The cold winds of the fall season, the smell of fresh cut grass, the stench of dozens of young men ready to do battle on a field of hopes and dreams; this is High School Football. However, what most fans do not see is the gritty, hard work, day in and day out put forth by these young athletes willing to give their bodies the test of wits, testosterone and teamwork in order to achieve something amazing. In an extremely rare instance one school was able to take this level of commitment and courage to a level most would only dream of. De La Salle Catholic High School in Concord, California still holds the record of 151 straight wins over the span of twelve years. However, Coach Lad (Bob Ladouceur), the Head Coach during those triumphant years and beyond, does not attribute the success to luck and even goes so far as to say that winning is not the point.
The latest film, “When the Game Stands Tall” portrays a team and coaching staff who deal with the many issues of life, death, victory and defeat from a virtuous standpoint.
There is something innately within the world of sports that man has a difficult time defining the emotional, spiritual and incredibly moral heart of the game. Pope Francis said that sports and recreation is an education of itself. St. John Paul II said, “Playing sports has become very important today, since it can encourage young people to develop important values such as loyalty, perseverance, friendship, sharing and solidarity.”
What is it about sports and physical training that causes the soul to experience something transcendent? I think that what the athlete experiences is a physical, tangible reality of pushing ourselves to be the best in all that we do and it is by this that our souls are affected and can be transformed into striving for virtues in every other aspect of our life.
Coach Lad, played by Jim Caviezel in the film, and his Athletic Director Terry Eidson are both true men of God desiring to instill a championship mindset into the young men and women student athletes in order to not only win on the field but to strive for more in life, to strive for the truth and give it everything you’ve got until the last drop. And in this way they are forming young men and women to follow in the example of Christ Himself. Coach Lad and Mr. Eidson are also current or past religion instructors, which I think is an incredible witness of someone affecting students both on and off the field.
I recently had the honor of interviewing Coach Lad and Mr. Eidson on the importance of sports, the moral messages within the film and the importance of a strong faith in athletes. Listen in!