An academic study examining the experiences of 10 Latter-day Saints who served full-time missions and returned to compete at the NCAA Division I level was recently published in the Journal of the Christian Society for Kinesiology, Leisure and Sports Studies.
The authors interviewed 10 returned missionary student-athletes, including eight men and two women, to better understand the challenges and benefits associated with a serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and returning to elite competition.
“Overall, it appears that participants’ perceptions were that both the benefits of and challenges with serving an LDS mission — and being gone for between 18-24 months from NCAA DI competition — had significant implications on their athletic identity as well as their return to performance,” the study said.
“Extra Points,” a blog, highlighted some of the study’s findings:
- A missionary’s mentality is to serve others and focus less on “self.”
- Missionaries have very little time for physical training, which makes returning to sports competition difficult.
- Missionary work is hard work.
Read the entire study at Tennessee.edu.
The church has more than 53,000 full-time missionaries, mostly under the age of 25, serving in more than 400 missions throughout the world. Young men serve for a period of two years and young women serve missions for 18 months, according to ChurchofJesusChrist.org.
The advantages and disadvantages of college athletes serving missions have been debated before.
Sports Illustrated examined the issue in 2012 when then-high school basketball phenom Jabari Parker was featured on the magazine’s cover.
Former BYU stars Jimmer Fredette, Tyler Haws and Taysom Hill have discussed their decisions to serve or not serve missions in recent years.
The study was authored by Matthew J. Moore of Miami (Ohio) University and Leslee A. Fisher of the University of Tennessee.