Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Traveling down a more balanced path
By Sapna Pathak, The Boston Globe, August 16, 2009
St. John’s O’Leary finds answers in Buddhism

Boston, MA (USA) -- The son of devout Catholics, Jimmy O’Leary spent his Sundays as a child at his family’s local church, where he was baptized and received his First Communion. But when it came to improving his game on the soccer field, and tuning his mental approach, O’Leary turned to Buddhism.

“I don’t know, it just helped me look at things from different points of view,’’ said O’Leary, entering his junior year at St. John’s Prep, an all-boys Catholic school in Danvers.

“I can collect myself more, I’m more grounded during a game, and I’m taking a different mental approach than I was before. It’s touched on a lot of my life, really, not just soccer.’’

This fall, the North Reading resident plans on taking his interest in Buddhism to the classroom; he has spent the summer working with his teachers to detail an independent study in Buddhism to add to his schedule.

O’Leary discovered Buddhism prior to his sophomore season. The ancient Eastern religion piqued O’Leary’s interest enough to prompt him to head to the library regularly to read books and articles on the subject.

By the start of the season, he was applying Buddhist principles to soccer.

Rene Novoa, his coach with the FC Vikings, noticed a difference.

“He was always a good leader, but he always wanted to make things happen and wanted to be the one who did it,’’ said Novoa, who began coaching O’Leary six years ago. “All of a sudden, he was more calm, he was more collected when things didn’t go his way. He’s developed into my go-to guy, but his mental maturity is now catching up with his physical skills.’’

Novoa named O’Leary captain of the Vikings, a title he will most likely earn for his senior year at the Prep.

O’Leary is currently reading “The Middle Way,’’ written by the Dalai Lama, which teaches one not to live in the extremes, but to remain balanced at all times.

A speedy, agile defender at 5 feet 8 and 150 pounds, O’Leary even imparts this balanced outlook to the children he works with as a camp counselor at St. John’s Camp Christopher.

“I find myself thinking more comparatively, like what would a Buddhist do versus what a Christian do in certain situations,’’ said O’Leary. “That helps me make choices, both on and off the field.

It’s all about balance, there has to be a balance during a soccer game with who is doing things. I’m trying to keep everything balanced.’’

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