Olympics and Spiritual Training

My husband and I were discussing how we can incorporate fun learning and maybe some virtue and habit training into the exciting time surrounding the Olympics. We both love watching world class athletes compete and our kids do, too.

We will keep track of medal counts for several countries as we have done in the past, but Mr. Incredible thought it would be a great opportunity to work on building good habits and virtues. So for each day the boys will be trying to earn two medals for their own chart: one for a fun, sporty event or craft and one for working on a specific virtue or habit. At the end, they will turn in their medals for a prize or a trip for ice cream.

The boys are fascinated with the idea that one person can claim the title “Fastest in the World” and wanted to know if they could run almost as fast. So we’ll go to the local track and time them running 100m just to compare to Usain Bolt. They may earn medals for making an Olympic torch or doing some form of shot put in the field. Maybe even writing a paragraph about the Olympics or practicing handwriting by making a list of the events. We’ll be making it up as we go. There are tons of olympic ideas for kids online. I found a lot of easy, creative ideas at activity village.

We’ll also think about certain habits and “spiritual” training. Perhaps you have heard of the idea of a particular examination of conscience. When we think over our day, our failures and our successes, it is sometimes tempting to say, “I’ll try to do better tomorrow.” Well, that is a great, but vague, goal. For me, it doesn’t really work. For starters, there are so many things I need to do better at that it’s hard to keep track of them all. Choosing one specific, concrete thing to work on can be a more effective tool to help us on the path to holiness.

When I’m training for a race, I don’t just say I’ll do some running. I have a plan, one day at a time. Some days are speed workouts, some recovery, others cross training or distance. But there is a plan. I may not always execute it well, but it is there. One concrete goal each day is really a step in the right direction: smiling when my children irritate me or not complaining. For the kids, it may be obeying cheerfully or keeping a room clean. While virtue is not technically a habit, by using our free will to make good choices we can help train ourselves to choose the good by making a concerted, concrete effort and begging for grace. And the reward is so much better than a gold medal: To be happy with God forever in Heaven.

“Do you not know that the runners in the stadium all run in the race, but only one wins the prize? Run so as to win. Every athlete exercises discipline in every way. They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one. Thus I do not run aimlessly; I do not fight as if I were shadowboxing. No, I drive my body and train it, for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.” 1 Cor. 9:24-27

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  • These are great suggestions. With our kids, for spiritual/character training this summer we have been focusing the older ones on taking initiative — they are very obedient, but now they need to learn to do the right thing without being asked. Medals might help!
    Also, don’t miss the new focus/respect for the US Paralympic team. I love seeing the attention they are getting in some of the ads. I know a young, visually impaired skier who is hoping to qualify for 2014 in Russia. Your boys and other children might be amazed to watch what some of the adaptive athletes are able to do, and how they do it.


  • Bethany “B-mama”

    Tex, I love the idea of associating all-star athleticism with character building. So many of the athletes show grace and prowess in their sport, but what about off the field? We can build mighty kids through character!

  • Kellie “Red”

    Agree on the taking initiative thing! I’m not sure I could ever motivate to do such an intense chart and keep track of it all! We use money as a motivator around here, it is amazing what the kids will do for loose change, haha! And I completely agree with your sentiments regarding setting a plan for spiritual goals. A lack of goals is often a problem for me too. Your post helped motivate me to talk with Mr. Red about setting some “hard breaks” in our day for prayer. I now have an alarm on my computer to remind us to pray the Angelus at noon, so there’s some progress!