Family is the core of success in sport. Commonly in the workplace the words “family” are engrained. My husband Jack and I have worked in the National Football league for 31 years and are parents to four now grown adult elite athletic children. Through our 30 years of marriage we have found sport and family are successful through maintaining balance between work ethic, success, quality not quantity of family time, and a commitment to live a life that is significant. Passion, and an undeniable call to inspire and rise to one’s full potential is essential. Athletes, coaches and their families, must love what they do and be rooted in the culture. Sport enables us to obtain the dream of greatness in the vocation and gift given by the Creator. Joy, and prayer without becoming weary are lessons we live by and have taught our children to embrace where they are in the present moment. It is hard work, we remain firmly committed to finishing with adult children who love God and know that serving and loyalty to others is the victory. An athlete cannot fast in the nutrition sense, but fasting in sense of sacrifice leaves us transformed and enlightened in the mission and platform of sport, family and faith. In our homes like never before, it takes great courage and humility to rid ourselves of fear of failing, and darkness. Love is the answer. The family has been the tie that binds.
Our son Luke is an elite athlete who trains extremely hard, early one morning in my prayer time I knew he was riding his scooter in the dark at 5am to train. I felt he was tired but knew his commitment and sacrifices he had made for his dream of Quarterback at a high level collegiate football team, so I sent him a text that read “The fire in your soul burns even when you are resting. When you pray it is the same fire that stokes your soul just as your body warms up in preparation for the competition on the field. God prepares your soul through prayer in the same way. Prayer is the same except internally spiritually. 10,000 angels be with you today. love and God bless”. He responded immediately, “Thanks mom, I really needed that this morning”. Grace is there, as it has been and will be for so many athletes, coaches and families that practice faith and are in tune with the holy spirit. My husband and I embrace and engage with our coaching staffs and player families. We are a discreet yet essential part of their sport lives.
With promotion comes responsibility, obligation, and commitment to these families we hire in coaching and as parents of athletes. We strive to grow the culture of an organization infused with an expectation of character and fine virtue working to encourage them to give back, show and give mercy, serve in the community and find ways to develop the tools and processes needed. The culmination of these factors result in more wins, and media coverage that reflect sport in the light of the intent that the sport platform substantiates.
In today’s fast paced sport world organizations and athletes are savvy in social media, and it has changed the culture and has become a great and powerful tool for evangelization and influence. Media loves conflict, but prepared, researched, well equipped organizations, athletes, and their families that are grounded in faith have fewer distractions in the world of media relations.
Families in sport move frequently. Through these moves my husband and I have taught our children to embrace the greatness of each city and get involved. We have moved 40 times in our career of sport, you bring very little because you need very little. We accomplished raising well -rounded children that love and need one another. They know from playing sport that life is something greater than self. Attachment to earthly things is wasteful, mercy is poverty in spirit, and having less is freeing. Children learn to love, to respect, and to forgive us as parents if we fail.
Every year my faith has grown because of sport and I am grateful. As a mother and wife in professional sports, I am most often excluded, not greeted or rejected by well-meaning fans. It has given me the opportunity to grow in mercy and humility. And each moment it happens I recall that no one opened the door for Mary who was about to give birth and I imagine her anxiety and fear was overwhelming. Labor requires pain, there is no better reality than pain to teach you love. Faith in sport is transformed through the love and strength of the family and this kind of love sustains, restores, and helps us persevere through the moments of uncertainty. The spiritual, psychological, and physical benefits that come from the practice of sport is beauty in the witnessing of team over time. Witnessing the young athletes strong virtue after a loss at peace and in harmony with the will to practice, train and be better the next day is astounding.
Any place can be a house of God or worship space. Many sporting events are usually played on weekends, it is necessary for the health and balance of our players, coaches and families. The athlete trains and learns the tools needed to build his physical body. Jack and I know that the body is not complete without a healthy passionate soul, integrity, and a champions’ spirit. We have provided mass and worship spaces in hotel meeting rooms, in homes, in the organization building meeting rooms, in church basements, on airplanes and anywhere we could find space. Our teams and children pray before and after games. Character and virtue and the support of family in sport is the key foundation to success and balance in mind body and soul. It is the element that transforms sport into the powerful platform of evangelization for faith and family.
*Linda Del Rio, wife of Oakland Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio, is President of ExVotos Communications, LLC, and an accredited photographer. She serves as Vice President of The Jack Del Rio Foundation. Linda also serves as FOCUS Varsity Catholic’s Executive Consultant.