Reliance on faith encourages athletes


Brittany Cornelison

[heading]Athletes of differing religions dig inside for strength, motivation[/heading]

religion-sportWhen it comes to sports, every athlete has to find motivation somewhere. The adrenaline alone motivates some, many the money or fame and others feel as though the sheer joy of winning is enough to keep them going. But in addition to these motivators, some devoted athletes find motivation in a power that is greater than themselves.

 Tim Tebow is a poster athlete for religion in the professional sporting world. Not only has he declared his faith by posting Bible verses in his eye paint, but also his physical act of “tebowing,” kneeling down and praying, has become known worldwide. Tebow took his devotion to his religion and was able to intermix it with his passion for football from a young age.
RBHS baseball player, senior Kyle Teter, believes in these same principles and uses religion as a motivator during his sporting career.
“Religion is the basis for everything, really. [My] passion for sports lies inside religion. I believe that God has given me talents and other people talents to do things to play sports. He lets me run, walk, throw a baseball and hit a baseball,” Teter said. “The passion for sports lies in the chance to glorify his name while playing the sport, because you can receive recognition for playing sports, but because he gave you the gift it’s better that people see him through [your] ability to play sports.”
Teter feels gifted by God in his athletic ability and said he wants to use that in his sporting performance daily. He has the freedom to do this here at RBHS because the First Amendment states there should be no law respecting an establishment of religion. However, there are some places in America that do not abide by this rule as closely as others.
In May 2013, cheerleaders from Kountze High School in Kountze, TX were banned by school officials from publicizing Bible verses on banners at a high school football game. This case was brought to court and . The Freedom with Religion Foundation claimed that this display of religious broadcasting violated the Establishment Clause which states that a school cannot support any one religion. However, in court, the cheerleaders won favor of the jury and continued supporting their football team with encouraging Bible verses.
This problem hasn’t occurred here at RBHS because students have the freedom and can to freely express themselves in any area that they so choose. Clubs such as Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Muslim Student Union and Bible Club promote students to speak out about their religion. In athletics, all religions are accepted as well because the religion of students range greatly because the diversity of the student body.
“We are definitely supportive in including all people, all faiths and religions and you know religion is very, to most people, very important and it’s the core of who they are,” head girls basketball coach Jill Nagel said. “So we definitely want to make sure that we allow them the freedom to express that as long as it’s within context.”
Senior Mubinah Khaleel is a part of Nagel’s basketball team as well as the track team. She was born into a Muslim family and taken part in the religious traditions since she was young. Though not forced, she continued to engage in religious practices. She enjoys being a part of the Muslim community and chose that way of life for herself. She plays on the girls basketball team as a forward and believes it is her faith that keeps her head clear and focused. When she needs relief, she said that she prays daily for her team and their success in order to call on God for peace and a good spirit.
“You believe that good things would happen and they usually will because you have that mindset, too,” Khaleel said. “Just believing in God and that he will help you through it, he puts you through tough times to see how you get over it, so you just gotta keep going through it.”
Athletes don’t rely on their faith just in the prosperous times, but through the difficult circumstances as well. Khaleel feels as though she relies much more on her faith when she is in a rough patch, asking God to help her get through it. Yet, she wishes she would have the same amount of reliance in hard times and when things are going well. When she is doing well, she forgets that she needs to thank God for providing her with success she said.
“It’s really bad, but when you do well you kind of tune it out a little bit,” Khaleel said, “but when you are doing bad you like bring the thought in more which is a good thing, but these things you should keep in your mind the whole time.”
Both Khaleel and Teter said they have been able to use their faith to help encourage others at one time or another. As a coach, Nagel said she sees that her team is made up of girls who are of various religions, and though they don’t all believe completely the same, she sees them discussing their different faiths amongst each other.
“We have different religions and faiths on the team right now ,and I would think, and if you’d ask any of the kids they would say, that they feel like they’re supported in their faith. And the kids are very [aware] that the person standing next to them might not have the same beliefs and the same faith but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be accepting and enjoy being around that person and learning something from them,” Nagel said. “Just this weekend I heard someone talking about different faiths and religions and asking different questions, you know, of different people. And I was very happy and excited to see that because they’re learning from each other, they’re not judging.”
Since RBHS has over 2000 kids, having a student body so large leads to a diversity in ethnicities as well as religions. These differences spark curiosity according to Khaleel. She is often asked about why she wears different clothing, such as a hijab and long sleeves, this hasn’t hinder her participation in sports and also gives her an opportunity to share her faith.
“Usually not many people of my religion do sports just because we have to cover up and everything so it’s just harder,” Khaleel said. “We have to pray five times a day and then we have, like, a month of fasting, too.”
But it’s not only the attire that makes these athletes stand out on the sideline. The actions and words of those who are religious stand out and reflect upon that person and their beliefs, Teter said.
“Religion is the basis for everything, but sports really gives you the chance to expand on that,” Teter said. “Some people are really good at speaking, they are really good at preaching and talking and for other people sports… that’s their voice. People can see you playing in a Christ-like manner which is not cussing and stuff when you’re playing or going all out for everything and not looking for recognition in your play. They [religion and sports] compliment each other greatly because there are just so many teachable moment in sports.”
The fact that there is a power greater than themselves behind everything they do,l is the driving force between most religious athletes. Though success and achievement may add to their motivation, Khaleel and Teter believe their faith is what pushes them to give their all.
“It gives you a purpose to play, it’s a purpose like your driving motive can be the district championship like it can be the titles, the recognition and stuff but really religion gives you that true thing to fight for,” Teter said. “Colossians 3:23 [says,] “whatever you do, work at it with all your heart as working for the Lord and not for men.” That’s a huge one and really just gives a focus to everything you do especially in sports.”