The University of Utah has developed a religious education program tailored specifically to the needs and schedules of its Mormon football players.
Mormons in Utah have come up with an inventive way to combine religious teachings with sports. The football coaches at the University of Utah have developed a program to advance the religious learning of their Mormon football players, both on and off the field. They adapted their religious education program to have weekly hour long sessions with student-athletes to develop the religious knowledge of their Utah Utes football team.
The University of Utah LDS Institute lessons take place according to schedules and situations, often “on the go” next to a sports field or in a team meeting room. The program’s ability to adapt to the football players’ heavy schedules provides the flexibility they need to learn their religion requirements. The football players are taught about LDS gospel by the University of Utah graduate assistant Sione Pouha, a former Utah Utes and New York Jets defensive lineman. Alongside Pouha, Morgan Scalley, the team’s Safeties and Special Teams coach, teach the LDS Institute curriculum to their football players, sometimes even on the football field sidelines. Pouha praised the program saying, “It’s usually an hour a week, and we try to pick out principles and doctrines in the scriptures and try to relate those principles to what the kids are going through.”
The football players at the University of Utah appreciate the program. Freshman Chase Hansen loves the course saying, “There are so many things you can learn from football that you can relate to the gospel and vice versa. So when you hear [religious doctrine] taught kind of in football terms, applying it to life, it’s awesome.”
The LDS Institute has even been instrumental in recruiting new football players to come to the University of Utah. Last year, when Gaius Vaenuku was weighing his options for which university to attend and which football program to play with, he decided on Utah largely because of the LDS Institute. “I love the [LDS] building there. That thing is huge and is going to really help me prepare well for my mission.”
The University of Utah appeals to more than just those of the Mormon faith, however. The university has also a weekly non-denominational religion class for players of all faiths, too. “It doesn’t really matter what institution you’re at,” Pouha said. “The real institution that matters is the one inside your heart.”