Patrick Peyton, CSC, a Holy Cross priest, founder of the post-World War II prayer movement called, "Family Rosary Crusade" made famous the slogan “the family that prays together stays together.” I believe in the power of prayer. Even in today’s fast paced world, it is tremendously accessible for families—from grace before meals, nighttime prayers and weekly Mass to the rosary. I also believe in the power of play. I don’t think it’s sacrilegious for me to say “the family that plays together stays together.”
And by play, I may play sports. Sports at any level can build community, and the family is by no means an exception. Shared athletic endeavors from an annual Thanksgiving Turkey Trot or Turkey Bowl (shout out to the Davis-McLaughlin clan!) to a summer vacation that includes water skiing, snorkeling or river rafting creates lasting memories, a lot of laughs and a healthy endorphin release.
Fortunately our society places great emphasis on the value of physical fitness at every life stage! Never before have men and women, boys and girls have had so many opportunities for organized play. Women and men’s soccer, volleyball and basketball leagues, single sex and co-ed abound. One cannot pass through Golden Gate Park without notice of a running group or training group for a charitable cause. But my hope is that families rather than a collection of individuals could form their own team, find their own way to play sports—from competitive to recreational, parent to child, or a healthy sibling rivalry.Fortunately, one need not look far to find role models in this capacity. The recently appointed head coach of the San Francisco Forty-Niners, Jim Harbaugh can and should consult his older brother John, head coach of the Baltimore Ravens for advice about how to succeed in the NFL. They are the first pair of brothers to serve as head coaches during the same season in NFL history, but they aren’t the only brothers who face one another on the gridiron.
I look at Peyton and Eli Manning and wonder how those two spent their days as kids. When the Colts and Giants played each other during the regular season, the media had a heyday promoting a “Manning showdown.” As exciting as it was to watch brother versus brother, Peyton’s refusal to be interviewed after the game made quite an impression. His team, the Colts won. He knew what the press wanted to talk about, yet it did not trump his love and respect for Eli. You should always respect your opponent and when the enemy is your sibling, winning and losing although important, is different.
I think back to my own childhood. My sister and I swam on the same swim team for 6 years. We both hold fond memories of summers at the pool. At the age of 13 my dad signed me up for tennis lessons. He says my love for the game brought him out of “tennis retirement.” I saw my dad in an entirely new way when I played tennis with him. He was a great sportsman. He helped me improve and yet he stayed true to his game when we sparred. My parents continually told me “tennis is a sport of a lifetime.” I’m grateful it is, like golf or bowling. I know I can look forward to playing the game in new and different capacities as I age, hopefully with children of my own.
A blog, Families.com writes, “I believe families who pray with each other stay together because there is unity happening. God is being glorified and recognized. Not only is there a bonding time with your family, but I believe a spiritual covering as well. I believe the same can be said of families who play together.”
Pope Benedict XVI said “Sport, especially for the young, and when practiced with passion and within careful ethical boundaries, becomes a training ground for sound physical development, a school of both human and spiritual values, and a privileged means of personal growth and interaction with society.” What better way than sports for parents to model virtue? Recreation can be a precious bonding time. And when we succeed, meet our goals and have fun unity happens. What better way to glorify and recognize God? Parents and children, brothers and sisters—play ball!
Peyton and Eli
Pope Plays Like a Champion