On any given Sunday last fall, John Mulvey could be found at a youth group at First Presbyterian Church in Wheaton. Now in college, he belongs to a Christian fellowship for athletes.
But as his former high school football team, Wheaton Warrenville South High School, gets set to take on Glenbard West on Sunday, he says choosing between his faith and football on a Sunday would not have been that tough of a choice.
Want to watch the game?ESPN2 will broadcast the Wheaton Warrenville South v. Glenbard West game on Sunday at 11 a.m.
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Mulvey, 19, said he would have played in the game because of another commitment: one he made to the rest of his team.
"You might have a lingering thought about whether it's OK to play the game on a Sunday," said Mulvey, who attends Northern Illinois University and is a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. "But you don't have a choice if you have made that commitment. For nine months, football becomes your life."
Players will make that choice this Sunday. In a game televised by ESPN2, Wheaton Warrenville South High School will kick off its season against Glenbard West at 11 a.m. at Red Grange Field, 1993 Tiger Trail.
But some Wheaton religious leaders say sports have minimalized the Sabbath.
"I have nothing against athletics; they are great and they teach a lot of great values," said Allison Tirone, high school coordinator at First Presbyterian. "But I feel they are encroaching on my territory."
Tirone says the recent trend of scheduling games, practices and even uniform pickups on Sundays has left parents with children in various sports with tough decisions. With classroom attendance required on Sunday for some of her confirmation classes, she said the conflicts have become more difficult. She's has adjusted by reducing some of those requirements, a move she made reluctantly.
"The last couple of years, parents have had to skip (confirmation) classes because of sports," she said. "That just puts me in a real tough position. I don't want to deny any kids that can't make that commitment, but if I take away all of the requirements, it becomes meaningless."
Erica Foreman, Wheaton Warrenville Unit District 200's director of public relations, said the district had not received any formal complaints about the timing of Sunday's game.
"Having a game on Sunday is not our preference but we make that exception under special circumstances," she said. "We are not the only public entity that hosts nonreligious functions on Sunday morning."
And, Wheaton, like many other communities, regularly hosts games on Sunday mornings.
"This is nothing new for Wheaton churches," said Rev. Don McLaughlin of St. Michael Catholic Church. "Our only expectation is that they attend Saturday evening or Sunday evening masses at a neighboring parish. There are plenty of opportunities to fulfill their obligations."
McLaughlin said it would be ideal if the leagues did not play on Sunday morning. However, that's unrealistic.
"The churches would prefer to see adjustments to the schedule to allow them to attend church services on Sunday morning," he said. "But that is highly unlikely with the number of kids and teams that play in the park district leagues."
Tirone, the high school coordinator, talked to other youth leaders at area churches about making a formal push to curtail Sunday sports. But most people told her that effort likely would be wasted.
"It feels strange to me, even in a town like Wheaton where there is a high percentage of active Christians, that nobody has done anything about it," she said. "We are running into more and more coaches who are not relenting at all."