Monday, June 1, 2015

The High-Low Ritual: My Top 5

A great friend & colleague to share "high/low" with!
I have always believed that Commencement is a time to look back, before moving into the future. Even though I am not graduating, every year I make a point of reflecting upon the graces of the year. This exercise became a ritual with a former colleague over a pint after Baccalaureate Mass. He had us share our highs and lows for the year. In recognizing the joys and the challenges with a friend, I was able to see each year affords unique gifts. Even some burdens became blessings. Not all....but many did. This year was no exception. And I would like this posting to be a Top 5 list of the 2014-2015 school year's highs. 

We start with the lows—graduation is also a time for celebration, so we aim to get the hard stuff out of the way. The details of these will be sparse, as this might not be the appropriate venue for such sharing and each would require more and necessary context. They are in no particular order. 

They are: the death of a cross-country parent, at one point in the year seriously questioning if I was still able to reach students anymore, accepting that my ability to run has become compromised to the point that I should not run with the cross country team, and disillusionment with some folks I trust.

The lows are tough. Tragedy still hurts. But many of these challenges have served as a pathway to a new opportunity or understanding. For the grace in that, I am grateful. And the fact that my Top 5 moments of the year are all rooted in Sports and Spirituality affirms the grace in this discipline. Here goes!

5. The Great Pink Out.
Sometimes in life, things just come together in a way that screams: serendipity. On October 1, 2014, the Giants played the Pittsburgh Pirates in the single-game for the National League Wildcard spot. The Pirates had the winningest record at home in NL. This do-or-die game took place on the eve of WCAL I: a practice day that the SI girls cross country team designates as our spirit day.

Per tradition, the captains chose a theme. Orange and Black for our Giants was an easy choice, but October is also breast cancer awareness month. The girls called for a great "Pink Out" to be highlighted by Giants hats or gear. However, I just read of a great cause that combines awareness, education and charitable efforts for single mothers with breast cancer. I read about it in the San Francisco GIANTS magazine. The rest of the story is here.

4. My Golf Boys
Coming this Fall, I will have 10 "golf girls." I am really looking forward to serving as the head coach of the St. Ignatius girls junior varsity golf team. I have finally accepted that the way I run—which is now a very slow jog—and the pace our girls cross country team runs are not compatible. Ten years wit SI XC; It was a great run (pun intended!)
3 of the 6
This spring, the JV boys golf coach encouraged me to accompany him to practice. I played a few rounds with the guys, talked trash on the driving range and handed out a lot of encouragement (they did too!). In May, I had the opportunity to join the varsity boys coach for the California Central Coast Sectional Championship. I drove the van, we shared a practice round, broke bread together and I followed their final match of the year. We had a total blast; a former golf coach referred to a high school boys golf team as a bunch of "squids." Nothing could be further from the truth...and they became MY golf boys. You can read about them here.

3. Klay Thompson's 37 Points
I would like to thank this Splash Brother for his perfect timing. The shooting guard out of Washington State dropped 37 points in the third quarter in a game against the Sacramento Kings. In doing so, Mr. Thompson secured an NBA record: the most points by a player in a single quarter and he electrified my course, Sports and Spirituality. 

In this Religious Studies elective, I teach about a "flow," a concept coined by a psychologist and author Mihály Csíkszentmihályi. As written in an outstanding article "Experiencing Life's Flow" by Patrick Kelly, 
Csíkszentmihályi criticized the discipline of psychology for attending too exclusively to the negative or dysfunctional aspects of human experience. His goal was to understand the phenomenology of human development and well-being in general. In the course of his research, he discovered a “common experiential state” that people described during their participation in sports and other activities. He refers to this as “flow” because the respondents themselves often used the word when asked about their experience. Flow, as he uses that word, “denotes the wholistic sensation present when we act with total involvement. It is the kind of feeling after which one nostalgically says: ‘That was fun,’ or ‘That was enjoyable.’”
And the beauty of the Flow channel is that age, race, creed, financial status is irrelevant. Anyone can enter into the flow when the appropriate challenge meets one's skill set. If you're interested, you can read more in Csíkszentmihályi's  book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience or you can simply watch highlights of Thompson's performance and see what it looks like. It's more than "fun." It's incredible.

2. The Day After the World Series
I don't think I ever realized just how special a 7-game World Series can be. I suppose those on the winning side of them know exactly what I am talking about. 

Travis Ishikawa's clutch hit in NLCS!
I don't think many San Francisco Giants fans ever would have thought that team would pull off their third World Series title in five years (see point #5 for more evidence). Although it may have felt as though the 2014 Sportsman of the Year singlehandedly brought home that beautiful trophy, it was the managing and coaching, it was the clutch hits by unlikely and likely heroes. 

The Giants beat the Royals in Kansas City on a Wednesday night. I will never forget the energy that filled the hallways at school the next morning. Everyone was smiling. The joy was palpable. The celebration that took place on the field at Kaufmann Stadium continued in our hallways that special day. Makes me smile thinking about it now.

1. A Boy Named Liam: Something Beautiful for God.
This story merits its own posting. The highest high. Read it here.

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