles life throws at you, (you should) keep going and never let those hurdles knock you down.”
The Everest football team recently had the opportunity to demonstrate the virtue they learned at the camp. On July 23, before taking part in a scrimmage, the team helped make 150 bologna and cheese sandwiches and assembled them into lunches for the homeless in Detroit. Some of the players and their mothers delivered the lunches to Sister Judy Ann Ruggirello and the Sisters of Christian Love the following day.
This is the second year the team has assisted the sisters in their efforts to help Detroit’s neediest. Team member Lucas Neme and one of the team mothers, Kristi Fenske, talked with the boys afterwards about knowing the difference between just being a volunteer, and being an apostle for Jesus Christ.
It is apparent this team knows the difference! Great job Everest Mountaineers!