To the Venerable Brother
Cardinal Stanisław Ryłko
President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity
I give you my cordial greeting and to all the participants in the International Study Seminar on the topic “Coaches: Educating People”, organized by the Church and Sport Section of the Pontifical Council for the Laity. Continuing in your path of reflection and promotion of human and Christian values in sports activity, in this fourth Seminar you have opportunely taken into consideration the figure of the coach, putting the accent on his role of educator, be it in the professional or amateurish environment.
All of us, in life, are in need of educators, mature, wise and balanced persons that help us grow in the family, in study, in work, in the faith. Educators that encourage us to take the first steps in a new activity without having fear of the obstacles and the challenges to be faced; that spur us to surmount difficult moments; that exhort us to have confidence in ourselves and in our companions; that are at our side be it in moments of disappointment and loss be it in those of joy and success. The sports coach, especially in Catholic environments of amateurish sport, can become for many young people one of these good educators, so important for the development of a mature, harmonic and complete personality.
The presence of a good coach-educator is revealed providentially especially in the years of adolescence and early youth, when the personality is in full development and in search of models of reference and identification; when the need is keenly perceived of appreciation and esteem on the part not only of contemporaries but also of adults; when the danger is more real of being lost behind bad examples and in the search for false happiness. In this delicate phase of life, the responsibility of a coach is great, who often has the privilege of spending many hours a week with young people and of having great influence on them by his conduct and personality. The influence of an educator, especially for young people, depends more on what he is as a person and the way he lives than what he says. Therefore, how important it is that a coach be an example of integrity, of coherence, of good judgment, of impartiality, but also of joy of living, of patience, of capacity to esteem and of benevolence to all, especially the most disadvantaged! And how important it is that he be an example of faith! Faith, in fact, always helps us to raise our gaze to God, not to absolutize one of our activities, including sport, be it amateurish or competitive and thus have the right detachment and wisdom to relativize the successes or the failures. The faith gives us that look of kindness on others that makes us overcome the temptation to over inflamed rivalry and aggressiveness; it makes us understand the dignity of the person, also of the one less gifted and disadvantaged. In this connection, the coach can give a very precious contribution to create a climate of solidarity and inclusion in dealing with marginalized young people in risk of drifting socially, succeeding in finding appropriate ways and means to bring them also close to sports practice and to experiences of socialization. If he has human and spiritual balance, he will be able to persevere in the genuine values of sport and its fundamental nature of game and of socializing activity, impeding its perversion under the pressure of so many interests, especially economic, today increasingly invasive.
Therefore, the coach can be a valid formator of young people, beside the parents, the teachers, the priests and the catechists. However, every good formator must receive a solid formation. It is necessary to form the formators. Therefore, it is opportune that you Seminar appeal to all the organizations that operate in the field of sport, the international and national federations, the lay and ecclesial sports associations to give due attention and to invest the necessary resources for the professional, human and spiritual formation of coaches. How good it would be if in all sports, and at all levels, from the great international competitions to the tournaments of the parish oratories, young people found in their coaches authentic witnesses of life and of lived faith!
I pray to the Lord, through the intercession of the Holy Virgin, that your work of these days may be rich in fruits for the pastoral of sport, and that Christian holiness will continue to be promoted also in this environment, in which so many young lives can be reached and transformed by joyful witnesses of the Gospel. I ask you, please, to pray for me and I bless you affectionately.
From the Vatican, May 14 2015
Feast of Saint Matthias, Apostle