God on the playing field: Some athletes find solace in religion

Saylor Stottlemeyer, Head Features Editor

Whenever offensive left tackle competitor Carver Willis gears up to represent the Durango Demons in football, his body was always in the sport, while his mind is in prayer.

“God’s got this, it’s his plan. God’s got this, it’s his plan.”

During the November 10th game against Cañon City, the act of praying was able to calm Willis down, and helped him contribute to 49-21 win against the Cañon City tigers.

According to the Pew Research Center, 87% of people in the state of Colorado believe in some higher power and religion. The same follows with La Plata County and Durango.  With the athletic nature of Durango, religion plays a substantial role in many competitors in the community and at Durango High School.

Many students at DHS affiliate with a religion, and the FCA SWAG club (Fellowship of Christian Athletes Saved With Amazing Grace) at Durango High School is 1 of 17,783 worldwide.

The fellowship advisor, Justin Vogt has been involved with FCA since middle school, and believes that the club gives an outlet to study religion in the stress of High School Athletics.

“It is a really great organization that can involve all kinds of students and athletes looking to find their spirituality,” said Vogt.

Vogt continues to elaborate on his personal experiences in athletics where he used God to help him get through the tough times in games and rough seasons.

“I believe that faith in my lord and knowing that He truly has a purpose for me and my athletes give me and other believes a sense of extra confidence and peace throughout a contest or season,” said Vogt.

SWAG member and DHS Sophomore Carver Willis thinks that his religion grounds him before his games, and gives a sense of accountability on the playing field.

“I pray for the safety of me and my teammates and that we can do well. This just calms me down. Also, I have never been injured in a game due to God’s grace,” said Willis.

Ariel Peña, a student at Cottonwood Classical Preparatory School in Albuquerque, New Mexico, is a christian athlete that competes in Cross-Country, Swimming, and Track & Field. While she has her religion guide her team and races, she also believes that everyone is the same when it comes to the starting line.

“I feel like my religion helps me push myself, but I don’t feel any more confident or feel like I have more purpose than others. People of any religion act the same on the track or course. Honestly, we all just want to be done with the race,” said Peña.

On the other hand, an anonymous student at DHS gives the opposing perspective that religion shouldn’t be a firm basis for athletics. They understand that while there is a correlation for some athletes, there isn’t a performance difference between the non-religious and religious competitors in a race or on the field.

“While putting faith in God might work for some people in athletic competitions, I think athletics should be based around the training that you put in and your hard work and effort, not a divine intervention.”

DHS Freshman Ruth Holcomb competes in Cross-Country and Track & Field, and believes that there is a correlation for some athletes and some sports, but personally, she doesn’t align with a particular religion.

“I think that it is great to have people that have religious beliefs, but other than that I don’t think that religions have a place in the playing field and in athletics,” said Holcomb.

Whether there is a correlation between religion and athletics or not, the DHS athlete pools conflicts point-of-view on the subject. Christian athletes typically claim that the correlation is unmistakable, while non-religious athletes typically are incredulous of the concept.

“God gives us all free will to believe in Him or not. I cannot judge anyone based on their belief or non-belief. I have known and coached great players that are both religious and non-religious,” said Vogt.

Both sides are represented at Durango High School, and the healthy and fit qualities of Durango lead to many students and community members to align their religious affiliation with their athletics.

Christian football player Dawson Marcum thinks that it is easy to be negative, and it is God’s challenge to remain positive through hardships. Marcum poses the following question to all non-religious athletes:

“If you’re not living for someone like God…what are you living for?” said Marcum.