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Balancing Religion in Sports: Part 2

January 23, 2018


Sparkles and Sports talked to three additional women making waves in the industry who are also practicing members of their respective religions.


Mollie Hanke, Assistant Media Relations Director at Arizona State University and a practicing Christian (protestant/non-denominational)

Shannon Lynch, an original content producer on the social media team at Major League Baseball, and a practicing Catholic

Paige Cooke, the associate director of athletic communications at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, N.Y., and a practicing Catholic


How does your involvement conflict with your career in sports?


PC: “I can remember taking a trip to Texas for NCAA tournament women's soccer games and we ended up having to stay an additional night and we would be spending the entire day Sunday traveling. I was going to miss mass. I should have thought out the trip more and tried to plan to find a church for Saturday night, but I hadn't. I'm thankful that my faith preaches forgiveness - it's got a whole sacrament devoted to that. I went to DeSales University for undergrad and our patron saint St. Francis DeSales once said, "Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections but instantly set about remedying them - every day begin the task anew."


MH: “There has definitely been a fair share of Sundays over the years that I’ve had to miss due to home events or being on the road with teams. I would say in general, even outside of religion, is that “fit” of a job is really important. In my previous job, I had a lot more sports which equaled a lot more home events and traveling and, after a while, it just didn’t work for me anymore. Now, I have to miss a Sunday every so often but it’s a lot more sporadic.”


SL: “The sports schedule makes it very difficult to get involved with parish ministry of any kind, and it can also restrict my access to regular weekly Mass. I spend a lot of Sundays working because of the baseball schedule, and my shifts sometimes make it impossible for me to get to church on a Sunday.”


How do you mediate when you have conflicts between your career and your religion, whether the conflict is due to an event or your religious beliefs?


MH: “If at all possible, if it’s a home event, I will go to an earlier service of church before I have to be at work. While on the road, technology is a beautiful thing to sometimes be able to live stream a service. To me, though, it’s more about the relationship aspect of religion than the legalistic idea of going to church being the most important and something to ‘check off the list’. If I have to miss a Sunday for work, the main part that’s difficult is missing out on the community aspect with friends and church family.”


PC: “I believe trying to be flexible is key. Thankfully, my parish in Geneva, N.Y., has a number of mass times to choose from, which helps when navigating work schedules and the ability to get to church. We even have a mass later in the day on Sundays on campus which is a wonderful option for me. Sometimes I even get creative and figure out mass times in neighboring towns. I often navigate around my work schedule and when I do walk into the church, that's my time just for church.


“In my experience, communicating is also crucial. At first, it was a bit difficult for me to talk with my boss about taking a long lunch to get to mass, taking a half day on Good Friday to be able to go to the service at church, or leaving work a little early to make a board meeting at my high school. However, after having a couple conversations about it, we established an understanding that this is an important aspect of my life and as long as I'm getting my work done and managing my time, we are able to work out taking the time away from the office.”


SL: “Luckily at MLB, I work with people who practice a number of different religions, so we usually find a way to cover for one another when religious events or days conflict with our work schedule. For example, those of us who are Catholic or Christian take shifts during the Jewish holidays so our co-workers have the time to gather and reflect on their holy days, and they do the same for us on events like Christmas and Easter. I have never run into an issue at my current job where I was not able to take a leave for religious purposes if need be.”


What would you tell others who are struggling with balancing their religious beliefs and faith and their career in sports?


SL: “Basically, I think how we practice our faiths is just like any other aspect of our life - you get however much you put into it, and you make the accommodations you need to in order to practice your faith the way you choose to. There are Sundays I wake up right before I need to be at work, and I don't make the time for a church service, and there are other Sundays I get out of bed early to make sure I can get to both Mass and work. If I don't do both, I usually find other ways throughout the week to get in touch with God, whether that be saying a rosary or visiting a church on my own for some silent prayer and reflection.


“I think that working in sports can definitely make practicing your faith actively more difficult, but always know that there isn't one right way to practice what you believe. And don't be afraid to reach out to the people you work with to ask for some assistance in making time for your religious practices - while they may not be able to always accommodate your requests, most employers are always more than willing to help out where they can in terms of scheduling.”


MH: “I like being able to be at church and feel better when I can be and share in community, but I don’t think I’m any better or worse when I can or can’t go. I think you shouldn’t be too hard on yourself in that aspect. Technology is a great thing, being able to watch a service online while I’m on the road helps even if I miss the community aspect of church. Getting plugged into a community/life group if that exists is also a great option because you can still keep that community aspect when you can’t be there on a Sunday, hopefully seeing them during the week or at least keeping up via text or social media. Everyone’s faith journey is different but there are definitely ways to make both faith and a career in sports work!”

PC: “Keep on trying and don't give up. I believe that practicing your faith - no matter what faith that is - is a work in progress and so is finding any sort of balance in life with a career in sports. Plan, plan, plan and don't be afraid to share what's important to you with those you work with, especially a boss, when you're trying to navigate scheduling. You may even find someone who wants to share in this important aspect of your life!”

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