When you were in high school, did you lift weights on campus? Did your school even have a fitness center or training room? Have you seen the state of the art equipment and facilities available to today’s student athletes?
Weight training at my high school—Carondelet—was relegated to a short rotation in PE. I think we had a few free weights; nothing more than 10 lbs. We did have a trainer, but her office was a converted dressing room behind the auditorium stage. Carondelet alumni include two Olympic champions and a host of other great female collegiate athletes. Across the street at De La Salle, I remember that the weight room was compact and it was full. It was also a royal sweatbox. Guys should have called it “the lodge.”
Last summer I accompanied eight students on a summer service Immersion to Tacoma, WA. By day we worked at L’Arche farm with developmentally disabled adults and by night we slept on the floor —excuse me, the mats in the wrestling room at Bellarmine High School. After a long day of working on an organic farm, believe it or not, working out was a welcome treat. But this wasn’t just any treat. We had access to Bellarmine’s brand new 4,528 square-foot, state-of-the-art training center.
Looking at their spacious facility with the latest equipment, I thought how far things have come. For example, their website reports, “the opening of the Fitness Center significantly improves the workout experience for members of the Bellarmine community from the standpoints of health and fitness, convenience, and aesthetics. The new center nearly triples the amount of workout space available to students.” Bellarmine made a huge commitment to fund and build this valuable community resource and they know what it adds to their campus. “The goal of the center is to provide a healthy, positive and safe environment that will build and strengthen the mind, body and spirit and the benefits will be felt for years by countless members of the Bellarmine community. “
The good news is that this weight training and an increased emphasis on personal fitness is not gender specific! Bellarmine is co-ed and an all girls high school in Belmont, CA--Notre Dame--has instituted a new requirement this year that all girls visit the strength and conditioning roomat least 25 times before their team starts its season. Indeed, it is a core element of the school’s athletic program (Catholic San Francisco).
I began to wonder, Do students have an increased access to outstanding spiritual resources as well? What innovative religious programs might students be excited about today? I am happy to report that I can easily name two. I know there are many others—and I welcome your input!
The first is YOUCAT. YOUCAT is short for Youth Catechism of the Catholic Church, which was launched at World Youth Day 2011 in Madrid (another wonderful event and resource for Christian youth). It was developed with the help of young Catholics and written for high-school age people and young adults.
Why is it appealing and better than other resources of the past? For one, YOUCAT is meeting young people exactly where they are—which is anything that pertains to the self. Look at the name: YOUCAT; YOU are directly addressed. It’s website says, “YOU are challenged by faith, it's YOUR catechism, make it YOUR own, it's YOUR faith that has been given to you, so make it yours! This is about YOU, YOU are wanted, YOU are needed.”
Second, the images in YOUCAT show young, positive, natural and authentic people in all walks of life. The photos were taken not by professionals, but were made by young, enthusiastic amateurs. YOUCAT encourages readers to send their favorite photos of faith and life (firstname.lastname@example.org) with the idea that a talented photo may make it to the next print edition.
Its overall graphic format is light years easier to use than the traditional Catechism which may require instruction for navigation. YOUCAT’s graphic format includes Q & A, highly readable commentary, summative definitions of key terms, Bible citations and inspiring quotes from Saints and others in the margins. What's more, because YOUCAT is keyed to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, people can go deeper. It broadens the definition to youth to include not only to those young in age but also to those young in faith. In that sense, it’s invitational. “When faith is young, questions are the same, whether you are 15 or 50.”
The second resource is Biblemap.org, a website that features maps of the Holy Land, where St. Paul traveled, and more. It allows viewers to see the cities names in the Bible quite clearly. For example, a student who is reading Joshua:12 can scroll down to that book of the Hebrew Scriptures and the towns or places mentioned in that verse will be highlighted. This rich visual resource will give students a deeper appreciation of the distance Mary and Joseph had to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem for the birth of their son.
I’m curious to know how the faith lives of young people have benefitted from these two spiritual treasures. The results of athletic discipline are easier to measure. At Notre Dame, “We found if the girls got 25 workouts in, they tended to be injury free. They went through their season with no injury. Any workouts they got over 25, the girls who got between 25 and 50 workouts saw an improvement in their athletic performance.” I welcome input on the spiritual benefits as well.
Bellarmine's Fitness Center
Bellarmine's Fitness Center