Tell a coach that sports and religion aren’t connected and he’s sure to start quoting popes.
Pope John Paul II and Pope Pius XII, for sure, who both praised the values that could be learned by playing sports. They cited attributes that could be garnered from the games.
According to Pope John Paul II, “it can encourage young people to develop important values such as loyalty, perseverance, friendship, sharing, and solidarity.”
Frank Kucinic, assistant athletic director at St. Joseph’s Catholic School in Greenville, said it is quicker to say what the two don’t have in common.
“All the values of being a Christian are in athletics,” Kucinic said.
Not everyone agrees that sports should play such a large role in Catholic schools, saying the focus should be on faith and academics.
Joe Hyland said they are having a bit of that debate at St. Joseph’s, which is in its first year of varsity football. Hyland teaches European history and psychology and coaches football.
Aside from what it can do for an individual, he said a strong sports program creates student spirit and enthusiasm for the school.
Also, the more sports a school can offer, on top of strong academics and religion, the more marketable it is.
Hyland said there is a certain niche of Catholic youth who need more than hearing about faith and God, they need to apply those lessons in a physical way.
“We’re crying out for God, and this [athletics] is a place where we can find Him,” he said.
Mike Bolchoz has been involved with sports his entire life and said it’s the perfect opportunity to teach life lessons through religion, such as the Christian way to deal with both disappointment and success.
Bolchoz, who served as athletic director and assistant principal at Cardinal Newman School in Columbia, was recently appointed principal of his alma mater, Bishop England High School in Charleston (See Page 4).
He said it is shortsighted to think sports and religion aren’t connected, noting that youth must develop spiritually and physically.
Kucinic grew up playing soccer and had a successful career in the game before an injury put him on a different path. Now, aside from coaching he teaches science, physical education, and is the director of coach development.
“We strive to look at coaching as a ministry,” he said.
One way they do so is by asking where Christ is in athletics. Kucinic said the answer is in each person’s actions and the way they foster a spiritual environment.
It is about teaching and showing respect, discipline, commitment, responsibility, obedience and camaraderie, just to name a few.
“We take every teachable moment to put God in the heart and soul of our kids,” he said.
He added that it was a coach who helped mold him into a person with strong Christian values.
Kucinic said his parents were wonderful, but sometimes it takes another person, saying the same thing, to make an impact. He hopes to be that type of influence on youth, and said it is a role coaches play every day.
“They all bring the word of God to the kids in their own way,” he said.