Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Lenten Box Project for Athletes

This past Sunday was Laetare Sunday. Perhaps you noticed that the presider at Mass wore a Rose colored vestment. We are called to "REJOICE!" as we are half way through Lent. Think of this feast day as half time....as time to break, step away from the action and consider what has been working well and what you might need to adjust in your Lenten journey.

Lent, a holy season of 40 days, asks each of us to practice not one, but three traditional spiritual disciplines: fasting, giving alms and prayer. Many Catholics are familiar with the "test" of giving something up. They fast from eating cookies, drinking alcohol or using foul language. Abstaining from meat, fasting on Good Friday / Ash Wednesday and even making more time for prayer is no easy task; others nearly embrace the challenge. Ultimately, the rituals of Lent seek to deepen our relationship with Christ and bring hope to our brothers and sisters in need. What a beautiful invitation...what a wonderful way to live.
As coaches, we demand discipline—physical, mental and even spiritual discipline from our athletes. They expect it from us. This truth has given me pause to ask: How can I integrate the practices of the Lenten season into my own season? What might be a way for the athletes on my team to bring hope to those in need? I have an answer: Lenten Boxes.

I have to give credit to St. Benedict's Young Adult Group (of St. Thomas More Parish in San Francisco), Their e-news describes what you can do. It says:

Lent encourages us to think about self-sacrifice, giving things up, renewing our faith, and strengthening our relationships with God and others. How are you doing this during the Lenten season? What are some Lenten sacrifices that you are making? 
We are inviting all of you to participate in our Lenten Box Project. To participate we ask that you place items in a box to give to an individual who may be in need. We ask that your box be 8 x 14 x 5 inches-- roughly the size of a typical shoebox, or if you do not have a shoebox, then a gallon size bag. 
Here are some examples of items that you can place in the box or bag:
  • Toiletries (i.e. toothbrush/toothpaste, bar of soap, travel sized shampoos, razor, floss, hand sanitizer, feminine hygiene products, etc.)
  • Clothing (i.e. T-shirt, socks, gloves, etc)
  • Religious items (i.e. prayer cards, Rosary, candle)
  • Activities (i.e. book, coloring page/pencils, sudoku, mandala, etc)
Please note that you do not have to include all of these items, these are just suggestions! We encourage you to be creative (feel free to decorate your box) and to think about what you can give up and provide for others during this Lenten season. These boxes will be donated to individuals in need throughout San Francisco.   
Sports and Spirituality Lenten Box
This project could easily be modified to reflect the unique personality of any team.
The Tennessee Men's Golf team completes their own type of box project: to serve those affected by forest fires.

I would start by inviting my athletes to use the shoe box from their favorite pair of athletic shoes. For some, this might actually be a small sacrifice, but that is precisely the point. The shoes and the sport are the gift, the box is an immaterial, material good. If they do no have this box, they can decorate their box with images of their sport. Maybe they have stickers by the  brands for the gear that they use. Maybe it's a badge that comes with membership (e.g. USRowing, USGA). They can decorate these at home or together. Depends on the dynamic of your team.

Inside the Sports & Spirituality Lenten Box

  • Toiletries (i.e. everyone needs sunscreen and even an SPF lip balm. Many of the teams I have coached share these items liberally; they can however, be quite costly. Some athletes need Advil or Alleve for pain relief; these over the counter drugs might be sincerely appreciated. Additionally, hair ties will never go to waste!)
  • Clothing (might come in the form of what you wear for your sport—a dri-fit shirt or shorts? athletic socks are necessary, hat or visor that you like, etc. Many teams print their own shirts, separate from their uniform, that includes your team's motto. By including this gear, invite your athletes to consider this act of giving as an opportunity to share the spirit of your sport, your team).
  • Religious items (i.e. I have a prayer card made for my team at the beginning of the season; if you make one as well, include your team's prayer card. Maybe your team has a unique candle or one that has the logo of your school).
  • Activities (i.e. book, in particular one that you have enjoyed as it relates to your sport, maybe your team has a favorite activity that does not require electronics, like playing cards. Include a new deck of cards).
  • Anything else you might like to receive...Every team I have ever been a part of has favorite snacks, as far as my athletes are concerned, these are a must for the Lenten Box.

It is a true privilege to give. While giving may—at times—feel like an obligation, when we give in a creative and personal way it feels much more like an act of love. Lent does indeed call us to make sacrifices, coaches may have to sacrifice practice time to make the Lenten Box Project happen. Athletes may need to make sacrifices to acquire the items that go into their box. But St. Francis has told us in his prayer, "It is in the giving that we receive." Yes, we are privileged to give, what athletes may gain in the process of giving and seeing one another give is a greater gift.

Photo Credits
UT Vols

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