The Loyola-Chicago men’s college basketball team has had tremendous success in the NCAA tournament during March Madness, with their latest buzzer-beater win last Thursday. On the court sidelines of every game you’ll find their biggest fan cheering them on: 98-year-old Sister Jean Dolores-Schmidt.
Meet Sister Jean Dolores-Schmidt, the 98-year-old nun that has served as the team’s chaplain since 1991. As a child during the 1930s, she played basketball for her school team in San Francisco, not too long after the sport itself was invented. Today, she is an institution at every home game, always sitting court side with her signature personalized Nikes. She is such a mainstay of the team that she even has a personalized bobble head.
As popular as Sister Jean is, she isn’t just a mascot for the team, she’s much more to them. Inside the athletic department’s weight room, her motto of “worship, work, win” is prominently displayed, a reminder to all the team’s players. Talking about a quote by Saint Ignatius of Loyola, “Go forth and set the world on fire,” head coach Porter Moser said:
“She exemplifies that. She lights up every room she goes into. She’s always smiling. She has an energy about herself. I connect with that. She is our team chaplain and our comfort blanket. She just has so much spirit. She’s got an unbelievable energy level to her that I connect with. You know how much she’s praying for you. You know how much she’s doing for you and she means the world to this university and our team.”
Just before every game, Sister Jean leads the entire team in a short prayer, huddled together with their arms on each others waists. What exactly do they pray about? Sister Jean says
“When we have home games, I say a prayer with all the fans, too, and pray for the opponents, too, that none of us get hurt and that the referees do a good job and all that kind of stuff.”
However, the plentiful prayers and helping spirit don’t end there. After games, she sends an email to the entire team and coaching staff. The post game feedback isn’t always positive though: at the end of the email she addresses each player individually “on how they did, and whether it was good or whether they have to improve in certain parts,” says Sister Jean. Sister Jean also likes to give the coaching staff and other players meticulous scouting reports, taking note of the smallest details and poring over box scores. During the prayer huddle, she likes to warn the team of the opponent’s top performers.
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“There’s been days throughout my last four years when I had a bad game, a down game. We might have won. We might have lost. But at the end of the message, she always found a way to make me feel better.”
Sister Jean said she filled out her bracket that has the team advancing to the Sweet 16. Prior to Loyola-Chicago’s game versus Tennessee, which she was unable to attend, she said “Tennessee, watch out. Watch out for us.” Loyola won 63-62 with a buzzer beater game winning shot.
“They’re very special, and they’re very good. These kids play with their hearts and their heads because they love their school and because they love basketball.” – Sister Jean
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) March 15, 2018
image credit: Chicago Tribune