Athletics teaches kids some of life’s most profound lessons, believes Jeff Reinert, basketball coach at Santa Margarita Catholic High School. In his experience, sports teach kids preparation, teamwork, dedication and time management. They learn competition – win or lose – and develop the means to handle each outcome.
“Athletics is one of the greatest classrooms you can have for kids,” Reinert notes. “Kids in season perform better than they do outside the season because they have structure. There’s practice, weights, homework and they must carry a certain GPA to play. I’ve actually found that athletics helps academics tremendously.”
One Santa Margarita alumnus who might agree about the importance of athletic life lessons is Klay Thompson, whose Eagles jersey number was retired in Rancho Santa Margarita in January. Thompson, who helped the SMCHS Eagles to a Division III State championship in 2008, was a first round draft pick of the Golden State Warriors in 2011 and helped them win a title in 2015.
Adult competitors like Thompson know that the hard-won lessons they learned while winning and losing on the court will last well beyond high school and college competition.
The rigors of physical training required in a sport test athletes to their limit, says Coach Bruce Rollinson of Mater Dei High School’s famed football program. “Your body sends signals that you can’t do this, why are you doing this, and you test yourself to the limit,” says Rollinson, who was selected recently as 2017 National High School Football Coach of the Year by the National High School Coaches Association. “You have to learn to push yourself through that and when you do you have the satisfaction of accomplishment.”
Athletes tap into their minds to master their positions and techniques and then perform at high speed in competition, sometimes in front of thousands of people, Rollinson explains. “It gives them a sense of accomplishment to hear the crowd and feel the exhilaration of scoring a touchdown or getting a key block, and as individuals they become more confident.”
Still, even the most talented athlete knows that he can’t win the game alone, he notes. “In sports you must depend on the man or woman next to you exceeding and excelling to the best of their God-given ability. When things start to click, the sense of accomplishment and jubilation becomes powerful and they share in that wonderful feeling.”
As life presents new challenges, athletes understand from experience that they must evaluate their performance to prevent future losses. “We fight daily battles in life. We don’t stop the first time something bad happens,” Rollinson says.
“I truly believe that if you can apply what was taught to you in athletics – the ethics of hard work, determination, courage and intestinal fortitude, all of those things – they help you on the path to success.”
When it comes to athletics, even Pope Francis understands that athletic skill and competition thrill and challenge us. Speaking in October, he noted, “Sports is a human activity of great value, able to enrich people’s lives.
“As far as the Catholic Church is concerned,” he continued, “she is working in the world of sport to bring the joy of the Gospel, the inclusive and unconditional love of God for all human beings.”