It is a widely held belief that participation in team sports is beneficial to adolescents, and at Xaverian, we certainly agree. We see the physical, social, emotional, and academic benefits in our student-athletes year after year. However, we also sometimes see student-athletes who tie their identity to their sport in a way that downplays other valuable character traits. When this happens, they are at risk of a weakened self-image, especially when the game doesn’t go their way or when their playing days are over.
In our current sports-infused culture, the allure and idolization of athletes is all around us. Therefore, it is not surprising when we see adolescents defining themselves by the sport they play. While healthy participation in athletics is great on many levels, all athletes will one day experience the pain of no longer being able to play their sport, whether through cuts, injury, or other circumstances. Then what?
Here at Xaverian, we believe that each young man is much more than the sport he plays, and we try our best to help him realize that. We remind our student-athletes that they are more than a goalie, a pitcher, a runner, or a linebacker. Why? Because sports are what you do. Your character is who you are.
If a young man defines himself by his sport (something he does) rather than his character (who he is), then any bad play, blunder, or loss can feel like a judgment of worth instead of what they are...a very common occurrence from which he can learn and grow. It can cause a season-ending injury to become devastating to a student-athlete’s sense of self. And, while we’re incredibly proud of the high number of Hawks who go on to compete in college (roughly 23% of Xaverian’s Class of 2019 athletes went on to play at the NCAA level, compared to the national average of 6.2% reported by the NCAA), the truth is that for the majority of high school athletes, both here at Xaverian and elsewhere, a college or pro-sports career likely isn’t in the cards. So when a student-athlete’s playing days come to an end, it’s important that he appreciates that he is much more than his batting average.
Who is he? He is all of the things that his family and friends love, whether that’s someone who is compassionate, creative, funny, someone who puts the needs of others before himself, a leader, or a peacemaker. These character traits endure long after his playing days have concluded.
That said, at Xaverian we believe the opportunity to participate in athletics is a healthy and rewarding facet of education. We are proud that in any given year, more than 75% of our students are on an athletic team, whether it’s football, ultimate disc, or any of the 17 sports available on campus. We provide non-cut sports at our Francis Xavier Division level (grades 7 and 8) because we believe every student deserves the chance to be on a team (just last year we had four FXD basketball teams to accommodate every young man who wanted to play). Through team sports, student-athletes learn humility, leadership, teamwork, perseverance, and grit. Additionally, student-athletes must be organized and possess the ability to prioritize in order to balance rigorous academic demands with a busy athletic schedule. These characteristics, skills, and lessons will serve them throughout their lives.
With state-of-the-art facilities, talented and dedicated coaches, enduring personal relationships formed between coaches and athletes, and high expectations of good sportsmanship, the Xaverian athletic program has become well known for its state championship winning teams and famous alumni who have “gone pro.” It’s certainly a point of pride, but what we’re even more proud of are the incredible men our student-athletes become...incredible fathers and husbands, community leaders, executives, soldiers, politicians, musicians, engineers, and much more.
Understanding that you are so much more than the sport you play contributes to a healthy sense of self. It helps students keep sports in perspective, through all of the big wins, the tough losses, and everything in between.