A Sunday Struggle

Mike Moesel is split between duties to his faith and responsibilities to his team
Sunday, May 2, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 2:25 p.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

Moesel is the Hickman lacrosse team’s captain and leading scorer with 27 goals. His leadership role means he has a responsibility to his team to play his hardest every day.

Moesel also is a Mormon, which means he has a duty to his faith to honor the Sabbath.

Unfortunately for Moesel, sometimes it’s nearly impossible to do both.

Like many Christians, Mormons believe Sunday was God’s day of rest after creation and should therefore be treated with reverence.

The Kewpies have had four Sunday games. Moesel’s religion demands that he abstain from such games, and up until this year, so did his parents, Doug and Dawn Moesel. They gave Moesel the choice this season and, for the first time, Moesel is playing on Sundays.

“I think (my parents) just figured it was time to let the kid make his own choice,” Moesel said. “I don’t think they thought I would actually choose to play, but it’s been something I’ve been thinking about a long time.”

Moesel said the family had discussed the issue of Sunday play periodically throughout his high school athletic career. Moesel also played soccer and kicked for Hickman’s football team.

Doug Moesel said because his son is preparing for college, where he will be faced with many independent decisions, it seemed time to give him the choice. The father said it was difficult to grant that autonomy.

“He’s leaving the roost soon,” said Doug Moesel, an associate professor of management at MU. “We figured at some point you need to step off the counseling and advice and let him make his own decisions. I don’t think it was an easy decision for him. It was something he felt he had to do as a leader, and as his family we love and support him.”

Moesel said his role as captain played a major part in his decision. He grappled with the choice for many days.

“It was a very tough choice for me,” Moesel said. “When I first started, sometimes I’d be on the field and I’d think about church and not honoring the Sabbath. I just really wanted to be there for my team and contribute as much as I could to getting back to the state playoffs.”

Moesel said his teammates have been a great source of support.

“The first time I showed up on a Sunday, the guys were all surprised,” Moesel said. “They were all joking with me, saying, ‘We’ve got to win this game for Mike.’ ”

Off the field, Moesel’s decision has caused some conflict with his parents and within himself.

“It’s been a conflict, and we’re not thrilled about it here at the house,” Doug Moesel said. “We’ve always felt Mike could excel without playing on Sundays, so it’s been a matter of some contention.”

Doug Moesel said the family doesn’t come to see Moesel play on Sundays.

“He was aware of that when he made that choice,” Doug Moesel said. “In that way, he’s on his own.”

Moesel has struggled with reconciling his commitment to his family and his commitment to his team. He said it wasn’t only church he was missing by playing.

“More than just church, it’s a family day,” Moesel said. “We’re all so busy doing our own things during the week that it’s nice to kick back together on Sundays. It’s hard when I’m playing and they are off doing their own things.”

Moesel is the second of five children. Doug Moesel said family values were central in the way his son was raised.

“We really believe in the importance of the family,” Doug Moesel said. “I guess you could call it traditional Christian values, in terms of supporting family and serving the community.”

With so many sports and activities competing for time and space in the lives of athletes, many coaches have begun scheduling Sunday games because it is often the day with the fewest time conflicts. That is sometimes felt especially sharply in Columbia because of the town’s geographic location.

“I think what you find at all levels of sports is that there are many games on Sundays,” Hickman coach Jamie Mullen said. “It’s generally a day that parents can watch the kids and, more importantly, a day they can transport kids to games.

“Looking back on it, scheduling Sunday games is not something I’m proud of. It was mostly out of necessity. Because of Columbia’s location relative to teams we play in St. Louis or Kansas City, it’s usually just easiest to schedule two or three games a weekend. I can tell you, it’s something we’ll try to avoid in the future. I’ll especially try not to schedule games before noon on Sunday.”

Senior midfielder Mike Moesel has scored 10 goals in Sunday games this season.

His parents haven’t seen one. The Moesel family believes Sundays are for God rather than lacrosse, which leaves Moesel torn between the demands of team and the demands of family and faith.

Mullen said Moesel’s sacrifice for the sake of the team was inspiring, but said the team would always try to accommodate a player’s religious views.

“It’s impressive that Mike is so dedicated to the team, although if he chose not to play on Sundays I would still understand,” Mullen said. “His decision to play speaks to his level of commitment to the team. He’s really benefiting the experience of the other players, but at some level it’s just a sport.”

Moesel plans to attend Brigham Young University in the fall and is hopeful about his chances of playing lacrosse for the Cougars. BYU is a Mormon university and never plays games on Sundays.

Doug Moesel couldn’t be happier about his son’s college choice.

“As churchgoers, we were obviously very excited because that’s where we had hoped Mike would go since the beginning,” Doug Moesel said.

“Luckily, this isn’t something we’ll have to worry about in the future because BYU won’t ever play on a Sunday.”

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