Spirituality instills confidence in athletes

Emily Pavlik, asst. sports editor

A crisp wind blew across the baseball field. The stands were quiet as the fans watched the pitcher dig his toes into the dirt, a small batter prepared to swing as he narrowed his eyes firmly at the ball. An eleven-year-old Chris Blaseos awaited in the dugout for what could be the final moments of his season.

Before the pitcher could release the ball, Blaseos took three of his fingers and drew a cross onto his jersey, praying his season wouldn’t end here. After his teammate hit the ball it flew sharply to the ground, rolled into the outfield, zipped through a fielder’s legs and let one of Blaseos’s teammates reach home plate.

Blaseos, a South sophomore baseball player, said he has always had a strong connection with his faith, but what happened during that baseball game strengthened his beliefs even further. Being Greek Orthodox, praying is an important part of Blaseos’s regular routine and applying it to sports came naturally for him. Before every game, Blaseos always does a small prayer before leaving the house, which he says creates a bond between only him and God.

“It impacts my performance in a positive way,” Blaseos said. “I know that God has my hand and I can play freely and let the chips fall where they may.”

Hafsa Rahman, sophomore track runner, follows the Islamic tradition of praying five times a day and reading the Quran, the sacred book of Islam. With the inspiration of her parents and love for God she applies her religion to track and field at South. Rahman claimed that completing a prayer before her races improves her performance, knowing God is on her side. A memorable moment for Rahman occurred while running the 400 meter sprint at one of her meets.

“I was really nervous because I did not do well in my previous race,” Rahman said. “I made a prayer to God that I would do better. I ended up with a [personal record] beating my time by six seconds.”

Junior Etor Agbenya, varsity football player, is a devout Christian who has also adopted the tradition of signing the cross before his games, giving him confidence to play hard. Agbenya said he has given thanks to God for allowing him to be an athlete and pursue his passions; it is one of the many things he is grateful for.

  “[God] is the reason why I’m still alive,” Agbenya said. “The reason why I’m able to do what I do in football.”

Sophomore Samantha Glaser, South soccer player, follows the religion of Judaism. Even though Glaser doesn’t perform religious rituals on an everyday basis, when it comes to soccer she enjoys applying her culture to her sport. When Glaser gets nervous before a big tournament she performs a small prayer to provide the feeling of preparation and hope for extra luck.

“There was one time where I prayed before a game,” Glaser said. “It was the first time I prayed before once in a while, and I ended up playing really well. I was proud of myself.”

Sophomore Natalie Brady, varsity Titan Pom, has also, as a Christian, always prayed by herself or with a close teammate quickly before a performance, giving her extra confidence to stand tall while dancing. Brady said the encouragement of her prayers during her performances reassures her confidence.

“Usually (I) pray to keep my teammates safe,” Brady said. “And that whatever happens, we will learn from it. I pray that all our hard work will be shown.”

These five student-athletes each follow different religions; however participating in sports has led all of them to include their faiths. Having that religious background for support is a stress reliever, Brady stated.

“I think it’s really important to see through dark and challenging times and how their religion helped them get back on their feet,” Brady said.