The Christophers: Football Coach Teaches Cardinal Virtues


Fr. Ed Dougherty, M.M.,

 

Sports are such an integral part of American life, and team sports, where many people learn how to operate under pressure and direct their energies towards the greater good. But we are only assured of imparting the deepest lessons to be learned in sports when we teach those lessons in an intentional way. Catholic University of America Head Football Coach Mike Gutelius has been teaching life lessons in an intentional way ever since taking charge of the CUA program in 2016. Gutelius graduated from CUA in 1992 and went on to enjoy a long career in coaching before returning to his Alma Mater. Reporting for CNA, Joe Bukuras writes, “Now in his 30th year of coaching, Gutelius has instituted a program in which he teaches the Catholic University Cardinals the cardinal virtues: prudence, justice, temperance, and fortitude.”

“There’s a glory to be had if you’re willing to sacrifice,” Gutelius told Bukuras, adding, “Football players in general, they have that Don Quixote internal sense of wanting to go fight against something. They’re ready to battle. No one today is pointing young men towards where the battlefield is. The battlefield is inside of each of us.”

These are truly visionary words that should be heeded and emulated by every coach who cares about utilizing their program to build character. So much of sports culture today seems to view character building as a given and also as secondary to the goal of winning. But building character in the right way is not a given of participation in sports. Building character is not just about teaching people how to achieve, it’s about teaching them what exactly we should be striving for outside of the game itself.

With the right approach, all the smaller lessons pertaining to the game can translate into larger lessons about life. The effort young people put into training and competing can translate into the self-discipline inherent to cultivating virtue. A stark dichotomy exists between those whose sports experience simply teaches them how to conquer in a worldly sense and those whose experience teaches them how to conquer themselves and gain the self-mastery inherent to the cardinal virtues that Coach Gutelius teaches his Cardinals. Cast in this light, we can see a struggle at play over the direction our country’s sports culture will lead us, and Catholics can play a big part in directing that culture towards cultivation of the kind of true character that builds joyful young people, capable of pursuing honor in service to those they love and to the common good.

So if you know any great high school football players, tell them about Coach Mike Gutelius. I’m sure he would value their contributions on the CUA football team. What’s more, they might be provided the chance of a lifetime to grow into the men God wants them to be.

CUA Athletic Director Dr. Sean Sullivan certainly appreciates Coach Gutelius’ efforts to form young men into, not just great football players, but great men. Summing up the importance of the wisdom Coach Gutelius imparts to his players, Sullivan said, “It can be difficult for any developing student-athlete to recognize the critical nature of making the right decisions off the field when so much of their focus relates to how to excel on it. However, Coach Gutelius consistently reinforces to his players how they must think beyond the immediate, the here-and-now, to position themselves through sound decision-making which will enable them to lead a life of virtue and of consequence.”

 

For free copies of the Christopher News Note GET YOURSELF SPIRITUALLY FIT, write: The Christophers, 5 Hanover Square, New York, NY 10004; or e-mail: mail@christophers.org


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