Story by Tess Wahlmeier
(SNR) - Pressure. Perseverance. Balance. Failure. Teamwork. Victory.
These are experiences every athlete knows well. What’s surprising, perhaps, is how often the same experiences appear in one’s faith life, as well.
For Varsity Catholic director Thomas Wurtz, athletic formation and faith formation go hand in hand. Wurtz’s new book, “Compete Inside: 100 Reflections to Help You Become the Complete Athlete,” builds off the lessons learned on the field and court – lessons of perseverance, of failure, of success, of virtue – and teaches athletes how to develop their faith in the same ways.
“There is so much mirroring in our faith and athletic lives,” Wurtz said. “It shouldn’t be a dichotomy. There are practical ways you can integrate the two, and there’s a great benefit one has for the other.”
Wurtz wrote "Compete Inside" to encourage Christian athletes and help them see the connections between their faith and athletics. The book offers reflections, scripture passages, and discussion questions to help athletes develop and integrate those two areas of their lives. Wurtz said he hopes high schools and universities use "Compete Inside" as a tool to help form their athletes as Christians, whether by parents leading their children through discussions, coaches leading their students through reflections, or captains leading their teammates through their example.
A former athlete himself, Wurtz understands the unique needs and challenges that student athletes face. He played football for a year at the University of San Diego before transferring to Benedictine College. After graduating, he became a missionary for the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS). Six years later, he said, his desire to do something for athletes led him to FOCUS founder, Curtis Martin. With Martin’s help, Wurtz launched Varsity Catholic, a division of FOCUS geared toward student athletes, at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2007. Varsity Catholic is now active on 15 college campuses throughout the United States.
Sharing your faith with your teammates. Serving others. Saying a prayer before a game. Offering up the pain for a special intention. Training your body in order to train your will. These are all ways to Compete Inside, and Wurtz’s book reflects on still more.
Wurtz said, “The Lord has given us the gift to walk, the gift to run, the gift to breathe, and we can take this ability to be an athlete and share all of that in a way that glorifies God.”