I don’t know about you, but I’m sick and tired of athletes at all levels of sports in the news for a number of unlawful activities like sexual assault, armed robbery, D.U.I., drug possession, etc. It’s getting to point where some players are better known for their transgressions off the field or court than for their athletic talents.
Where does it all begin? What can be done to reverse this pattern?
I recently heard about a junior high school football coach, who not only instructs his players about the game, but is also molding them into virtuous young men. The coach is Brian Moscona of Holy Spirit Preparatory School, Atlanta. Moscona, a 2003 graduate of the University of Notre Dame, is also the lower school’s assistant principal.
Moscona arrived at Holy Spirit in 2006 after completing Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) program and one year of seminary formation with the Congregation of Holy Cross, the religious community of brothers and priests who serve and teach at Notre Dame. Moscona started the junior high school football program that same year.
It’s been a steady progression. The first season the team went winless. The second season they finished at .500 (3-3). Last year the team was undefeated at 8-0.
But Moscona is about more than wins, losses or ties. He is teaching his players the important lessons of discipline, humility, selflessness and working hard to be your best. “We emphasize both charity and humility. Yes, we are playing a physical game, but it should never be the intention of any player to hurt or to humiliate another person. Football is a great game and it is an arena in which we can cultivate virtue. We should strive to glorify Christ in all that we do, both on and off the football field. I encourage my players to strive to give God glory with our words and actions. Stepping onto the gridiron is not an excuse to forget about being holy and charitable,” says Moscona.
Two things occur at the end of every Holy Spirit practice. First, they say a prayer thanking God for the gifts in their lives. They also pray for their families, friends, and opponents. Then they implore the Intercession of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati and Mary, Our Queen of Victory. Secondly, they recognize "studs of the day." These are players Moscona and his coaches lift up as great models for their efforts that day in practice. It’s often for hard work, positive attitude, virtuous actions, overcoming mistakes, affirming teammates, etc. “This year we have allowed players to recognize one another as studs of the day. This is a powerful way of building up the players and creating a culture of affirmation and positivity,” says Moscona.
“Coach Moscona promotes virtuous character on and off the field. He expects us to avoid trouble in school, keep our grades up and be an example to others,” says eighth grade center and linebacker Andrew Vincent.
Nate Guyton, a second-year player who plays tight end and fullback, commented further about his coach. “He (Moscona) tells us to rise above the trash talk and the unsportsmanlike conduct. He wants us to become the type of Christian football player that ignores it and doesn’t allow such negativity to affect us,” says Guyton.
“The kids really respond to Coach Moscona. They see that he is a teacher on and off the field and they respect him. They know that his number one priority is forming them into successful young men, not just good football players. The players feel genuinely loved by their coach,” says Curtin.
"Virtue Boys" is an informal name that Moscona and his coaches began using last year when referring to the group of kids on the team who are frequently recognized as "studs of the day" for their virtuous actions during practice. They were seventh-graders at the time. This year the eighth-graders have been playing well, but their greatest contribution to the team is the way they consistently model virtue for the other guys. They play hard and live out the school motto, ‘To Serve, Not To Be Served.’ They set up before practice and clean up after practice. They are polite and respectful. They are good students in the classroom. They are prayerful, frequently attending daily Mass and making chapel visits during the day. They represent Holy Spirit Preparatory well and model what the younger guys should try to emulate.
Currently the team stands at 3-1-1. That puts them second in the divisional standings. The top two teams from each of the two divisions will make the playoffs. They need to win their next two games to be guaranteed a spot. If they lose both games, their season is over.
But win or lose, it’s hail to the virtuous!