Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
March 8, 2010
Faith at the core of Saints Basketball
Coach leads Vegreville junior girls team on path of prayer, service
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
VEGREVILLE - During a road game Feb. 25 in Sherwood Park, Vegreville's St. Mary's Saints trailed 37-11 at halftime. The final score was 63-19 in favour of St. Theresa's Hawks.
Despite yet another loss for his junior girls team, and having little likelihood of making the playoffs, Saints coach Mark Kobelsky said that of his 13 years of coaching, this has been his most rewarding.
Kobelsky does not measure the success of his team by the scoreboard. Rather, his team motto comes from St. Jerome: "Good, better, best. Never let it rest. 'Till your good is better and your better is best."
In other words, the team's underlying philosophy is never-ending improvement, striving to be better after the game than they were before.
"Development, progress and obtaining our maximum potential are how we define success. The effort is more important than the outcome of the contest. We are striving to develop champions on and off the court," said Kobelsky, who teaches religion, applied math and science at St. Mary's.
When his days of playing competitive basketball were over, he turned to coaching. Attending a religious education congress in Anaheim three years ago, his approach to coaching changed dramatically. He went to a youth day session on amalgamating sports and spirituality. From that day, Kobelsky viewed coaching as a ministry, and soon set up a spiritual action plan for his team.
"Like St. Paul, the scales fell from my eyes," said Kobelsky, "and I have been working more and more on having the faith component be a part of what we do in basketball."
God does not make us choose between him and basketball, music or other activities. On the contrary, he said, God asks that he be a part of those pursuits. He would like to see faith permeate everything at school, from sports to drama.
Twenty-three girls in Grades 7-9 signed up for the Saints and none were cut. This proved difficult in a game where a team can only send five players onto the court at once. As time went by, however, girls quit for various reasons, and the team was down to 16.
Not only does Kobelsky have a no-cut policy, he also guarantees every girl gets playing time. His view is that if every player does her best, they will be at their best collectively, and the wins and losses will take care of themselves.
The players pray together before every practice and game. They have arranged to pray with opposing teams after games.
In the past three seasons, no player has received a technical foul or displayed unsportsmanlike conduct.
Kobelsky approves the music played at practices and before home games. He allows them to play Christian music, appropriate pop songs and Christianized versions of secular songs.
"I found it contradictory that you're playing for St. Mary's and you have a song about shake this and wiggle that - it doesn't match."
While sports carry significance, it is not the highest priority of Kobelsky and his players.
"I came up with the Four A's. Academics are first. Attitude is second, attendance third, and athletics is the last criteria. The lessons learned on the court, those lessons can be transferred into our personal lives," he said.
The life lessons taught on the basketball court include handling pressure, handling constructive criticism, and showing fortitude in times of difficulty.
A mentor for the team is Father Josaphat Tyrkalo, pastor of Holy Trinity Ukrainian Catholic Parish in Vegreville. He led a special Mass for the community's coaches and athletes on Jan. 18. He blessed everybody in attendance.
The team also takes on service projects. The last two years they were servers at the parish's annual pyrogy supper fundraiser. This year the team partnered with NAIT to raise money for breast cancer research. The Saints raised $1,126 of the $4,000 total.
Copyright © 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 -- Western Catholic Reporter
Our mission: To serve our readers by bringing the Gospel to bear on current issues in the Church and in secular culture through accurate news coverage and reflective commentary.