Notes from Loyola Men’s Basketball’s ‘Guardian Angel’ Sister Jean

As the chaplain of the Loyola men’s basketball team since 1994, Schmidt is responsible for overseeing the team in and out of practice.

At 103 years old, Sister Dolores Jean Schmidt, BVM’s knowledge of basketball is as sharp as an arrow. She can recognize when a player has less arc in their shot, according to senior forward Tom Welch. Men’s basketball Head Coach Drew Valentine said she can analyze a game just like him. She can also get a full scouting report of Loyola’s opponent to carefully craft her pregame prayers for the team and the fans. 

As the chaplain of the Loyola men’s basketball team since 1994, Schmidt is responsible for overseeing the team in and out of practice. She’s there to support them spiritually and, according to Loyola’s website, provides a pregame prayer and advice about their opponent. 

Before every Loyola home men’s basketball game, Schmidt conducts a full scouting report on the opposing team, where she looks out for players who shoot well from beyond the arc, from the free throw line and players’ foul propensity. She puts all of this information together to craft a pregame prayer for the team. She then reads it to the athletes before they take the court for their final warmup and blesses each of the players’ and coaches’ hands. 

Following her pregame prayer and blessing, Schmidt is wheeled onto center court of Gentile Arena where she delivers another prayer to the crowd — something she said she started doing after a player suggested it to her. Schmidt said all her prayers are similar, as she only switches the name of the team and the statistics she might talk about. 

“I always start out with, ‘Good and gracious God,’” Schmidt said. “‘We want to be sure at the end of the game when we see the scoreboard, we know that Loyola has the big W. Amen, God bless and Go Ramblers.’” 

Once she finishes, the crowd erupts with cheers and even chants her name sometimes. 

During the game, Schmidt assumes her designated spot just outside of the tunnel on the left side of the court, where she watches closely. She makes mental notes of feedback to give to Valentine and the team at the half and after the game, something Valentine said is incredible.

“At first I was like, ‘What? What the heck is going on? Like, is somebody doing this for her?’” Valentine said about his first meeting with Schmidt. “Then, as you get here and as you take it all in, you realize it’s really all her for real. It’s almost like a movie character, you know? It’s like you’re living in her movie.” 

After every game, win or lose, Schmidt sends two different types of emails — one to Valentine and one to each player, extending congratulations or her sentiments, depending on the outcome, as well as notes for each player. 

Valentine recalled Sister Jean’s email after Loyola’s tough loss in the first round of the 2022 NCAA March Madness tournament against The Ohio State University, which he read with a smile. In the email, the team chaplain expressed her sorrow for the loss and her lateness in sending the email, due to computer problems. She followed up with, “I know you and the team had wanted to win that game and go on to beat other bracket schools, but that ball would not go into the basket.” 

Over the years, Valentine said he’s grown closer to Schmidt and values their time together, as he considers her part of the athletic administration. Valentine said he loves Schmidt’s positivity, which was huge for him, especially after the Ramblers’ tough first season in the Atlantic 10 (A-10). 

“It’s an incredible reminder to me keeping that perspective of life,” Valentine said. “The fact that although we were playing on Tuesday nights, she was still working as hard as she could. I think that meant a lot to me. It meant a lot to the team that regardless of the situation, she still wanted to be there for us not just when it was going good, but even in a year that none of us are used to.” 

As another recipient of the emails, Welch echoed Valentine’s comments about Schmidt’s positivity, saying the players see her as their guardian angel and someone who always brightens up their day. Welch specifically said he sees Schmidt like a parent, especially when she gives game notes because she sometimes sounds like his mom. 

When asked about her relationship with the team, Schmidt smiled and said they’re not afraid to talk to each other, which to Schmidt, is always a sign of being good friends. 

After Loyola’s first season in the A-10, Schmidt reflected on how the team handled adversity and is ready for what next season will bring. 

“I’ve talked to Drew and this has been a hard year,” Schmidt said. “It’s been very difficult because of the new conference, but I’m sure we’ll do better next year because we now know how those A-10 people play. I have a lot to learn and I’m sure Drew will work on that. They’ll come back in July to practice and get where he wants to be.”

Featured image by Nicky Andrews | The Phoenix

Gabbi Lumma

Gabbi Lumma