If you have been to daily Mass at Salpointe’s Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Chapel in the past few weeks, then you have probably seen an increase of students gathering in prayer. This is, in part, due to two athletic teams attending Mass as a team: rugby and softball.
Head Softball Coach, Amy Rocha, is an alum, Class of 1996 and a current parent of senior, Malaea Fraser '19. Coach Rocha was herself a softball player at Salpointe, under the leadership of Phil Gruensfelder, who is now Salpointe’s Athletic Director. It was Mr. Gruensfelder who encouraged his team to attend Mass together. “He showed me how important it was to go to Mass as a team to be connected with God,” Coach Rocha recalls. “This year, I was reminded to start that tradition again. It was something I looked forward to as a student. Even my teammates who weren’t Catholic would still share with us in that sacrament.”
Now, the softball team begins each week in Chapel as a team. They come together to refocus whatever is on their hearts towards God and achieve a common goal of success as a team. At Mass, Fr. Manu Franco-Gomez, O.Carm. will connect what they hear in the readings to their lives as athletes. In one homily, Fr. Manu expressed, “Softball is a vessel for God to work through.”
“At the end of the day that’s who you play for,” agrees Coach Rocha. She incorporates faith and moral development into every practice and game. “The team chemistry has started to bloom since they started going to Mass on Mondays,” she observed. “I can see them having a stronger connection with each other. It speaks volumes for being able to connect in God’s house. They’re playing for each other and not for themselves. They get it, why they’re together in this moment. They have a purpose and they value the time that they’re together. This year’s team is extremely special and I think it's because of the spirituality that you find here at Salpointe. These athletes are amazing examples of it. They truly try every day to walk in God’s path. Humility is so important as well. They’ve remained humble this entire season.”
“I really feel fortunate to be in a Catholic environment,” said Coach Rocha, “where I have the freedom to bring God and the Holy Spirit into my teachings on the field. I don’t ever fear it because I know that one of my tasks as a coach is to instill that in my players so that when they leave for college, they know that God is right there with them. There’s going to be a time when they will need to run to God. I value that Salpointe is opening their hearts in the classroom.”
The softball team also applies this mission to the spaces they use. Passersby will see the athletes picking up litter around the softball field. The teams themselves clean up the stadiums after every game and sweep out the dugout after every practice.
“We take pride in the campus. The coaches tell the team to never take it for granted to have such a beautiful place to come to,” Coach Rocha explains. She tells her team, “You need to have pride in the name across your chest. When you put on this uniform, you represent every Lancer. Everyone is connected. Your actions will reflect Salpointe. Everything you do, do with Lancer pride. Play like a Lancer. All the morals and values instilled in you at Salpointe, let them exude, so people know that Salpointe Lancers are full of heart and that we’re here to be amazing individuals.”
The Carmelites have a special connection with the softball team. Recently, Fr. Manu has been visiting their games and practices, but for a long time, Fr. Tom Butler and Br. Tom Conlon have been influential by bringing their Christ-centered presence to the team. “They bring a lightness to the air so that we can remain humble and full of gratitude.” Fr. Tom and Br. Tom have even travelled with the softball team to away games. At the beginning of each season, Fr. Tom will bless the softball field. “Seniors go around to each position on the field and bless them with holy water. This instills in the Freshman that this is what our program is about.”
Softball at Salpointe is truly a family experience for Coach Rocha. With her daughter on the team and her husband as an assistant coach, every afternoon is family time. Even her son enjoys coming to watch all the sports practices. “I cherish every moment with my daughter on the field,” said Coach Rocha. “I feel truly blessed to be able to have her in my story as a coach.”
The softball team at Salpointe exemplifies what it truly means to be a Lancer. Through their dedication to living out strong values, they improve their sport and team, but also the entire Salpointe community.
By Carissa Krautscheid