Spiritual lessons learned in the weight room
January 3, 2022
Jesuit Brother Patrick Douglas, powerlifting coach at Creighton Preparatory School in Omaha, has discovered that lessons learned by weightlifters can apply to other areas of life as well, especially the Christian life.
Student Broc Evitch, a captain on Prep’s powerlifting team and a record-breaking lifter, has gleaned his own insights through his experience.
Both powerlifters shared their thoughts with the Catholic Voice.
Brother Patrick, a Creighton Prep alumnus who has been lifting weights for 25 years and who works in vocations for the Midwest Province of the Society of Jesus advises:
DON’T BE AFRAID TO FAIL
“I think there’s a lot of pressure on young people not to fail, both high school and college kids,” he said. “I think the pressures are very real. I’ve told my boys before practice that we’re not afraid to fail.”
“We’ve all missed lifts before – all of us. We’re not afraid to do that because we’re trying to push ourselves to do the most weight we can. And when we fail, our body comes back and gets stronger from that, just physiologically. Our bodies get stronger from having put themselves under that stress.
“Now, we do it intelligently. If you’re a 250-pound bencher, you might go for 260, but you’re not going to go for 400 pounds. You’ll get hurt. But just a little bit more, and that’s going to trigger the response to get stronger and grow,” Brother Patrick said.
“Failing’s not something to be afraid of. We come back stronger physically and mentally from failing. The biggest problem is giving up.
“I’ve told my lifters before,” the coach said, that whether or not they could reach a certain weight goal, “I’m proud of you. Don’t give up on yourself, don’t quit on yourself. Have the courage to step up to a weight that you’ve never tried before.
“That can be scary, but that really translates into all parts of your life.”
Weightlifters progress slowly but surely, Brother Patrick said.
“That can do a lot for confidence outside of the weight room. I mean, I love lifting weights, but really it’s the effect of believing in yourself, trying something, even though you’ve never done it before, and succeeding at it, even just succeeding by having the courage to try it. That translates to all kinds of great things outside of the weight room.”
BECOME A SPIRITUAL SPOTTER
Spotters are essential in a weight room. They stand ready to catch the weight in case a lifter fails, thus keeping the lifter safe.
“What’s common is that spotters are always positive,” Brother Patrick said. “Spotters are always saying things like ‘You can do it!’ ‘Come on, one more!’ ‘Come on, get it!’’
Spotters are even encouraging to strangers, the Jesuit has found.
“So as a challenge, I often ask students: How can we be spiritual spotters for other people? Imagine what that would look like if you talk that way to other people outside of the weight room. ‘Hey, good luck on your test today. You’re gonna be great! You’re going to do it!’
“Or talk to that friend who’s struggling right now. Bring our faith outside of the chapel and into the world.”
“Imagine what this would look like if we took this out of the weight room,” he said. “I think we could all be better at it.”
At individual competitions, “I always pray before I compete,” said Brother Patrick, a world record-holding powerlifter. And often he finds others to join him.
“We get a lot of the same guys at the world championships, and we’ve been there the last four years. So every time, we seek each other out, and we pray together before we compete against each other. … This year there was about five or six of us.”
Likewise, he prays with his high school team. They don’t ask for a win, he said. Instead they pray for safety for the spotters, lifters and those who load the weights – and more.
“I often mention that God’s given us many gifts, one of which is lifting and being strong, but we do have many gifts, and we pray to use those gifts to the best of our ability, for the greater glory of God.”
Broc, a senior at Creighton Prep and another world record-holding powerlifter, adds:
KEEP THE BIG GOAL IN MIND
See the big picture, know what you want to attain and take steps toward those goals. That would include Heaven and “how you act that out in your life,” Broc said.
“You have to strive for something.”
BRING ALONG OTHERS
Darleene Evitch, Broc’s mother, said she sees how her son thinks of others, even prioritizing them, while meeting his own goals.
For his powerlifting team at Prep, Broc has recruited dozens of teammates and has taken the time to help them individually.
“I think of it as, I didn’t get to the spot I’m at without other people helping me,” Broc said. “So I want to be that person for other people, to help them achieve their goals.”
Powerlifting can be a lifelong gift, his father, Chris Evitch, said, something that can benefit those teammates for years to come.
“Grit is very important,” in both physical and spiritual matters, Broc said, “having that edge to yourself, to push yourself further.”
In weight lifting and other areas of life, people need to realize that pain is sometimes necessary “to grow and get stronger,” he said.