Field of Virtue – Coach Dan Duddy directs players at “Shore’s Best Football Camp” held at Riverwood Park in Toms River from June 20-23. Scott Stump photo

Field of Virtue – Coach Dan Duddy directs players at “Shore’s Best Football Camp” held at Riverwood Park in Toms River from June 20-23. Scott Stump photo

By Scott Stump | Correspondent

When Monsignor Donovan head football coach Dan Duddy found himself being inducted into the Catholic High School Hall of Fame among the likes of former Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Jamie Moyer and major-league pitching coach Rich Donnelly, he was not only honored, but inspired.

“This is a catalyst for more work,’’ Duddy said. “I feel like this will only get bigger. To be there with guys like Moyer, Donnelly and Belmont Abbey President Dr. Bill Theierfelder was amazing, and I think this is a cutting-edge thing that is going on across the nation.’

The Chicago-based Sports Faith International also honored Duddy as a 2011 All-Star Catholic High School Coach of the Year for his injection of virtue into athletics to motivate his players to also become outstanding young men.

Other sports figures who were honored included Moyer, who played 27 seasons of professional baseball and also founded the Moyer Foundation to help children in severe distress; Donnelly, who has been a pitching coach for five Major League Baseball teams; Theirfelder, who also was an Olympian in addition to his current position; and Art Rooney, the late patriarch of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

In addition to coaching football at Monsignor Donovan after a successful stint at Central Regional that included a trip to a state sectional final in 1994, Duddy also is the pastoral minister of athletics at Monsignor Donovan. His job is to help athletes practice virtue in sports, which is achieved at Monsignor Donovan in numerous ways.

For instance, there is a man-to-man mentoring program in which each player resolves to a specific action off the football field according to the theme of that week. A recent them was “bold,’’ in which players resolve to action in their lives that required boldness. One player boldly told his sister that he was not happy with her actions in her social life.

On Thursday nights, the team gathers to watch movie clips and read Bible verses that support the theme of that week. Also, the Thursday night before the team’s first home game, there is “Father and Son Jersey Night.’’ At the event, fathers, grandfathers, brothers and uncles come for a pasta dinner, and then the fathers of the seniors on the team stand up and hand their sons’ game jerseys to them in a ceremony.

“The fathers tell everyone in the audience that they love their son, why they love their son, and what their sons’ strengths are,’’ Duddy said. “For a lot of players and dads, this is the first time that they’ve said these things. It’s extremely powerful and touching.’’

There are also “team confessions,’’ at practice where a player will take a walk around the track with the team chaplain and offer his confession.

“It’s kind of funny because you’ll have players joke that, ‘My confession was only 100 meters, how come yours was three laps?’’ Duddy said.

The team also attends a “Virtue Camp’’ for five days and four nights each August in order to strengthen its values while also preparing for the upcoming season. Duddy also helps inject virtues in small ways that keep things fun for the players, like the saying “Sons of Thunder.’’

“We relate to the apostles James and John, and the Lord gave them the nickname  ‘Sons of Thunder,’’’ Duddy said. “If you walk into our locker room and yell, “We Are!,’’ they’ll yell “Sons of thunder!’’

A former star at Brick Township High School under his mentor, legendary coach Warren Wolf, Duddy has been heavily active in the Shore Conference football community. He is the president of the Shore Football Coaches Foundation and the director of the annual “Shore’s Best Football Camp.’’

Duddy has been using Sports Faith International’s model for six years and feels that his fairly rare position of pastoral minister of athletics is one that may soon be replicated nationwide.

“I went out to (Archbishop) Moeller High School in Cincinnati and gave their staff of 25 coaches a 3 1/2 –hour clinic on the integration of virtue in their football program,’’ Duddy said. “They also have a pastoral (minister of athletics), but I don’t know of any other high school in the nation that has such a position. This was a bold move by our pastor and principal that will set a great example to other schools in the nation.’’

Tweet this story