Dr. Bill Thierfelder, president of Belmont Abbey College and former Olympic athlete, strongly believes competitive sport can develop both physical prowess and virtuous characteristics. His belief has translated into a new way of operating athletics in the higher education environment—a way that puts the student’s personal development above competitive outcomes.
The Sport Virtue Institute originated from the idea that other institutions could also direct their athletics programs toward the pursuit of developing virtue in young athletes. Explore this page to understand if the pursuit of excellence and virtue in your athletes is a match for your college or university. Sign up below to stay apprised of new developments, programs, and offerings from the institute.
Our vision is of a world where sport is properly directed and virtue triumphs.
Our vision is to build a culture of sport where virtue and world-class performance meet.
Sport, properly directed, develops character, makes a man courageous, a generous loser, and a
gracious victor; it refines the senses, gives intellectual penetration, and steels the will to endurance.
It is not merely a physical development then. Sport, rightly understood, is an occupation of the whole
man, and while perfecting the body as an instrument of the mind, it also makes the mind itself a more
refined instrument for the search and communication of truth and helps man to achieve that end to
which all others must be subservient, the service and praise of his Creator.¹
¹Pius XII, Sport at the Service of the Spirit
Our mission is to educate, form and train athletes and coaches in excellence and virtue so that they
will consistently achieve the highest possible level of performance while leading good and happy
We believe that athletic performance can only be perfected by addressing and developing the whole
person in mind, body and soul. Athletes and coaches who demonstrate virtue through habitual
perfections of intellect and will that govern their actions, order their passions, and guide their
conduct according to reason and faith², possess the necessary character to realize their full potential.
Combining virtue with a thorough knowledge, deep understanding and skillful practice of sports
science, psychology and human movement will enable coaches and practitioners to provide athletes
with the foundation for making excellence and virtue a habit in their quest for peak performance.
²CCC, Part 3, Sect 1, Ch 1, Art 7, 1804.
“True virtue has no limits.” — St. Francis DeSales
Pope: ‘sport is a place of unity and encounter’
Recently Pope Francis has lauded ‘sport’ as a “meeting place where people of all levels and social conditions come together to reach a common aim”. It is a privileged space, he said, of unity and encounter.
Pope Francis concluded his message with the exhortation to deepen the close connection that exists between sport and life drawing on the fact that an athletic discipline also serves as a stimulus to always improve as a person, in all of life’s aspects.
Sport, he concluded, is a very rich source of values and virtues that help us to become better people, training, practicing, discovering our limits without fear, struggling daily to improve.
In this way, “to the extent that each Christian grows in holiness, he or she, he said, will bear greater fruit for our world.”