Conference to Focus on How Sports can Help Humanity

The second regional Sport at the Service of Humanity conference will bring together scholars, athletes, academics, clergy, and other guests at Loyola Marymount University to formulate plans that will create a world where sports can unite people and effect positive change in the world.

Speakers at the event, scheduled for June 20-21 on the LMU campus, include Gregory Boyle, S.J., of Homeboy Industries; Val Ackerman, commissioner of the Big East Conference; Anita DeFrantz, vice president of the International Olympic Commission; Renata Simril, president and CEO of LA84 Foundation; and Caylin Moore, college football player and Rhodes Scholar. The event is co-sponsored by the West Coast Conference and LA84 Foundation.

“With excitement we partner with the West Coast Conference and LA84 Foundation to enkindle the vision set forth by the Vatican,” said LMU President Timothy Law Snyder, Ph.D. “We are eager to fortify Pope Francis’ vision of how sports and faith coalesce their influence to serve society, and we will continue to embolden our athletes and propel our mission as a Jesuit and Marymount university with pride and impact.”

The annual conference grew out of an initiative launched by the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Culture, which held the first global conference in 2016. That event included two days of intensive conversation among a variety of stakeholders, focused on how sport and faith can drive positive social change. The discussion centered around three themes: inspiration, inclusion, and involvement, and how sports participation and fandom can build and nurture all three.

The 2018 event will build on the successes of last year’s regional conference at Villanova University. There, participants agreed to create a working group to build up the Sport at the Service of Humanity initiative at the collegiate level, including promoting athletic programs that support student-athletes in becoming their “whole selves” and building a culture that nurtures all parts of the student-athlete, including faith and spirituality, among others.

“We are all thrilled to have such an outstanding group of speakers and delegates involved,” said Simril, LA84 Foundation president & CEO. “The range of topics the conference will be actively addressing are important and timely. The time is now to close the play equity gap.” Simril was a delegate to the initial Sport at the Service of Humanity conference held by the Vatican in 2016, co-curated the current conference, and will be delivering remarks titled, Play Equity & Social Justice.

This year’s conference will expand from last year’s focus on collegiate sports into the realm of youth sports—at the high school, middle school, and independent club sport levels. Millions of Americans have played high school sports, and nearly 40 percent of U.S. children ages 6-12 regularly play an organized team sport of some kind, according to a report from the Sports & Fitness Industry Association.

“We are encouraged that so many conference participants support Sport at the Service of Humanity’s mission of encouraging people to ‘live like you play’ through a collaboration of sport and faith,” said Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Culture. “In a time where fear and anger prevail, sport offers a place where people can get together and overcome divisions and create more inclusive societies.”

The sold-out, invitation-only conference will be held at the LMU campus, in the newly opened, award-winning Life Sciences Building.