By Molly McCarthy, Le Moyne College Office of Communication
Le Moyne College’s Jesuit identity is alive in the classroom – and on the basketball court, lacrosse field, and baseball diamond. On the Heights, athletic success isn’t just about statistics. It’s about the way that coaches lead and mentor 335 student-athletes; the community service projects that transform individual players into one cohesive team; and the way that fans and even competitors are treated when they arrive on campus. It’s also about the ways in which student-athletes choose to live their lives, long after they have graduated from Le Moyne.
With that in mind, the College has introduced Inside the L, a comprehensive program for student-athletes centered on the question: “What does a distinctly Jesuit intercollegiate athletic experience mean to you and what would it look like in action?”
Several years ago, members of the Le Moyne community, including student-athletes, coaches and parents, were asked to reflect on this question during a series of lectures and seminars, as well as team and individual meetings. Their goal was to translate the values most closely aligned with Jesuit education – e.g. being men and women for others, to strive for the more (Magis), and to find God in all things – into the daily activities of the Department of Athletics. It has since become the framework of what Matt Bassett, assistant vice president and director of athletics, calls a “deeply intentional, shared and sustainable culture” based on the most fundamental Jesuit ideals.
“Inside the L for me has become a vision realized,” says Bassett. “It is a stake in the ground that says, ‘This is what we believe in! This is what we are inspired by! We share a passion to live it! We are unwavering in our commitment to sustain it.’”
The idea for the program originated in 2010, when the members of the Board of Trustees were discussing how to best position the athletics program at Le Moyne. What resulted was a charge for the College to become a premier Division II athletic program in the Jesuit tradition in a way that was more intentional. Meanwhile, Bassett was in the midst of the Ignatian Colleagues Program, a national program sponsored by the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities to strengthen lay leadership through formation, with a focus on Jesuit mission and vision. Bassett and his colleagues across campus began to look at what a mission-led athletic program – one informed by Jesuit values – would look like in practice.
“At our core, what we are striving to do is to cultivate a shared and intentional culture centered on five tried-and-true Jesuit values of Magis [the more], cura personalis [care for the whole person], being men and women for others, finding God in all things, and working for social justice,” Bassett says. “Then, we are taking those values and translating them into everyday actions.”
Le Moyne partnered with Matt Davidson, president of the non-profit Institute for Excellence and Ethics, to create Inside the L, a program launched in 2014 that is dedicated to providing students a transformational athletics experience rooted in nearly 500 years of Jesuit tradition.
When a recent survey found that 18 percent of student-athletes described their college experience as either “stressful” or “very stressful,” Le Moyne coaches and administrators began zeroing in on what they could do to alleviate that, whether it was impressing upon them the importance of rest (something many college students sorely lack) or providing them with more detailed and specific nutritional information (which they did with the assistance of the College’s food-service provider, Sodexo). In this way, student-athletes were encouraged to embrace the idea of Magis. And earlier in the academic year, they were led through a modified version of the Examen, St. Ignatius Loyola’s practice of prayerfully reflecting on the day in order to feel God’s presence and gain a sense of his plan for us.
Inspired by the Jesuit value of service, the Le Moyne Department of Athletics established a unique ticketing program through which fans are invited to make a donation to one of three charitable organizations during home games – Room2Smile, the Patrick Wiese Foundation and Pedal to Possibilities – all of which were founded by former Le Moyne student-athletes. Room2Smile was started by former men’s lacrosse team member Brandon Spillet ’05 to provide emotional support and other services to adults and children in the Syracuse, NY region who are living with cancer. The Patrick Wiese Foundation, established by Patrick Wiese ’14, a former member of the baseball team, seeks to raise awareness and funds to find a cure for cancer. And Pedal to Possibilities was created by Andrew Lunetta ’12 to connect individuals facing homelessness with cycling, providing them with exercise and companionship.
“The idea behind this project in particular is to impress upon the student-athletes the importance of serving others and their community, and that the person in need of help may be the person standing right next to them,” says Bassett.
For Madison Hahesy ’15, a graduate assistant coach on the women’s basketball team who was a guard on the Le Moyne squad, the idea of working every day to become not just a good athlete, but a good person, is the most valuable part of the program.
“I think the greatest strength of Inside the L is the emphasis on the development of the individual as a person, not just as an athlete,” she says. “Leadership, service, transformational love, and total care of each person are just a few pieces of Inside the L. Our commitment to these ideas as a unit demonstrates a deep care for individuals and for their well-being. To me, this says so much about Le Moyne, and what a very special place it is.”