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Mark Zaleski, Associated Press
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) stands with injured Tennessee Titans quarterback Jake Locker as players pray after an NFL game in 2013.

An assistant professor believes its possible for athletes to find hope, spirituality and faith while competing in sports.

The key is to keep athletics and competition in proper perspective while teaching life lessons, Edward Hastings, an assistant professor of theology and religious studies at Villanova University, recently wrote in a commentary for Religion News Service.

"Sports are a human pleasure and can be a way to get to know God better, as long as we do not get overly attached to the wins and losses, the glitter and the fame," Hastings wrote. "Understanding what’s truly important in sports, by getting guidance beyond wins and losses, is what can give sports power beyond the fields of play.

Many believe sports can build character, but it's not guaranteed. And pointing heavenward after a touchdown or praising the Lord in a postgame interview doesn't necessarily reflect spirituality, Hastings wrote.

Coaches and mentors should find applications to life in sports to help student-athletes feeling pressure to win or exploited by providing a more balanced, healthy lifestyle, the professor wrote.

"Sports can teach spirituality if we are aware of how to look at them. I like to refer to ministry through sports as a 'spirituality by stealth.' We can sneak in significant life lessons or virtues through a popular experience," Hastings wrote.

Read the entire article at religionnews.com.

Author Nathan Whitaker and others have sought to inspire others by writing and publishing stories about Christian coaches and athletes of faith, such as Tony Dungy and Tim Tebow, as reported in a 2012 Deseret News article.

"I’m not sure anyone has a stranglehold on truth," Whitaker said. "Faith has helped me keep rooted to what is important. It’s helped me remember that ‘This too shall pass,’ good or bad. It’s helped me keep an eternal perspective."

In a 2013 Deseret News article, several current and former NFL players discussed their faith and how it has blessed their lives and careers. Faith has played an important role in the success of Matthew Slater's career with the New England Patriots, he said in the article.

"Those experiences helped me develop my own faith," Slater said. "They helped me put perspective on things, realize what’s important in life, and that it’s possible to touch lives and impact people in a positive way. They taught me to live for something and someone greater than yourself … and hope for things to come."

A saying that hangs on the office wall of Utah State head football coach Matt Wells — "Act medium: never too high, never too low" — has helped the coach to maintain the right balance between his faith, his career and his family life, he said in a 2014 Deseret News article.

"Life is hard to balance, but there has to be a balance in your life," Wells said in the article. "It brings growth and reflection. … It helps me in my job as a servant leader."