Sunday, January 16, 2022

Notre Dame Magazine: Winter 2020-2021 Sports and Spirituality Review: Going Back in Time

When I reached for the Winter 2020-2021 issue of Notre Dame Magazine, I wasn't sure if I read all of  it. I never throw out—err, recycle—this alumni publication until I have completed my Sports and Spirituality review. Part of me thought I held onto it because the back cover features "Amy Coney Barrett '97 JC, associate justice of the United States Supreme Court (See the story on page 46)." I love that the photo of this woman I respect and admire features her in the classroom, teaching. In the background is a crucifix and a student taking notes? fact checking the lecture?!? I took a quick look though the publication only to see that I had not given my review and though it is one year later, still worth doing. Why? I want to point the way to the following pieces rich in both sport and spirituality. Enjoy!

A Most Unusual Semester.
I don't know about you, but I have a hard time reading articles about living through COVID. Is it because while some things have changed, others have not? Are we not still too close to it? 

Margaret Fosmoe '85, captures how the pandemic affected the 2020 football season "as a temporary member of the Atlantic Coast Conference.  Attendance at games was limited to no more than 20% of stadium capacity which amounted to about 15, 525 fans per game—students, faculty and staff." 

Many will remember the highlight of the 2020 home season, played before a mostly student crowd of 11,011. When the Irish won the game 47-40 in double overtime, thousands rushed the field, a celebration broadcast live on national television. What others might not remember is that students with tickets to the game were required to take COVID-19 tests, and those who didn't show up for testing had their tickets canceled." 

Ah COVID, we aren't done with you yet, are we? The title of this article can be used yet again.

Becoming a Notre Dame Man
I never heard the term "Notre Dame man" or "Notre Dame woman" as an undergraduate. However, I remember the first time I heard it. In a speech to the alumni club of the San Francisco Bay Area, Frank Allocco shared how he became a Notre Dame man and referred to some of his mentors, teammates and coaches who embodied what it means.

In this short excerpt from "Telling Stories that Matter: Memoirs and Essays" by Father Marvin O'Connell, a long time professor and chair of the University's history department, I learned Notre Dame does not have a fight song—it's a "Victory March."  I now know that Paul Hourning was the only member of a losing team to win a Heisman Trophy and that "the boldness of cheering for our players when they had no chance to win, and its effect on them proved to be" more than a rite of passage. It's what it means to be a Notre Dame man... 

May I Have Your Attention, Please?
This tribute is in loving memory of Tim McCarthy, Indiana State Police safety education sergeant, who delivered safety messages laced with one-liners at Notre Dame football games for 55 years. He died October 1, 2020 at age 89. 

As written by Kristy Katzmann '00, "One of his new responsibilities was to make an announcement at Notre Dame home football games reminding people to drive safely on the way home, but after two games he knew people weren’t paying attention. He decided to change that by adding something to the message"

The result? Notre Dame Stadium fell silent in eager anticipation during the fourth quarter for a reminder to drive carefully and 
courteously on the way home, punctuated by an often groan-inducing play on words. This article includes his Top 10 favorite. Mine is 
    7. No one relishes a pickled driver.

Traditions big and small, like what Officer McCarthy shared inside of Notre Dame stadium are but one example of what makes game day so special.

LepreConal: First native Irishman dons the mascot's green suit.
Pregame festivities for the Fiesta Bowl included Mass at the Biltmore Hotel and a reception right after. I walked in to this event only to see the ND mascot, also known as "LepreConal." Thanks to this article, introduced myself to Conal Fagan as only a fangirl can...and does. 

The native of Derry, Ireland is known for "fun, crazy energy." He said "I would always start the cheers before the cheerleaders, and they got really annoyed at me." Irish and energetic, athletic and aware—job description: filled!

The Education of Amy Coney Barrett
I loved learning about what the title of this article suggests: Coney Barrett's education. I delight in knowing that she too, has gained important life lessons from sports.

John Nagy '00 recalled this insight. Thanks athletics!

When she was 10 years old, the oldest child in a growing Catholic family in the New Orleans suburb of Metairie, Louisiana, Amy Coney competed in her first track meet.

She lost her event. Seeing her disappointment, an uncle consoled her. “Honey,” he said, “do you know how many times you looked to see where the other runners were? Every time you look to the right or the left, you lose a half-step. Next time, look straight ahead and run your best.”

She told this story 34 years later to students who voted her professor of the year. That afternoon in May 2016, Professor Barrett’s theme wasn’t winning but the danger of comparison. She quoted Teddy Roosevelt: “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Then she shared her uncle’s kindly advice that’s helped her keep perspective along life’s way. It was characteristic of Barrett, regarded by colleagues and students as an exemplary mentor, to use a parting moment to counsel bright young minds on what makes for happiness as they enter a notoriously unhappy profession.

ACB was #13 on my 20 people, places, events and episodes that brought some joy to year that needed it: 202o. I hope to meet her and when I do, I will thank her for professing our shared beliefs.

The day I finished reading this 2020-2021 edition, the 2021-2022 arrived in the mail Serendipity! My Seagrass Basket Zero remains a challenge...albeit a very good one.

Photo Credits
All are from ND Magazine except for 
Frank Allocco: Peacock documentary on Joe Montana

Friday, January 14, 2022

Friendships From Sports: Another Jewel of Life

The words of  Jessie Owens resonate with my life's story. The four-time 1936 Olympic champion said, "Friendships born on the field of athletic strife are the real gold of competition. Awards become corroded, friends gather no dust." 

I met two of my closest friends on the Carondelet High School tennis team. One was my favorite doubles partner and the other came back from a 7-0 deficit to beat me during freshman year tryouts, 9-7 in the 8-game pro-set. I haven't played tennis with or against either of these women in over 25 years, and yet their friendship means more to me than ever.

I continue to make friends—new ones, good ones, even wild ones through sports. The game of golf has introduced me to women and men, young and old from a variety of backgrounds, careers and much more. Truly, my life is so much richer because of the time we spend together playing what is much more than "just a game."  Indeed, through the shared pursuit of something challenging, competitive. and fun that those relationships are strengthened and sustained. Sport really is the gift that keeps on giving.

I love the fact professional sports celebrates the friendships that are born from being teammates. For example, the long waited return of Klay Thompson (941 days to be exact) wasn't the only story that caught the media's attention. Prior to tip-off, this Splash Brother was greeted with a hug by his little league teammate, Kevin Love. As written on SFGate

The intertwining paths of Klay Thompson and Kevin Love trace back to a baseball field in a Portland, Ore., suburb.

Long before the NBA All-Stars faced each other on their current sport’s biggest stage, they shared a Little League team. Thompson was the speedy leadoff hitter, Love the hard-throwing pitcher. Even then, while playing a sport that won’t figure in their legacy, the preteens recognized in one another the potential for greatness.

But a few hours earlier, the highest profile position for the Rams was working to secure another victory for a Los Angeles team. Matt Stafford, the team's quarterback grew up with a man who knows what those expectations and that pressure feels like. The Dodgers long time ace, Clayton Kershaw has called Stafford a teammate and friend since they were six years old.

Stafford watches Kershaw pitch at Dodger Stadium. #support

In fact, as written in The Bleacher Report

They played on the same youth soccer, baseball, football and basketball teams together. They played freshmen football and two years of varsity baseball together and both graduated from Highland Park High School in 2006 after dominant final seasons. Kershaw compiled a 13-0 record with an ERA of 0.77. In a five-inning mercy-rule game, he struck out all 15 batters.

These two examples, on one of the more exciting sports Sundays, got me thinking about other friendships born from youth or high school sports. I know that many collegiate and professional athletes consider their teammates to be like friends and in some cases, like family. But what of those born from those formative years. 

Andy Roddick and Drew Brees both are long time friends and former teammates. As written by the 2003 US Open Champion:

“Yes Drew Brees beat me in tennis when I was 9 and he was 11. Twice,” Roddick wrote on Twitter back in 2014. “I finally beat him and he quit tennis. You’re welcome football.”

What other former teammates/friends come to mind?

Reflecting upon these types of connections, got me thinking. Can you name two women that became friends through sport? I could not.  The first example that came to mind was Venus and Serena Williams. I gave myself a half point of credit, as they siblings. However, I genuinely think the two sisters—born just 15 months apart—have an affection for one another that is akin to the best of friends. Please share names of female athletes if you know any. They ought to be publicized too!

And while we are at it—what about male and female friendships. I knew that Jerian Grant and Jewell Lloyd became friends at the University of Notre Dame thanks to shared space. In the time between the men's and women's practices, the two would shoot around and engage in a friendly, yet competitive game of H.O.R.S.E.  All-Americans, Player of the year candidates, and now...friends. Go IRISH.

I believe every person should have a number of quotes, prayers and mottos memorized by heart. One of mine is by the late author and activist, Elie Wiesel. He wrote "friends are the jewel of life." Thank you sports, for bringing many jewels, many colors, shapes and sizes. Shine brightly.

Photo Credits
Drew and Andy

Monday, January 10, 2022

The Open Letter: Thank you Alec Ingold of the Las Vegas Raiders

The open letter. Have you ever written one? Have you wanted to but thought otherwise? In 23 years of teaching, I can recall but one addressed to the school community where I have taught. This student’s message was hard to read; it was both challenging and inspiring. The author, however, did not use his real name. Did writing behind a pseudonym compromise the integrity of an open letter? Let’s discuss.

I believe students and faculty ought to sign their name when they complete the evaluation of a teacher or administrators. I challenge myself to live by this principle; it hasn’t always been easy. I understand why people are reluctant to evaluate a superior without anonymity. And yet, I think standing behind your word is critically important. An open letter allows for an individual to do just that...or at least it should!

Therefore when a friend sent An open letter to fans from Raiders captain Alec Ingold, I couldn't help but take a moment and pause. What was the injured fullback possibly going to say or rationalize. Fans know the drudgery, death and drama of the Silver and Black this year. This missive shared the team's response, reconciliation and rewards. The result? It was impossible not to cheer for his team: the Las Vegas Raiders.

Their 35-32 win over the Los Angeles Chargers in overtime might be one of the most exciting games I have ever watched. I didn't know a non-playoff game could be more exciting than the one I witnessed but a few hours earlier, when the San Francisco 49ers beat the Rams of Los Angeles 27-24, also in overtime.

Ingold's open letter prompted me as a coach to consider What would my team leadership write? What might their message be? I tried to imagine What would they want the Saint Francis community to know about their season? 

Coaches, here is an invitation to do the same. Encourage your athletes to put their names on evaluations both in class and at the end of the season. And, if given the chance, share the story of their own season in an Open Letter. 

Photo Credits
Ingold: From the Open Letter

Sunday, January 9, 2022

Aspiration: Inbox Zero Redux

The basket you see in this picture haunts me. It challenges me. It ought to contract, it usually expands. And yet it lives in my sacred space.

The basket as of January 2022

When asked to describe a sacred space, I named the desk in my room. It sits in the bay window of my San Francisco flat and overlooks Fillmore and Washington Streets, the heart of the Pacific Heights neighborhood. From time to magical time, I really do feel like a writer as I peck away on this keyboard from this little perch. I'm not proud of it, but Carrie Bradshaw comes to mind. I savor those moments...until I see that basket.

This Pottery Barn Seagrass basket houses all the articles and magazines I have yet to read or transcribe. I am pretty good about pitching what I know I will never read. That healthy habit is why this basket is a problem. It is full of what I need to file or frame for a future lesson, blog post or article. 

When it became semi-clear during COVID that no one was returning to the office anytime soon, I set a goal—an aspiration—of getting through this basket. For those of you familiar with in-box zero, this was the real world, incarnational variation. Over time, I made significant progress but this literary weed didn't quit. Thus, when the Christmas break and the new year afforded me the opportunity to return to this aspiration, I reached for a magazine very familiar to me: Notre Dame Magazine. 

This is the basket at the onset of COVID. I should have noted the progress I made...

The Winter 2020-2021 issue lived in the basket because I had not read it in the way that I do. I give a Sports and Spirituality review on this blog for each season of the alumni publication. I find this practice to be a wonderful way to guide my reading. I think we all have our own way of navigating a trusted journal. How do you proceed?

Thus, this post serves three purposes:

  1. Consider this question: How do you decide what you read? The answer to the question ought to help you read more. And, I hope it helps you discover something about yourself!
  2. It lays the foundation for my next post.
  3. Being that one of my aspirations for 2022 is to move toward Pottery Barn Seagrass Basket zero, I am about to unload 10 articles from it now. Here are links and insights for each.
I unloaded these articles from the basket, thanks to this post.
It also helped me lesson plan for this week!
This got me thinking: “...the emissions from food waste in the world is twice the amount generated by all the cars in the U.S. and Europe and that rescuing food lowers those emissions.”

Insult has been added to the injury. Wasting food is completely unnecessary. 

  • 2. Alumna Feature CHRISTINA CHENAULT '15 from the Carondeletter
My high school's alumni magazine profiled Chenault, Carondelet Cougar record holder in the triple jump, long long, 200m, 400m 4x100m and 4x400 relays. Can we say decorated?! This athlete and advocate "started a sports media platform, a creative: a creative outlet to share fellow athletes' stories, find internships for athletes, and increase her profile as an athlete and entrepreneur. This piece led me to look up Chenault, only to find an informative interview on NPR. Former NCAA Athlete Fights For College Players To Profit From Own Names
My cohost Haley and I run a loose script for each episode. In the basket lives the notes from September 19, Season Two, Episode 14—The 25th Week in Ordinary Time. 

The show's outline: The Flame—What's hot this week, Spiritual Stew and our take aways are printed as a reminder to post stories, images and more to our Twitter and Instagram feeds. It lives in the basket because I have yet to post.  Tackling social media is NOT for the weary! 
The editor of Irish Illustrated writes, "Rees' success on the gridiron was predicated upon factors beyond his physical abilities."  As a fellow coach, I loved reading what Rees looks for. No doubt those qualities extend once again to the football field, albeit in another role. Grateful for his leadership and commitment to the Irish. 
When Brian Kelly accepted the job at LSU, Irish fans wondered what coaches he would take with him. Special teams coach, Brian Polian, the author of this guidebook was one of them. Given what he writes about BK, I am not surprised.
Working for Brian Kelly is very rewarding for me personally. He has taught me a great deal. "BK" is a wonderful communicator, a natural leader, trusts his people to do their jobs, and treats the staff and their families with respect. He has also help me to re-emphasize the importance of building relationships as a coach.

When we returned to Notre Dame in 2017, the Irish were coming off an uncharacteristic for an eight season in 2016 and Coach Kelly was evaluating every facet of the program. Watching some of this take place in person was an incredible learning opportunity. He met with just about every player in the program and sought feedback on their experience. He had uncomfortable conversations with leadership and wanted to know what he could do better. Then he set in motion a plan to reset and refocus the culture of the program.

I wish the two of them good luck at LSU. 

  • 5. KEN VENTURI 1931--2013 The Stylish and Stalwart 1964 Open Champ turned TV voice was an icon of golf's greatest generation, by Michael Bamberger
I've wanted to write about Venturi because of his San Francisco roots, But this tribute by Bamberger provided another reason.

"In his San Francisco boyhood Venturi had a serious stammering problem and was drawn to golf because he could play it alone. He logged hundreds of rounds at Harding Park, a city course where his parents worked in the pro shop. He overcame his stammer with intense devotion to breathing exercises and other therapies. He loved the movie The King's Speech."

I had a beloved student who struggled tremendously with his stammer. He found music to be his outlet. Perhaps golf could have been another.
  • 6. Shining StarPioneer astronaut Sally Ride still inspires women to aim high by Kathy Zonana
Inspires and gives me pause for amazement is more like it. My jaw might have dropped when I read, "Ride's first achievements came in tennis. She was a nationally ranked junior player and reached the collegiate quarterfinals as a Swarthmore student before transferring to Stanford, where she played No. 1 singles. The tennis ace was "lighthearted," says teammate Anne Connelly Gould, who was part of a pack of summertime tennis teachers who would race to Ride's Escondido Village apartment at lunchtime to watch All My Children. "I think tennis was an outlet for her," says Gould, '72, MA '80. "Obviously, she was a very serious student."

Stanford is among the top ranked tennis teams in the country, then and now. What an outlet!
A long time fan of the Pizzookie, it's time I've made my own. In the tragic event you are unfamiliar with this sweet treat, here is what you need to know. "BJ's Restaurant and Brewhouse, a popular chain in the U.S., created a gluttonous masterpiece called the pizookie. A pizookie is a pizza-cookie hybrid, topped with dripping scoops of ice cream. The dense cookie flavors include salted caramel, cookies 'n' cream, peanut butter s'mores and more. This culinary invention is not to be missed."

The recipe I will be using is from the Woman's Day: Back to Everything 2021 issue. No sports connection here. Am willing to make a case for a spiritual one, though! 
Let's discuss....
I start a new section of Sports and Spirituality this week. Fresh crop of seniors, some of who I taught during the junior year in Moral Issues. This conclusion from the former football player, now professor of English at University of Virginia will serve as an opening discussion. 

Do sports build character? Sports are what Derrida, in an essay on Plato, associates with something called the pharmakon, a substance that is both a poison and a remedy. Sports can do great good: build the body, create a stronger, more resilient will, impart confidence, stimulate bravery, foment daring. But at the same time, sports often brutalize the player—they make him more aggressive, more violent. They make him intolerant of gentleness; they help turn him into a member of the pack, which defines itself by maltreating others—the weak, the tender, the differently made.
A sticky note lives on this page with the question: For next year? Truth be told, I still can't decide if I should follow up Edmundson's claim with Rushin's treatise. The Sports Illustrator columnist is tremendously creative and flip. Perhaps I should share him with high school students for that very reason. I can't predict how they will respond. Stay tuned.
All points are true but I will be blogging about number 10 and number 11? One of my 22 for 2022. Aspiration 2.0.

I'm beginning to think that to succeed with my aspiration of Seagrass Basket Zero, I may need to post a listing of articles from time to time. Let's see where 2022 takes us!

photo credits
Gen Z

Friday, January 7, 2022

New Year's Resolutions or Aspirations?

As a teacher, I celebrate a new year in August and in January. I welcome the opportunity to do something better, to commit to a healthy habit, to resign the bad ones and see what might change. I realize a lot of people don't necessarily feel this way.

By now, you've heard it more than once. When asked about their New Year's resolution, a friend or family member replies, "My resolution is to not make any resolutions." Insert canned laughter here. I always think of myself, "that's too bad."

Country music star, Kelsea Ballerini shared

“Y’all. I've spent the last few days writing pages and pages of things I want to do to ‘better’ myself, my body, my relationships, my career, my life this year. PAGES. And then I realized that was only going to bring more anxiety and unrealistic expectations into my world and I just don’t have the room for it this year. I ripped those pages out. Now, I'm focused on doing my damn best.”

Ok. That's a start. But how might that happen? How do we get there? Who points the way? To me, a new year's resolution provides a framework for not only achieving but committing oneself to doing their damn best. Whether it's eating one piece of fruit a day, reading for 22 minutes or walking more steps, a new year's resolution invites us to reflect upon who we are and who we would like to be.

If you're still not convinced, Dynamic Catholic offered what I found to be an invitational distinction to the January game. They wrote: 

Don't Make a List of Resolutions. Make a list of Aspirations.

It’s hard to change old habits. It’s even harder to create new ones. We tell ourselves we’ll wake up earlier in the morning, but the alarm goes off and all we can think about is the cold air and the warm bed. And if we’re not careful, making the wrong choice is easy. 

But when you make a list of aspirations, you open your eyes to new possibilities. You awaken your deepest yearnings, and inspire yourself to make small, powerful changes. Instead of thinking about the difficulties, you focus on the dreams you have for your life.

Is it helpful to your to make this distinction? Is a list of aspirations less intimidating? It's a thought.

Since I am such a both/and person, I decided that my 22 for 2022 list would include both aspirations and resolutions. Yes, I have resolved to play 22 new golf courses and go to Mass at 22 new churches. And, thanks to this template created by Gretchen Rubin, I know how 20 aspirations. She describes it this way

Tired of making New Year’s resolutions? Looking for a new, creative way to identify your aims for 2022? Try making a “22 for 2022” list. List twenty-two things you'd like to do by the end of the year. These items can be easy or ambitious, one-time undertakings or habits that stretch for years. There’s no one right way to make your list—just think about what you want the new year to hold. Onward!
On her podcast Happier Episode 359, Rubin and her sister Elizabeth Kraft discuss each item on their list for 2022. As a loyal listener, I know that come August, they will share their progress. And before the year comes to a close, Gretch and Elizabeth reveal if they have successfully checked the box or not. Call it a day of reckoning, but I know the visual tool and their testimonies breed success. Furthermore, an accountability partner is important. Finding my own, might be worth listing as an aspiration for the year.

I write about aspirations and resolutions because yes, a good number will involve sports and spirituality. In fact, I have not yet concluded my own list and am still considering if it is public domain. But one important item on that list is prompting my next blog post. Stay tuned and in the mean time aspire away!

Photo Credits
My 22 for 2022

Friday, December 31, 2021

My 22 for 2022

Embracing Gretchen Rubin's 21 for 2021—reading for pleasure for 21 minutes a day—is, hands down, the best thing I did this past year. I began 90% of my days by reading for 21 minutes. The timer on my iPhone defaults to 21:22. We don't call it smart technology for nothing! If I had to choose between a morning walk and reading, I went with those 21 minutes and my book or magazine. I can make a strong argument that this literary discipline became a spiritual one. This happy habit will not go away. Thank you Gretch! 

While getting destroyed on the Lake course during my Christmas Eve round
with Monica, I came up my idea for 2022. Hoping it will help me play better on this course, damn it.

Rubin is the New York Times best selling author of The Happiness Project and co-host of one of my favorite podcasts, Happier. Since 2020 she has challenged her followers to implement a personal habit that plays with that number of the year—walk for 20 minutes a day in 2020 and in 2021, read for 21 straight minutes. For Rubin, reading 21 minutes is anything but a challenge. This is a woman who posts a monthly photo of a stack of books she has eaten for breakfast. Yes, I gaze at her reading lists with envy. I find myself asking how she does it, but thanks to this daily habit, I have a better understanding.

What reading with a timer taught me is that while I thought I had a good habit of reading before, I didn't. I approached daily reading blindly, which is fine. But truth be told, I was selling myself short. I probably read for 10 to 12 minutes at most, but reading for a full 21 took me much further and deeper into the text. Many times, I wanted to hit reset for an added 21:22 Work and other obligations always call. My brother has told me to keep a journal list of the books I have read; it will only encourage me to read more. 

As a teacher and a writer, the words of Heather Treseler invited me to think differently about my 21 for 2021. In the article "My Search for Elizabeth Bishop" she writes 

At the university where I have up to 150 students and advisees each year, I have learned that getting my students to write better is, in part, a matter of helping them figure out what to read. In a world of clickbait and newsfeeds, I want them to have the necessary pleasure of rapt absorption, deep engagement that comes from being “too shy to stop” in books and the worlds they open. These reflexes — of imagination and reflection — ensure we are thinkers, not simply information consumers whose interests are carefully mapped and mercilessly merchandised."

Her realization gave me pause to think about the reading I do and the reading I encourage in the classroom. For example. in Sports and Spirituality, we tackled a challenging and lengthy essay with the "Silent 10"—10 minutes of sustained silent reading. It took some arm wrestling, but eventually each one settled into the routine. And yes, they probably heard more about my 21 for 2021 both directly and indirectly. I couldn't help but share excerpts of my latest book "Rafa: The Autobiography of Rafael Nadal" as so many of his stories and insights resonate with the curriculum....and I was proud that I carried this through! 

Rubin's 22 for 2022 challenge is 22 minutes of rest. The reveal—featured on Episode 357— explains its importance.

Research shows that rest is an essential element of working well and working smart. Rest helps us to think and increase our productivity; rest can refresh the mind and replenish mental energy. Research also suggests also that taking regular breaks raises your level of engagement which, in turn, is highly correlated with productivity. It also boosts creativity by helping people make unexpected connections and stay open to different possibilities.

I can't and won't argue with the importance of rest. I appreciate that she has listed the many forms that rest can take, providing a number of ways one can achieve this goal. We might be a better society, and definitely a better high school if we practiced 22 for 2022. However, I'm not willing to commit. Sorry Gretch.

Instead, I will most likely read for 22 in 2022 and...drum roll.... my goal is to play 22 new golf courses in 2022. This will be a fun and interesting challenge, and it's one I know I can accomplish as I will be paying greens fees at 12 new ones in Ireland in July. God willing! I am excited for the new places and perspectives I will gain by hitting the same ball (more or less) with my same clubs on new links. 

And, being that I don't write and teach about Sports and Spirituality—but actually live it!—my goal is to attend Mass at 22 new Catholic churches. I am committed to Sunday mass at my parish but I always enjoy the opportunity to pray with a new community in a different, often historic, and beautiful setting.

Similar to my tracking the books I read, I look forward to doing the same with my golf courses and Catholic parishes.

I don't know a person who isn't hopeful that 2022 will be a gentler, kinder, healthier and happier year. 22 is my lucky number. It's my favorite number. Beyond books, golf and communal worship, I am excited for the blessings it will bring. Happy New Year!

Photo Credits

Friday, December 24, 2021

The Freeman Era: Principles and More

In case the advent of a pandemic hasn't convinced you that life can change in the blink of an eye, look no further than Notre Dame Football. On December 14, 2020 Irish fans lamented the loss of their Defensive Coordinator, Clark Lea, when he was named head coach at his alma mater, Vanderbilt University. As written in Notre Dame Football: Top 3 candidates to replace Clark Lea as defensive coordinator, "the Irish would be wise to pursue Cincinnati defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman. Freeman has been one of the fastest risers in the country and is regarded as one of the brightest young football minds in college football." Less than a year later, Freeman, 35, was named as the 32nd head coach in program history. 

Let the Freeman era begin.

The purpose of this post is not to comment on Coach Kelly, his contributions over 12 years time, the culture he established, or the way he left (I still can't believe less than 48 hours after seeing him coach at Stanford, he signed with LSU....see opening line for point made!) but instead to celebrate what we—those of us who love Notre Dame football—are about to enter into. And, whether or not you are a fan of the Irish, I would like to point the way toward what and who I believe is a "Force for Good."

There has been so much excitement around the hiring of Marcus Freeman that I was dying to know if the Alumni Association would find a way to feature him in Sacred Spaces of Notre Dame: A Daily Advent Journey. As mentioned in The Best Way to Pray during Advent: Can you name a sacred place? this is a beautiful, creative resource for prayer. I was hopeful. I sensed his willingness to share his faith. And to my utter delight, on December 20, I came to learn that the sacred space for Coach Freeman is the God, Country and Notre Dame door at the east entrance of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart.

He said, “When I arrived at Notre Dame a little less than a year ago, this was one place that I was able to connect with immediately. Stepping anywhere near the Basilica brings me to a place of peace, but this door in particular is one spot that speaks to me. Each of these words — God, Country, Notre Dame — hold a special place in my heart, and when I pass through this door, I am immediately grateful for all of the blessings they represent that have brought me to this University.”

Coach Freeman's testimony was not surprising to me. From "The Freeman Era," I gained a sense of his values and character. One of my favorite scenes features University President, Rev John Jenkins, C.S.C. talking to him, via Zoom from Rome. I love Jenkins' question. He asked, "What attracted you to coaching? Why do coach? What do you like it?  How did you come into it?" To me, it's a worthy one from one school leader to another. 

Freeman admitted that he wanted to play in the NFL for a long time. "All of a sudden you realize you can't do it and so you say hey I want to get into coaching. That's cool, that's fun. You get to be on the sidelines and around the game, but quickly I realized that is not where you get your satisfaction. You get that through helping young people to reach goals. It's about making time to make sure these young people do everything in their power to reach their goals. What drives me to to coach?  It's about serving. I plan on leading this team with an unwavering standard. We will call it the golden standard: 

  1. Challenge Everything—challenge normalcy
  2. Unit Strength—this means love. It's what turns players into a team.
  3. Competitive Spirit—developing a winners mindset

In the "10 Building Blocks of Catholic Social Teaching" William Byron writes "Principles, once internalized, lead to something. They prompt activity, impel motion, direct choices. A principled person always has a place to stand, knows where he or she is coming from and likely to end up. Principles always lead the person who possesses them somewhere, for some purpose, to do something, or choose not to."

I always give my head coach the benefit of the doubt until proven otherwise. In Coach Freeman, I find a principled person...a man of principle. If it's not God, Country, Notre Dame, it's the golden standard.

At the conclusion of Freeman's Sacred Space reflection, he says. "So in this season of Advent, as we come together to celebrate Christ’s birth, think of your places of belonging. How do they allow for reflection, humility and gratitude, serving as reminders of where you’ve been and what you’re striving toward?"

Grateful to share a place of belonging. Grateful to celebrate the birth of Christ. And that some changes, though quick and unexpected are life giving. Welcome Coach Freeman and family. Merry Christmas!

Photo Credits
Freeman family