Faith and Athletics

By Guest Blogger Judy Svendsen

Both faith and athletics have always been a huge part of my life.

Let me begin with the athletics. I grew up in Iowa where sports are a major part of life. I tried softball, and enjoyed basketball, though I was not very good. I gave up both softball and basketball by my sophomore year and discovered that it was running that was my true athletic calling. The elementary schools would come together for an all day meet every spring.  I ran pretty well and my running days began.


Alongside the development of my running, my faith journey was also beginning. In junior high I was involved with youth group. We had a great group!  My family was always having priests over for dinner, so they became a great support system and a tangible presence of the church. One family friend from our church was a great supporter when I got into high school — he always wanted to know how the running was going. In fact, all of my biggest supporters were associated with church. They were strong in their faith, and in teaching me how it was God who was the greatest supporter of all.

After my freshman year, I developed knee problems. I didn’t run well after that, but managed to stay on the varsity Cross Country team. I vividly remember the pain my senior year, crawling down the stairs to my bedroom after practice and praying to God that he would give me the strength to make it through my senior year. I had a poster hanging in my room with a runner on it. It said, “The race is not always to the swift, but to those who keep on running.” I made it through with God by my side.

The past 3 ½ years I have been a substitute teacher at Dowling Catholic, my alma mater. Faith and Athletics go hand and hand there.  I have seen it at pep assemblies, as the football team goes into Mass, and with the girls Cross Country team. The Dowling Catholic Girls Cross Country team is truly blessed. They are coached by Fr. Jim Kirby, a priest at one of the local parishes. He brings so much to the team! The girls start each practice by getting in a circle and praying together. One day a week they have a prayer service in the outdoor chapel. Daily they take time from practice to give time to God. It makes such a difference and gives a different feel to the hard work and team spirit — sports are meant to give us practice with life skills, and with l living your faith.

Raising them Right

Today, I find myself turning to my faith when it comes to our daughter’s running. Nicole had a great freshman year, but serious issues started to develop. Sophomore year was really challenging. Nicole’s a fighter and spent her year battling through these issues. I spent the year praying she wouldn’t pass out at the finish line, and that she would persevere.  I’ve put my faith in God and pray that after all the doctor visits, we’ll get this figured out. Time will tell.

But through the trials and disappointments of athletics, we can become better people and faith is what can get us through!

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