Friday, May 31, 2013

What's in a Name? What's the Story Behind the Symbol?

I recently changed my profile picture on Facebook to a snapshot that was taken from the 154th Baccalaureate Mass of St. Ignatius College Prep.  I posted a caption about the evening and thought to myself "I hope I spelled that right."  I pictured the word  "Baccalaureate" in my head and thought of what it means.  Deductive reasoning led me to associate the word with the Roman god of the harvest, grapes, fertility, the theater--Bacchus--best known as the god of wine. As much as graduation is a time of celebration, I knew there had to be more.  And there is!
Celebrating Graduation with students you have both taught and coached is a great honor.
Origin: From baccalauréat, from baccalaureatus, from baccalaureus, an alteration of baccalarius, to resemble bacca lauri (the ancient symbol of victory). Compare Bachelor.

We had a match!  A symbol of victory was a fitting way to describe the sentiment that fills the walls of St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral where our Baccalaureate Mass is held.  Two days later the graduates will be joined by family, friends and faculty for commencement--a word that sounds like "an end" but actually signifies the opposite.  To "commence" is to begin and the use of that word for graduation is intentional.  The class of 2013 will say farewell, but they will also begin all that we have prepared them for.  

Knowing the meaning or the origin of a word transforms my experience with it. Perception is altered and understanding runs deeper.  It even awakens my appreciation for the concept, person or event.  Let the left-handed shooting guard of the San Antonio Spurs, Manu Ginobili serve as an example.  This pesky Argentine player ended the Warriors' hopes for taking Game 1 in the second round of the NBA playoffs by making a 3-point shot with 2-seconds left in double overtime.  A friend yelled out "Damn it Emanuel!" I turned to her and said "what did you say?" Manu is short of "Emanuel."  I said "damn it" in reply.  

I said that because I love the term, phrase, name "Emanuel."  And I know what it means because Matthew 1:22-23 reveals its significance: All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means “God is with us.” 

During Advent, I pray with this term as I prepare for Christmas.  "God with us." That is Jesus--the Incarnation.  What a beautiful word, what a great name.  Knowing this changed my experience of watching Ginobili as the Warriors fell in six great games.  It was a very, very subtle shift, but I have to be honest--it was a lot harder for me to demonize and detest a person when I know the significance of their name.

And that seasonal understanding is related to another one I make  a point of teaching to my students every Christmas or "Xmas."  The "X" wasn't intended to take the "Christ" out of Christmas, but you could make a strong argument that He has, but the X and P arose as the uppercase forms of the Greek letters (Ch) and ρ (R) used in ancient abbreviations for Χριστος (Greek for "Christ").  When my students make this connection, they have the same reaction I had to what a fun-fact I read in the review of the movie "42."

It is already a treat for me to read anything written by my friend and fellow Notre Dame graduate Peter Folan, SJ but most especially when it sheds light on something I have seen hundreds of times, but never understood.  In "Taking the Field" he writes
The logo of the New York Mets—a bright orange N and Y interlocking on a vibrant blue background—is instantly recognizable for many baseball fans. But the story behind it may be less well known. The Mets rose from the ashes of the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants, both of whom left the Big Apple for California in 1957. Five years later, when the Mets took the field for the first time, they did so wearing caps that acknowledged their ancestors: the orange of the Giants paired with Dodger blue.
Wow!  Symbols have intention and meaning.  Names stem from something more.  Reminds me a lot of a central concept to the principle of sacramentality "there is more to life than meets the eye."  Once you begin learning the story behind the symbol and the significance of a name, your relationship to it changes.  Let's put "P" back in X-mas and as long as Manu Ginobili keeps nailing those field goals, he will remain "Manu" to me.  In the meantime, I look forward to learning, seeing and hearing more.
Photo Credits

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

What Everett Golson Can Learn From Kyle McAlarney: It Can Be Different....

Three days after the media storm broke, Coach Brian Kelly finally talked to the press about quarterback Everett Golson. Via teleconference, he reported
"I'm on 30 years now in college football, and it's like being a dad," Kelly said. "You're disappointed, but you know these things happen. And you want your players to be accountable. So there's a big sense of pride in knowing Everett handled himself in the right way. "He took full accountability and responsibility. He's going to do everything in his power to get himself back here at Notre Dame. So (I'm) disappointed certainly that it occurred, but not surprised. You can't be surprised when you're working with 18- to 21-year-olds. I'm not surprised my 16-year-old knucklehead son comes home and does crazy things."
I hear the word "knucklehead" at least once a week with regard to student behavior and choices.  I agree with Coach Kelly that you can't and shouldn't be surprised when you work with adolescents, but I don't agree that Golson has taken full accountability and responsibility.  

It remains unclear exactly what the Notre Dame starting quarterback did that led to his dismissal from the University.  The only thing that is clear is that Golson used "poor academic judgement." Sportswriter and radio host, John Feinstein has said "the euphemisms need to stop."  Naming the act is an important step in taking accountability, admitting the mistake is critical for accepting responsibility and righting the wrong.  

I sound like moral police; it's not a fun role to play. But in teaching about Morality, one statement I often make (from the soap box) is "it could be different."  And in the case of Kyle McAlarney, former guard on the Notre Dame men's basketball team who the media made immediate comparions to with Golson, we see that it was. 

Perhaps it is because the transgression with McAlarney was a result of breaking the law (he was arrested for possession of marijuana), but it was always clear what happened.  In the article
Kyle McAlarney reflects on dark days of pot charge,expulsion Roger Rubin reports
"In the New York basketball community, there are whispers that the marijuana found in McAlarney's car during a routine traffic stop on Dec. 29, hours after a 50-point win over Rider, didn't belong to him. He was only covering for a friend.
"It was mine," McAlarney said. "I've admitted that before. I think that's just people on my side trying to put me on a pedestal and make me out not to be like everybody else, but it was mine. I messed up."
What isn't clear is just how difficult it was for McAlarney to return to ND.  His parents weren't convinced he should.  He suffered panic attacks and pointed jeers from rival fans.  He worked through his fears with a therapist and generous support of his teammates and Coach Brey. "It was scary. I never had a panic attack before," McAlarney said. "I never expressed to anyone, even my parents, about how angry I was about everything happened. The stress had to come out some way." When student athletes talk about digging deep, McAlarney did and those who know and love him are glad he did.
More glad that McAlarney probably knows.  I have been working on a project entitled "Notre Dame Athletes, Notre Dame Athletics: Tender, Strong and True."  In it, I ask Notre Dame coaches and athletes one question:  What one moment as a student athlete/coach stands out among the others?  Describe it.  Why this moment?

The responses have been surprising, fascinating, generous and unique.  Coach Brey could have given a number of colorful and amazing responses--beating Louisville in 5 overtimes, winning Big East Coach of the year, ending a number of Big East rivals' winning streaks.  Instead, this was what he said: 
In December 2006, one of my players, Kyle McAlarney, was arrested for marijuana possession and ultimately suspended from school for the spring semester of his sophomore year.  It was a devastating turn of events, and he left campus in January 2007 to return home to Staten Island.  Many, if not most, kids in that situation would never have looked back.  They would have transferred to another school, gotten a fresh start, and continued their playing career elsewhere.  That certainly would have been the easy road. 
One of my proudest moments as a coach came when Kyle decided to come back to Notre Dame after his suspension and finish what he started here.  It was not an easy decision for him to make, with so much focus in the media on his arrest and suspension.  But Kyle showed an amazing strength of character and wanted to face up to his mistake.  He learned from it and he wanted to make it right.  He spent that spring semester in Staten Island taking classes at a local college and helping to run basketball clinics at grade schools.  He re-enrolled at Notre Dame that May and rejoined his teammates on campus, finishing his college career here and earning his degree.  
What a great story.  Getting to work with that type of young man is what makes me love working here at the University of Notre Dame.
I write this because many people thought that what McAlarney did wasn't a big deal and yet, it had grave consequences not just for him but for those who know and love him.  It was a long and tough road to right the wrong, but it's very clear it was the right road for him.  I'm sure there are those that believe whatever it is that Golson did, it's not a big deal.  It's a simple mistake.  But it could have been different.  Let's hope it is for Everett Golson and those who support him.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Everett Golson: Mistakes & Consequences

In the past 10 years of teaching Foundation of Ethics: Morality and Justice, I have witnessed a growing trend. Students are increasingly more comfortable naming that it is okay to make mistakes.  They will often say the only way to grow is to make mistakes and learn from them.  Yes and no.  
Adolescence certainly is a time when young people are discovering who they are, who they are becoming and what they want to be.  Becoming an adult isn't an easy process and maturity takes time.  Our humanity means that we will stumble and fall.  It means that mistakes are part of the package.  But I feel strongly about qualifying this comfort with mistakes.  Not all mistakes are created equal.  Not all have reversible consequences.  Some come with a condition that it is very hard to right the wrong.

Driving while intoxicated isn't a limit that should be tested; a number of outcomes are possible, some of which are fatal.  Engaging in sexual activity is a big deal. Students are quick to name the dangers in an STD, but emotional scars can run much deeper.  And plagiarism can so easily be avoided.  Citing a source is important.  It gives credit where credit is due.  It upholds honesty and integrity.  
I asked my students to name a moral choice they make that does not affect other people; they couldn't do it.  Our humanity means that we are always in relationship with others.  The mistakes that we make affect our own lives and the lives of others.  And this is certainly the case in point with Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson, who is no longer enrolled at the University.  In the official press release, he said:


"I have been informed by the University of Notre Dame that due to my poor academic judgment that I have been suspended from the University for the 2013 Fall Term," Golson said. "I take full responsibility for my poor choices and will do all that is asked of me to regain the trust of my family, friends, teammates, coaches and the entire Notre Dame community."
His statement continued, "My parents and the community I grew up in have instilled values in me that have and will continue to allow me to be successful in the future. There have been many lessons learned as I worked to become the starting quarterback at Notre Dame and each was a result of Coach (Brian) Kelly's belief in me as an athlete and a person.
"At this point, I understand how my integrity could be in question but I want to reassure my supporters that through this experience I will return a better student athlete as well as a better individual.
"Lastly, I want to thank the University of Notre Dame for the opportunity already granted and also the opportunity going forth to regain my eligibility in the winter of 2014."
Golson's decision has what feels like huge consequences right now.  I know he had to make a public statement that admits responsibility and he wants to stay positive. But the expectations of the starting QB are not the same, he is called to be a leader on and off the field.  The team has planned and practiced all spring in a way that showcases his talent and allows him to run an offense.  Golson is a very public face of a storied program at a high profile university.  Sorry, but to a certain degree this must be considered when making moral choices.  Alumni are writing that they are proud that Notre Dame stands for high standards for students athletes, but they're saying that with broken hearts and writing it with heavy hands.
It is important to look to the future to right the wrong, and I don't doubt that Golson will.  But I also think it's worth saying that Golson and his teammates won't get the 2013 season back.  

Knowledge of impending consequences, possible outcomes, are really worth considering before making a mistake.  In that way, although this mistake isn't one I would encourage any student to make, Golson's mistake--one that many students do make--is now something others can learn from.  

Photo Credits
ND Logo
Golson Runs
Spring Game

Sunday, May 26, 2013

From Boo-gate to "Just Us" Thank You Golden State Part II

"Basketball is broken."  --Frank Allocco

De La Salle basketball coach Frank Allocco returned to my Sports and Spirituality class to share with my seniors all he has learned by way of "Buried Blessings and Lofty Dreams."  I will be writing about his words of wisdom in a posting soon, but our conversation revealed to me how and why I returned to Oracle Areana to watch the Golden State Warriors once again.
As reported in "Part I," after what is now known as "Boo-gate," I wasn't sure I would be back.  The price of one evening to watch an NBA game is outrageous.  It was hard for me to justify the cost of the ticket and parking for a live sporting event that had all but alienated me.  The vulgarity of fans around me, the role of women in the event (or lack thereof) and even the competition itself, left me....disgusted and disappointed.  I knew it could be different.  Those who love the game of basketball would agree.

Coach Allocco sits on a committee commissioned by Nike to discuss and determine how to "fix" basketball. There is a strong sense that the game we see played today is far from what it was created to be.  Nike wanted to lead the conversation to dream and discover how coaches and players can work together to re-emphasize the fundamentals of the game, bring back defense, renew the importance of each position and reinvigorate the value of selflessness to team work.  
Coach Allocco came to my classroom the day after the Warriors defeated the Denver Nuggets in the first round of the NBA playoffs.  I asked him if he had followed the series.  He said, "I don't watch the NBA.  It showcases all that is wrong with the game.  Players don't even focus until the fourth quarter.  My son, Frank Junior said Dad, you got to watch the Warriors.  They're different.  I sat down with him and watched the entire game.  I can't believe how much fun they are to watch."  I couldn't agree more.

Such words are easy to say once the post-season is underway, but this perception is one I first became aware of early on in the 2012-2013 season.  I remember talking to Franco Finn, the Warriors hype-man, MC and media personality at our faculty Christmas party.  He warned me about this team. He said they were different.  "They are a young team and have fresh energy.  It's really exciting."  His message was consistent with the manifold positive "particles" Murph and Mac were sharing on the air in the winter months.  

I have to admit, I was still comfortable harboring suspicion about all things Golden State but the ice was melting.  When my brother wrote his own praise via Facebook for the world to see "Prediction: The Golden State Warriors will make the playoffs this season. When you blow out a good team on the road like the Hawks, you don't stay home in May. (By the way, I may have been dead wrong about Mark Jackson's coaching skills)" I knew it was time for me to follow the words of both Jesus and the Buddha. "Come and See."

Could I do it?  Would I?  Confronted with a birthday gift of a ticket for the game against the San Antonio Spurs on February 22, 2013, I had to make a choice.  


It was certainly a test...and one that says it all about this team.  The Warriors hadn't beaten the Spurs at home since January 2008.  What did they do?  They managed to sell-out Oracle for the 16th straight game.  They took the game into overtime and they won by six points.  As reported in SFGate.com "It was just a beautiful win for us," coach Mark Jackson said. "We had every opportunity to hang our heads and fold the tent. We had fought a good fight, and for some that would have been enough. For us, we continued to battle and got an incredible win."

The tickets were still pricey, the fans still questionable, and the role of women still worth discussing, but the team itself....they really were different.  For one, they were a team. They had a true center, a sixth man that has earned his nickname "Jack-Attack"and a forward who became the Warriors' first All-Star since 1997.  The irony in David Lee's nomination is that the true star of the team--Steph Curry wasn't even nominated.  

The match-up against the Spurs in both February and in the second round of the playoffs, despite its outcome spawned a much different conversation than the one Coach Allocco was having with Nike.  Fans everywhere were talking about this brand of basketball.  Players were setting screens and passing.  Stars were shooting from inside and outside the paint.  The Warriors met their match; the Spurs were quiet assassins taking their opponent down slowly but surely with sound fundamentals, great shooting and honest teamwork.

There was a moment during Game 6 when the Warriors came within 3 points of the Spurs who had led the entire game. The momentum was swinging back to Golden State and for one brief instant, we thought victory was entirely possible.  I stood to my feet and yelled "YEAH!" with an enthusiasm so real and so strong.  It was an awesome feeling.

Moments later, the Spurs did what they do and regained the lead only to close.  The win was slipping away, but something stayed with me.  The joy of an incredible ride...and awesome season....a team that made all things new.
If that sentiment doesn't speak for itself, I think the post-game gathering should.  The Warriors hugged and congratulated their opponents and one another. Coach Jackson had tears in his eyes as did hundreds of fans.  Curry and Lee gathered the team in a huddle and on "break" yelled "Just-Us."

Those words said it all.  Only that team could do what I wasn't sure was possible. Thanks Warriors for bringing me back.  Thanks for the moments and the memories--very sweet.

What was broken, is fixed on the hardwood...let's see about tending to what is left...


Photo CreditsHuddle All Warriors Photos from Feb 22, 2013
Franco Finn Twitter


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

From Boo-Gate to "Just Us" Thank You Golden State Part I

I left Oracle Arena--the home of the Golden State Warriors on March 19, 2012 not knowing if I would ever return there for another NBA game.  The evening was supposed to be one of celebration as the Warriors were retiring the jersey of my favorite basketball player who is also one of my personal heroes--Chris Mullin.
Family legend has it that in May 1979, my dad woke my brother up to tell him that his beloved 49ers drafted the Fightin' Irish quarterback Joe Montana.  And in 1985, for some reason, I remember him telling me that the Big East Basketball Player of the Year was coming to the Bay Area.  I can't say I was part of the welcoming committee but years later when I was 15, my dad and I went to a game that I will never forget.  

In what is now uncharacteristic for either  of us--we arrived early enough to see the team warm-up.  I was wearing a bright red "St John's University" sweatshirt replete with their now politically incorrect "Redman" front and center.  We must have had good seats because when Mully looked over his shoulder from his court side seat, he gave me the thumbs up.  When I came to learn the Warriors were going to retire Mullin's jersey, I thought the ideal Christmas gift for my father was two tickets for what was sure to be a night of wonderful memories and tributes.
I told everyone I knew I was going.  The buzz on KNBR about what legends and former teammates would be attending was electric.  I thought it was both fitting and exciting that I walked into "Roaracle" only to see former NBA pro Brent Barry in the Comcast booth.  I went to the same grade school and high school as Brent; not only was he a great player as well as an NBA champion, but I hold great memories of his antics in high school pep rallies and grade school assemblies.  (I know he too considers Mully a hero and what that means--being yourself as I share this video in my class).  The evening had the feel of a family celebration; serendipity was in the air.
My dad and I sat down and instantly cheered for #17 as he entered the court to sit beside his wife Liz and their four children.  I looked to my right and one section over was Tim Hardaway--the "T" in "Run TMC: Tim, Mitch and Chris."  Other NBA Hall of Fame greats like Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan who played with Chris on the Dream Team or against him in the NBA praised his career via video recordings.  Even Warrior coach and fellow teammate at St John's--Mark Jackson weighed in, telling Chris he is "the whitest black man in the NBA.  I loved playing with you and I love you."

Meanwhile, the real game against the Minnesota Timberwolves was underway; the Warriors looked pretty raw.  And, it was appropriate as one week prior, Golden State traded away its star player Monta Ellis.  It was controversial and problematic because as reported on ESPN.com "the Warriors also traded Ekpe Udoh and Kwame Brown Ellis, Ekpe Udoh and Kwame Brown to the Milwaukee Bucks for injured center Andrew Bogut and swingman Stephen Jackson, who was then traded Thursday to San Antonio for Richard Jefferson and a conditional first-round draft pick."  What a mess.
I think it's important that I say that not everyone was there to support Chris Mullin. If there's one thing to say about Warriors fans, it's that they show up in spite of the fact there have been years when it would be more than understandable if they chose NOT to.  On this night, hundreds of  fans were on-edge and the ones sitting behind kept yelling obscenities that I am still unable to repeat.  My dad encouraged me to take the higher road and just ignore them; I had to as there was so little security around us to handle any crowd control. The wheels were slowly but surely falling off the bus of what was to be a memorable evening for the "right" reasons as opposed to what I now recall...and have only been able to write about a year-plus later.

The remarks of these fans were crass and especially demeaning to women; I was ashamed that my father heard what I did.  I looked around me to gauge how other fans and female ones in particular might be reacting.  Much to my surprise, I didn't see many.  When I looked for a group of women in the arena, the only one I saw were the Warrior Girls.  

I suddently felt completely alone and out of touch.  Looking to the hardwood, the vast majority of people working the game--in leadership, coaching, media, radio were men. The closer I looked, the harder it was to find a woman like me.  The women I did see were dressed in a way I wouldn't--high heeled white leather thigh boots, Daisy Duke shorts, and a one-shouldered fitted top.  I know they are performers for half time but I wondered what their message really was. Thousands of American girls grow up playing basketball; they can and should have a much more active role in the game at its highest level.


During the halftime ceremony the events of what is now known as "Boo-gate" unfolded.  To this day, I think it imprudent that the new ownership of the Warriors, namely Joe Lacob thought it was appropriate to so much as speak after Chris Mullin's speech.  Instead, as reported on ESPN.com  "Lacob talked about "embracing history and respect" as he prepared to unveil Mullin's No. 17 hanging in the rafters at Oracle Arena, but angry fans showed little respect for the owner on Mullin's special night. A chorus of boos rained down on the new co-owner who, along with Peter Guber, took over the franchise in 2010. The jeers didn't stop for a solid ten minutes."  

I don't need to say much more about "Boo-gate" other than I hate the fact it took away from the tribute and the game itself.  It was a very strange experience made more uncomfortable by those around me. I wasn't sure if we should just leave.

True to form, my dad made sure that we stayed for "the whole game and not less."  When we returned to my car in the $30 lot (and yes, I had to park there because the arthritis in my 72-year old father's back prevents him from walking long distances i.e. the walk from BART to the arena), I discovered the the driver's side of my Jeep was keyed from front to back.  I never told my father; our night was already a disappointment.  I was angry, disappointed and sad.  I vowed that I wouldn't return. And if I did, it had to be for a special event. 

I do all that I can to live by my principles and the events of "Boo-gate" challenged a lot of them.  I was already aware that many basketball fans despise the NBA and for good reason. I left thinking that I still have many other good basketball viewing options--I love the St. Ignatius boys and girls teams as much as Notre Dame's!  

If you had asked me to imagine attending Game 6 of the playoffs one year later, I don't think I could have done that.  I know I wouldn't be the one holding it.  And yet, the 2012-2013 Warriors made me think again.  How did we go from "Boo-gate" to "Just-Us."  Part II will report on that....but many of you already know the story.  It's the story of this past season...

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Why Coach K Should Receive the Laetare Medal


The University of Notre Dame’s 168th Commencement Ceremony will take place on May 19, 2013 in Notre Dame Stadium.  Among the pomp and circumstance, addresses and honorary degrees is an award that is considered the oldest and most prestigious award given to American Catholics--the Laetare Medal.  This award recognizes outstanding service of a person or group to the Church and society; their genius has ennobled the arts and sciences, illustrated the ideals of the church and enriched the heritage of humanity. A committee must decide among several nominees and the winner is announced on Laetare Sunday (the third Sunday of Lent).  And I learned recently that every year, someone nominates Duke men's basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski.
Looking at the impressive list of past recipients--Dorothy Day, Sarge Shriver, Sister Helen Prejean and even Martin Sheen, one might ask how or why Coach K should be considered. Thanks to a conversation with Duke basketball manager, Scott Lamson I know why.

As the sports editor for Genesis, the alumni magazine of St. Ignatius College Prep in San Francisco, I am privy to talking to our alumni about what they do with their lives, opportunities they have had and lessons they have learned.  Many of these conversations have revealed a simple but uplifting truth: dreams do come true.  And that is exactly why I decided to get in touch with SI alum, Scott Lamson.

As reported in the most recent issue

Lamson first dreamt of attending Duke University when, at 8, he saw the men’s basketball team win the 2001 national championship.  He hoped to study at Duke and join the Blue Devil team coached by Coach Michael Krzyzewksi. 
While most 8 year olds may dream like this for a few years, Lamson stayed faithful to his vision.  He found his way onto the hardwood of Cameron Stadium when he landed the job as manager of the men’s varsity basketball team during the fall of his freshman year.   
“When I shared my dream with my sister Kiristie, she told me she could see me at Duke.  Because of her encouragement, I sought out SI.  I knew it was one of the best schools in the Bay Area.  I took challenging classes and spent a lot of late nights studying, which wasn’t always easy or fun, but I kept my focus on my goal.  My counselor even told me I needed “Plan B.”  Fortunately, the hard work paid off.    
Upon winning the 2012 Masters, Bubba Watson said what is one of my favorite quotes "I never got this far in my dreams."  That same truth applies to Scott.  Who would have thought this 8-year old boy would one day not only attend Duke but manage its basketball team?!  Perhaps those closest to Scott did.  
When I asked Scott to comment on what he had learned from one of the winningest coaches in the history of the game, he said “I am grateful for the many life lessons I have learned from Coach Krzyzewksi about leadership and more. Probably the biggest one is the importance of accountability.  He constantly instills the importance in each person taking responsibility for the work that they do, mistakes and all." 

I was fascinated by this culture of accountability.  Scott said fellow managers, coaches and players readily say "that was my bad.  I messed up."  Others own up to what they did do and didn't do.  It is a clear expectation from the top--we are responsible for ourselves and the impact is has on the team.  We can makes things wrong, but we can also make them right.
When I thought more about this culture, I closed my eyes and imagined what my classroom would be like if this culture was the norm.  I thought of how many tough conversations I have had with my students because they didn't take responsibility for the choices they made or because they curbed the truth rather than admit to their mistake.  I thought of the trust that is broken in the process and my frustration because I know it doesn't have to be that way.  I have students that do hold themselves accountable for what is right. I thought of the disappointment I feel when someone I care about doesn't take responsibility for their word.  I remembered the appreciation I do when someone does.


I thought of the teacher evaluations that my students complete and the administrative evaluations that my colleagues and I complete each year.  These forms are totally anonymous. They are meant to support and affirm and yet they can be downright scary to read.  Having taught for 13 years, I know my strengths and yes, I know my weaknesses.  But I thought of how different I feel when I read a challenging remark from a student who has voluntarily signed the form versus the one from the student who did not.  It takes courage to be honest with your teacher or administrator about what they do, but it's critically important.  A culture of accountability says "I will sign my name  because I respect you and I respect my word."

A culture of accountability means that we hold one another to a higher standard.  It is not one that forbids mistakes.  No, it acknowledges our shortcomings and failings but it also says the only way WE win is when you and I each do our part.  Scott would agree.  He said "Coach K
 also knows how to delegate—one person can’t do it all.  He uses the image of the fist to remind us of that truth.  A hand with five fingers spread apart isn’t strong.  However, when they combine to make a fist, it is.” 

The Laetare Medal is given at commencement to say to Notre Dame graduates, we have formed you in your time here and we want to hold up a model of who you can be.  It says that Catholic men and women live their lives in such a way that Coach Mike Krzyzewski has three national championships, an Olympic gold medal, a foundation--the Emily Krzyzewski Center.  It is a place that seeks to "inspire economically disadvantaged students to dream big, act with character and purpose, strive for academic excellence, and reach their highest potential as future citizen leaders."  But he's also made sure that his primary life's work--coaching Duke basketball is a place where athletes and coaches are responsible and accountable for themselves and what they do.  

Imagine a nation, party and church where this culture was the norm?  Looking at Duke basketball my only conclusion is that it is a culture where we would win.  Excellence would prevail.  Talent and teamwork go hand in hand. I won't go so far as to compare Coach K with some of the men and women who have tirelessly given their lives to the poor or amended government programs to support the marginalized but I do think a culture of accountably and responsibility is related to such issues. I'm glad he's on that list...sounds medal worthy to me...

Photo Credits
Coach K coaching

Laetare Medal
Winning