Sixteen-year-old Jimmy O’Leary, a high school junior at St. John’s Prep, an all-boys Catholic school in Danvers, Massachusetts, made the Boston Globe this weekend for taking up an interest in Buddhism.

Says his soccer coach, Rene Novoa, who began coaching O’Leary six years ago:

“All of a sudden, he was more calm, he was more collected when things didn’t go his way. He’s developed into my go-to guy, but his mental maturity is now catching up with his physical skills.’’

O’Leary began taking an interest in Buddhism before his sophomore year, when he began reading books on the subject. Now, he says, he notices a difference in his approach to his preferred sport:

I can collect myself more, I’m more grounded during a game, and I’m taking a different mental approach than I was before. It’s touched on a lot of my life, really, not just soccer…. I find myself thinking more comparatively, like what would a Buddhist do versus what a Christian do in certain situations…. That helps me make choices, both on and off the field.

My own introduction to Buddhism came at around the same age when I attended a “Religions of the World” lecture and film series at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, in Los Angeles. I remember leaving with my friends and hearing one of them comment, “That’s kinda weird.” We didn’t talk about it much on the way home.

O’Leary, on the other hand, is off to an early start. Right now he’s reading The Middle Way by the Dalai Lama, and in May he and his supportive father attended a talk given by the Dalai Lama at Gillette Stadium. Afterwards they attended mass.

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