Women's Sport: Sister Jean Basketball loving nun turns 100 today

Sister Jean

Sister Jean, the face of college basketball in the US, turns 100-years-old today.

Sister Jean Dolores-Schmidt is the chaplain for Loyola University Chicago Ramblers and has become one of the most iconic faces in US college sport.

Although already a popular figure in the city of Chicago it was not until 2018, when the Ramblers faced Miami in their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1985, that Sister Jean hit the big time. 

Sister Jean was catapulted onto the national and international stage during a post-game interview after Loyola caused an upset, beating Miami 64-62 and making it to the Final Four. Even Barack Obama gave her a shoutout on Twitter. Major.

Since then, fans have grown used to seeing her cheering from the sidelines in her wheelchair, decked out in the Loyola colours.

The nun has long been involved with The Ramblers and has witnessed over half a century of Loyola's basketball history. Her chaplain duties began in 1994 yet in recent years she has gained more and more notoriety as the team's secret weapon.

Her basketball story, however, consists of more than just being a chaplain and a fan. Sister Jean was a basketball player herself during her youth, at a time when women were restricted to particular roles and spaces on the court. After becoming a nun she remained involved in the sport and started youth sports programmes whilst working in education.

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In her role as chaplain at Loyola, she prays for the players, their health, for the referees to call a fair game and Ramblers victory. Additionally, she provides scouting reports, pre-match speeches, as well as emailing postgame analysis personalised for each player.

The Loyola players are her biggest fans and often talk about her unconventional approach to her role as chaplain.

"The way she prayed just stuck out. In the middle of her prayer, there's a scouting report mixed in. She tells us who their best players are and what to watch out for. Sometimes she'll pray for the referee to make the right calls. And at the end, she'll literally pray that we come out on top," former Loyola point guard Clayton Custer explained. 

Sister Jean celebrated her milestone birthday on campus today with a birthday party and credited 'saying good morning' as her secret to living a long life.

"It might be tough to do in the beginning but it'll grow on you," she said. 

"I love working with these young people and I think that's what kept my heart young, not my body young, but kept my heart young all these years."

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