BYU athletic teams honor sabbath

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    By CREIGHTON MCEWEN

    Maybe student athletes could handle more than they do. It’s not like they have enough to worry about with school, practice, family, travel and games. Well, Latter-day Saint BYU student athletes do handle more; they throw church and religion on top of the pile.

    With all that comes with being a member of The Church, the ward callings, the missions and the Sundays, LDS athletes at BYU have even more to think about than many other athletes at other universities.

    BYU athletic teams, in compliance with Church standards, do not practice or play games on Sundays. Teams forfeiting games, including national tournament games, have been well documented over the years. BYU’s rugby team has many times given up national championships because of its unwillingness to play on Sundays.

    The men’s basketball team plays all of its conference games on Saturdays and Mondays. A Sunday practice in between games would benefit the team. But head coach Steve Cleveland has no problem not practicing on Sundays.

    “For our team, a lack of Sunday practice has not had a negative impact at all,” he said. “It just forces us to do more on Monday. When you feel like you’re doing what you feel is right, then we’ll feel better about ourselves, and, consequently, I think we’ll play better.”

    Fortunately for the team, many of the Cougars’ games on Mondays don’t start until later in the evening, giving Cleveland more time on Mondays to prepare his team.

    “Now, would an extra day of practice help? Yes, absolutely,” he said. “There’s no question it would help. I’m very comfortable with not practicing on Sunday and preparing on Monday, and I think the team has played quite well on Mondays as a result.”

    At this point in the season, the team has won one Monday game when playing after a Saturday game and lost one, Monday’s fiasco in New Mexico.

    BYU men’s and women’s basketball teams have received a special exception from the NCAA, allowing them to follow their self-imposed Sunday rule. This came into play last season during the men’s NCAA tournament. If the Cougars had won their first two subregional games, BYU would have had to switch regions in order not to play on a Sunday.

    On the other hand, unfortunately, this exception does not apply to most of BYU’s other teams. For example, the BCS Championship Game was played on a Sunday this season. Had the BYU football team miraculously won all of its games this year and still been unbelievably included in the BCS and astonishingly fallen within the top two positions, the Cougars would not have played for the National Championship.

    LDS athletes are not limited to BYU, but a very high percentage of BYU’s athletes are LDS. With that comes a two-year mission for most men midway through their college careers. Some come and go without a hitch, but many return from their missions without being able to play right away and things not being the same as when they left.

    Sophomore Taylor Evans, outside hitter for the men’s volleyball team, is one. Evans redshirted his freshman year before leaving to Chile to serve his mission. He returned to a different team, a different coach and a different body.

    “Right away I started having problems with my shoulder because it had been dormant for so long,” he said. “With all of the hitting I tore my rotator cuff in a couple of places.”

    The injury didn’t heal right and required a second surgery. All of a sudden his two-year mission brought about a third year off.

    “It takes about a year to physically get back into the swing of things,” Evans said. “I wasn’t used to the speed of college volleyball. I got winded very easily, but I didn’t lose my jumps. No one who went on a mission is going to say it was good for their athletic career.”

    Evans is not alone. Countless other athletes have sacrificed another year after returning home from their missions.

    “For those that are members of the church, it’s what we’re committed to do,” Cleveland said. “Whenever you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing, it’s always a benefit.”

    BYU student athletes have received many benefits from not playing on Sunday and serving missions, but they do not always their playing careers.

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