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Remember what you play for

| Friday, April 15, 2011

It seems the sun has come out at just the right time for Notre Dame students to compete for a cause.

Last weekend, hundreds of students ran in the Holy Half Marathon to support three local charities — Keenan Hall hosted their inaugural Keenan Klassic basketball tournament in memory of sophomore Sean Valero, interhall lacrosse teams participated in the Playing For Peace tournament for accord in Sudan and remaining teams in the Bookstore Basketball tournament continued to support the Jumpball charity, which benefits Jamaican children, with their play on the court.

The action continues this weekend as Notre Dame Special Olympics will host the first intercollegiate match in the history of Special Olympics when it takes on Northwestern on the soccer pitch at 1 p.m. Sunday.

Suffice to say, the only thing Notre Dame students like more then social activism and sports is the combination of the two.

As a Catholic university, Notre Dame’s Mission Statement challenges students “to create a sense of human solidarity and concern for the common good that will bear fruit as learning becomes service to justice.”

Our concern for this common good is not limited to the classroom or the service seminars we may participate in. The good we can achieve is magnified by the presence Notre Dame possesses outside the realm of social leadership.

By harnessing the Notre Dame name — and Notre Dame athletics — to bring awareness to areas of social concern, students are able to create an amazing response to the call to a common good, be it through basketball, lacrosse or running.

Sometimes, however, the message gets lost in the competition. We train for weeks for a half marathon, or we come up with a creative basketball team name, or we persuade our friends to arrive early at a soccer match for free giveaways — and the very purpose of the event fails to resonate in the excitement of the athletic event.

Yet we run, we play and we participate primarily to make the world a better place around us. The fun of doing so is icing on the cake.

Pausing to reflect on why we participate in these charitable athletic activities is not enough. It is admirable to give up a day for charity, regardless of the form of giving, but we have to realize that while the basketball game may end with a winner, and that there ultimately is an end to the Holy Half, there is no finish line to poverty, no final buzzer for war. These problems are among the most persistent opponents we face in the game of life.

The students of Notre Dame must remember to remain active with the charities, foundations and causes they support with their athletic talent (or lack thereof). It is good to play a game for peace, but it is truly great to follow up afterwards. The Playing for Peace lacrosse tournament last weekend, a continuation of a similar three-on-three basketball tournament in the fall, is a perfect example.

The follow-up does not need to be athletic — it just needs to be there. If you ran in the Holy Half, look to volunteer at the Center for the Homeless in South Bend. If you attend this weekend’s soccer match, perhaps in the coming weeks and months you will involve yourself with Best Buddies. The game may end, but the problems do not.

Most importantly, participate. Train for the Holy Half Marathon; come up with a crazy outfit for Bookstore Basketball. But don’t forget — you aren’t playing for yourself. You’re playing for a cause that began long before tipoff and won’t end with the final basket.

Because we have the ability to invoke incredible, positive change in the world.

Because we are Notre Dame.