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Opinion

Christian athletes balance many aspects of life

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October 18, 2012

In this present day world, most of our lives are consumed by a fast-paced, stress-filled lifestyle. At times it seems we all take on more than we can handle and it is easy to feel alone. This is why, from my own personal experience, two of the most important things people need are support and community.

Two different groups that I have experienced in my life that emphasize the support of community and being there for each other are sports teams and Christian groups. Growing up as an avid sports fan and now growing in my faith the last couple of years, I have found myself wondering if these two groups with these shared similarities in their message can coexist in this world.

I came into this school year believing strongly that it would be easy for these two lifestyles to come together as one for myself. I have a weekly radio show where I planned to talk sports, but also give a Christian aspect about different groups around campus and present some UW-River Falls athletes that live a Christian life. I was not prepared for the negative attention I have received from this show. Only 10 minutes are given to the Christian segment, yet I have received two complaints in only four shows about how offensive it is for me to push religion on the radio, which was not my goal at all.

We live in a world where freedom of speech and freedom of religion are both heavily stressed. Yet it seems that freedom to express religion is being frowned upon. In the NFL Tim Tebow faced scrutiny last year for praying during games and talking openly about his religion. Other athletes said he had no place sharing his beliefs and that he should just worry about football.

Sports and religion used to go hand and hand easier. One of the greatest NFL coaches of all time, Vince Lombardi, has a famous quote that says, “Think of only three things: your God, your family and the Green Bay Packers-in that order.” If a coach were to tell his team that nowadays, it would be a big news story about how a coach tried to push Christianity onto his football team. It would surely be Tweeted about and the coach would have to defend himself.

Two athletes from UWRF that are great role models and have no fear about showing their faith are Falcons senior running back John Schimenz and women’s cross country and track runner Brianna Berthiaume.

Schimenz is the president of the Catholic organization on campus, the Newman Club. Through this organization he does a lot of community service projects like hosting a free lunch to all students at the Newman Center on Thursdays, and going on a Habitat for Humanity trip every spring. Schimenz said when he first came to campus as a freshman it was tough not knowing anyone. “It was hard not only as an athlete who some people are timid towards, but as a Christian not knowing who else had the same interests.”

Schimenz has come a long way and is now a starting running back who is open about his faith. He has taken a strong part in starting up a Bible study for athletes called “Athletes in Action.” He wanted to stress not only to fellow athletes but all students that, “there are others out there with the same beliefs, you do not need to be scared and you are not alone.”

Berthiaume is involved with the Intervarsity organization on campus as the communication coordinator. She added that time management is important. She loves being part of the team but said, “it is not about being a star runner for me, God is most important in my life.”
She is also planning on being a part of the “Athletes in Action” Bible study and for any students out there she wanted to tell them, “set a schedule, have a set time for everything and just keep a good balance in life.” Berthiaume said school and athletics are easier for her when she has given time for God.

It is athletes and fellow students like these two amazing people that help to give me hope. For people who have different beliefs, that is fine, but do not get down on people just for showing their faith.

College life can be tough and stressful, but no one has to be alone. Community is so important, and athletics and religion have shown me that. These two worlds are different in many ways, but their main message is the same and that is why I have no doubt they can coexist together.

Ryan Tibbitts is a freshman majoring in journalism. He loves all sports but obsesses over his Packers.

Comments

Christopher Gagne on 25 Oct 2012: Great article. Unfortunately it is so true. Christians face persecution in these ways, while other groups can openly express their opinions or views and if they are limited in any way, it is viewed as discrimination and maybe a violation of their Constitutional Rights. Why is limiting or persecuting the Christians faith any different. It's not! Christians need to take a stand for righteousness and let their voice be heard just as loud as the next group is allowed. The Christian Church needs to stand firm in their beliefs, walk them out daily, and not be afraid of persecution. Romans 8:31-39

Ed Martin on 23 Oct 2012: I'm a christian athlete at UW-Superior and first of all thanks for sharing this. Time is definetly a big struggle concerning managing school and sports but the beauty of sports is that it's a time to escape and tune out everything. For me personally, it allows me to focus on Jesus. So thank you Ryan. No matter what, it is so important to be ourselves. As Jesus said, "Let your light shine before men." God bless.

Kalene Weber on 23 Oct 2012: This article is so true! I go to a school where God and religion is stressed, but it shouldn't be stressed only at a religious school. Everyone should feel free to express their religion without being criticized! Great article Ryan Tibbitts!