Lodigiani Soccer School

Conditioning for Body & Soul
by Benjamin Greene | Source: Virtue's Clues

Nearlyfivehundred youth from the ages of eight to sixteen make their way through the narrow historic streets of the ancient Roman Empire to the Lodigiani soccer school for the afternoon soccer practice. Their training is not a Navy Seal “Hell Week,” but neither is it a Sunday afternoon pickup game. These athletes are serious about what they do. Like all soccer schools the players run laps around the field, skip through a rope as fast as they can almost as if they were playing hop scotch, dribble around cones, practice corner kicks, penalty shots and precision passing. The Lodigiani alumni drill four days out of the week for three hours. The kids finish dripping with sweat, lying on their backs panting like a greyhound after a sprint around the race track. After this gruelling training everyone is anxious to take a warm relaxing shower and arrive home in time for dinner, but they know that there is yet one more essential part of their training: the virtue talk.

Running behind a soccer ball trying to kick it into the goal is what a spectator sees of a soccer match, but the directors of the Lodigiani soccer school have a much more profound vision of the game. Brothers from the Legionaries of Christ seminary in Rome visit the soccer school once a week to speak to the kids about the many virtues they can form while playing soccer. Soccer is a great mentor for the many challenges that these kids will face throughout their lives.

Some of the virtues taught to the kids are: sacrificing oneself for the good of the team, discipline, team work, unity, motivational skills, communication, courage and sincerity. The coach also adds to the talk giving concrete examples of how the team could practice these virtues better or how they are already living these virtues. Their eyes are opened up to the reality that they can live virtue and have fun at the same time.

Each Saturday the kids at Lodigiani have a soccer match where they try to show off both the soccer skills they have mastered and the virtues they have learned, hoping to be recognized as a prospect for a professional soccer career. These fields where they practice saw players like Luca Toni and Francesco Totti grow into the magicians of the Italian soccer league. Although the odds are not in their favour—only 1 in every 1000 amateur players goes on to the professional level—each one of these kids and many of their parents have this same aspiration of greatness and glory. Not all of the Lodigiani soccer players aspiring to be seen on the televisions of the world scoring goals will achieve this, but they will be seen by those around them as players not simply trying to score goals, but striving to form virtue.

Questions or comments? Please, write to Fr. Nathan Miller, LC at nmiller@legionaries.org

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