Pope Francis highlighted the importance of teamwork in an address to a delegation from the Italian Swimming Federation Thursday, offering special praise for activities that demand mutual support such as synchronized swimming.
The pope received the group in the Vatican in the midst of days of competition for the “Seven Hills” trophy, applauding the swimmers and their coaches for their “witness of discipline, healthy competition, and teamwork.”
“This shows what goals you can achieve through the hard work of training, which involves a great commitment as well as sacrifice,” the pontiff said. “All this constitutes a life lesson especially for your peers.”
Like any athletic activity, swimming can become “an opportunity for formation in human and social values,” Francis said, “strengthening the body but also character and will, and learning to know one another and accept each other as teammates.”
“I would like to stress this aspect of teamwork,” the pope said.
“Of course, swimming is a predominantly individual sport, but still practicing it in a sports society and even at the national level becomes a team experience, in which collaboration and mutual assistance are very important,” he said.
“And then there are relays, and water polo, which is a classic team game,” he added. “Above all, there is synchronized swimming, which is truly the pinnacle of teamwork: it is all harmony, and excellence is achieved when athletes move in such a way as to form a single movement.”
“It is really fascinating and, for us common spectators, seems almost impossible,” he said. “But even there, the secret is, in addition to individual skill, mutual assistance.”
The pope took the occasion to remember one of the athletes who died in Rome several days ago, a synchronized swimmer named Noemi Carrozza.
“I prayed for her and her family, and today I remember her together with you,” he said.
Francis ended by encouraging the swimmers and their coaches to be a good example for their peers, an example that can help them to build their future.
“The language of sport is universal and easily reaches new generations,” he said.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter Follow @tdwilliamsrome.