Thursday, June 17, 2021

We Are Not Forgotten: Remembering Mike

Golf has the ability to connect young and old, male and female, living and those who are no longer with us. I was reminded of this truth—once again—by participating in the WGANC two-day Stroke Championship. With my summer vacation now underway, I was particularly excited do play in this tourney because I had not played at Claremont—the home course of a friend—Mike Donovan. Mike died on April 30, 2018 but his spirit and his legacy live on. Golf has a special way of doing that. Here's the story.

I met Mike many years ago through one of his closest and dearest friends, Peggy. A devout Catholic and golfer, Mike was no stranger to adversity—having lost his home in the Oakland fire and in battling cancer for 23 years. As written in his obituary, "In response to his own inability to swallow because of his cancer treatments, Mike co-founded the National Foundation of Swallowing Disorders to help others with the same dysphagia. While living in Oakland, he volunteered as a Basketball Coach for Seventh and Eighth Grade boys in Oakland's inner city. He truly was a man for others, even as he faced his continued cancer treatments." In fact, his ability to speak was compromised due to those chemotherapy treatments, but Peggy always understood what he said. Theirs was a special friendship to witness and share. 

Mike still communicated volumes by his gentle and warm presence. He had the Arnold Palmer syndrome—making you feel like you were the only person in the room. He smiled and laughed through his Irish eyes and witty retorts; he let his clubs do most of the talking. I never got to play with Mike at Claremont, but Peggy sure did. Mike was unofficially the mayor of CGCC, not to mention the club champion (3x). This title means that club members take notice when you come to play. The first tee, near the 19th hole, puts added pressure on that moment. When Peggy came to play with Mike, he swung easy. Peggy rose to the occasion. We love that memory. When Mike died, Claremont flew the flag at half mast in his honor.

Shotgun start at Claremont Country Club

In February 2016 Peggy, Mike, another friend and me spent the weekend in Carmel and attended the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, two days in a row. Upon the conclusion of a weekend of great golf, outstanding weather, and wonderful companionship, I said that I didn't think I could go back. I wasn't convinced that anything could top the experience I had. Less than a year later, Mike got sick again. We had high hopes we would be able reconvene but it was not to be. I have returned to the Pro-Am several times and it's different. Still, I cherish those memories and how special our time together was.

On my drive to Claremont, I prayed for those who were touched by Mike's life and for those who still grieve.I recalled the stories that were shared in the eulogy following the mass of Christian burial at Saint Theresa's. I would like his family and friends to know, I share his story with my students even today.

Walking up to the club house, I thought of the celebration of his life that took place in that beautiful space and the sight of his close friends huddled on that patio overlooking the first and eighteenth holes. During my round, I thought many times of how he might have played certain holes and what advice he might have given to me (he was super encouraging). Though I had a bit of a heavy heart, I played great. I think Mike made sure I would.

At the conclusion of the day, I approached the General Manager and head pro who were standing together, near the putting green. I said "thank you for a great day. A friend Mike Donovan was a member here and loved this place." "Mike Donovan!" said the GM. "What a wonderful man. That one still hurts." I replied "the only time I have been here prior to today was after his funeral. I wanted to play in this tournament because I never got to play here with him and I knew it was very special." He responded "thank you for remembering Mike. Thank you for telling us that."

Although it wasn't Claremont, I did get to play golf with Mike at his other club, on the Ocean course at Monterey Peninsula GC. Mike went out of his way to make sure I got a hat as a memento from the round. Anytime I wear it and someone asks about the old logo—I get to share a little bit about Mike.

Someone recently said to me, "For someone that doesn’t get paid to play golf you care way too much about it!" His words are both inconsiderate and obtuse. I'm glad I care about golf—it has a way of connecting us to people and to places that emerge from the ordinary to extraordinary. It reminds us that we are not forgotten. We can participate and play in honor of those we love and with those we care about. I should say I look forward to talking about my round on Monday with Mike...but I already did. I believe in the communion of saints. Mike is just one more example of my conviction.

Photo Credits

Monday, June 14, 2021

Coaching Will Ruin Your Life: Why We Do It Anyway

Ask me why I still coach after twenty-plus years of working in high school athletics and my dear friend Haley comes to mind as one answer. Haley is a former colleague; she is a huge sports fan, wife, mom, teacher and true soul sister. Like me, she runs a varsity program. Unlike me, she manages a team of 30 young women on a team sport. Golf is different. It is an individual sport that high schools and colleges offer as a team experience. I carry nine girls on varsity and eighteen in the program. In spite of our differences, Haley and I meet in the middle. We unpack the challenges of coaching the female high school athlete. We discuss the fight that we face to give female sports the recognition they deserve. Together we have come to determine at some point, somewhere we want to offer a talk....or write an article...entitled "Coaching will ruin your life: Why we do it anyway." And, finishing the 2020-2021 school year's golf season might just add a new twist. 

Coaching high school sports will ruin your life. During the season, you can kiss your weekends goodbye. You never quite know if you are doing enough. Should I have scheduled a few more scrimmages? Why not organize a Catholic school tournament? Did we practice this part of the game enough? Why can't they do x? How can we get better at y? And when will z stick? There is always some administrative task that has yet to be done. Though you may have the transportation needs and dismissal times published, you forgot to get the uniform orders in as early as you had hoped. Your weekdays are long, your game days longer. It is never safe to assume anything. For example, as soon as I started to think how well my team was getting along, one girl confessed to mean girl syndrome on the team. This floored me. Just the other day, I shared with another golfer some of the drills my team practices. She said "wow, you really plan stuff." Yes I do. If I don't, my life is doubly ruined!

But this post is not the story of the ruination of my life since athletics reopened in the state of California due to COVID. When the CIF announced that girls' and boys' golf would begin on February 8, we were ready and excited. When I saw that the league championships would take place in May and the sectional championship would happen in June, I thought "ok." So much of life this past year was TBD. I figured the story of this season was to be determined. And so it was.

Coaching did anything but ruin my life this year. In fact, it was one of the most enjoyable parts of it. I wouldn't be a teacher or a coach if I didn't enjoy spending time with young people and this season allowed me to do something I once took for granted. I got to spend time, in person, with the same girls, participating in a game we love. With the restrictions of COVID came new found freedoms. We met at the golf course, and girls came when they could. If they couldn't make practice or a match we worked around it. This wasn't seamless or without hassle or mistakes, but it worked.

We welcomed to our team two seniors—one who quit the year before due to academic demands. The other was a young woman who had talked about playing golf—a lot—but played volleyball in the past. I heard about this as her classroom teacher and invited her to try out. Too many seniors take a step away from participation in high school sports. We are so grateful she didn't! 

Their kindness, positive attitudes and talent galvanized into a team chemistry that shaped our team for the better. Whereas teammates are naturally competitive with one another, the affect of these seniors buoyed the camaraderie and playfulness of the crew. For example, after one round, one player was noting how terrible she played because of her three-putt. One of my seniors said "well would you rather three putt or three chip to get on the green." That's a good teammate.

We finished second in the league and played at the Central Coast section championship, Wednesday June 9—nearly two weeks after classes resumed. We were told by the league commissioners that players would need to leave right after their round and there would not be an awards ceremony. No one questioned these protocols; girls' golf in the Spring season is already an anomaly.

What materialized could not be scripted. Because we qualified as a team, my players were in the final six groupings. Upon finishing, girls sat on the grass—the 18th green at Laguna Seca Golf Ranch has a natural amphitheater around it— and waited as their teammates came through. As each girl came in, their teammates wanted to know how they did. This is always a tense moment because their is the inner-pressure to best everyone in the field is coupled with a true desire to support your teammate! With school out and the season over, we felt no pressure to go anywhere or be anything other than who we were at the moment.

One player was fighting back tears. Another girl saw this and said "it's ok, I cried earlier." Another admitted that she cries all the time. One added that she wears waterproof mascara because she knows she will cry. When one girl finished, her dad gave her a big hug and told her how proud he was of his daughter. The girl sitting next to me said "I wish my Dad was like that." Her tears began. We continued to watch and share stories of the round. At one point I told a girl that I cried when I realized what time I needed to leave my home to get to the course on time. She smiled saying "see Coach, you cry too." I gathered the team together for one final meeting. I congratulated them, I thanked them, and told them I loved them. This moment however was shortened by a player's parent telling us to hurry up. They were giving away awards.

This impromptu, informal gathering was unexpected. One of my players earned a medal for finishing fourth overall. An outstanding teammate, we were overjoyed for her award. Moments later, our team was awarded with the third place trophy. We ran up for our hardware, embraced and celebrated the moment. Team pictures, selfies, high fives and hugs are what we will remember—tears and all.

In a non-pandemic season, I would drive the team to the match and most of their parents would pick them up and we would depart separately. The team van would be empty and I would begin the haul back to campus. This year, I left as I came—alone in my Jeep—but full of gratitude for the season that almost wasn't.

I turned on the radio, and I started to cry. Overcome with emotion, exhaustion, those feelings of self doubt and uncertainty, coupled by the others of thankfulness and knowing I gave my very best. So many tears.

I reached out to Haley to share all that I was feeling. She simply said, "Tears in or after a season only make it official. So happy for you!!" 

Once again, coaching ruined my life....and I'm so grateful.

NB: and to women in particular. If you are thinking of coaching high school sports, please talk to me and to Haley. We have a lot to share.

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Lessons from The Good Life and the 2021 US Women's Open

In her philosophy class, What Makes a Life Good?, Dr. Meghan Sullivan contends "there are some things in life that we just can’t outsource to other people." In other words, only you should offer an apology to someone you have hurt, you must be the one to go on the awkward first date with someone you are interested in dating. and, the only person to speak to a therapist about their own you. Sullivan offers these examples because she also believes that determining what makes a life good—the essential question of the course— is something you have to do for yourself. I asked my students what they thought. When I found little to no disagreement, I then asked "What else ought you do for yourself?" Someone replied "write a thank you note." "Interesting," I said. "And is a thank you note essential for living a good life?" My student responded, "maybe not the note itself, but expressing gratitude in an intentional or formal way is." I agree.

The champion, Yuka Saso tees off on the iconic 18th hole of the Lake Course
I recall this snapshot of my Moral Issues class because I find myself in need of expressing gratitude. And, I don't know to whom I should address my note—but I am thankful to have been a part of the 76th United States Women's Open that took place from June 3-6, 2021 on the Lake Course at the Olympic Club. It was the sixth time the club has hosted a US Open Championship and the first time it has welcomed the women's tourney. I will carry memories from this entire week with me for a lifetime.

When asked to work as the co-chair for junior volunteers in September 2019, the plan was to target young people, especially female golfers—to work "inside the ropes" next to the best women in the world. Like so much of life since March 2020, the USGA worked overtime to pivot and find a way to keep young people involved. I'm glad they did--both for my sake and for those young members who were able to contribute to the success of the event! 

Thank you to my co-chair Marissa and to the crew of young Olympians who showed up Monday through Sunday. They sorted through thousands of range balls, separating between Titlelist Pro VI, Titlelist Pro VX and Callaway and bagged them into a highly coveted* US Open 2021 red bags. They placed the sign placards behind each player on the range so the crowd would know who was warming up, shagged balls on the 18th green practice area and made it all work. 

There were so many highlights from the week, but one in particular was having my team—Saint Francis girls' golf in attendance on Thursday, Day 1 of the Open. These young women really know the game as both players and as fans. They were in awe of seeing the players up close and personal. They analyzed their swings, their putting, their bags and their outfits ;-) At one point, the commentary between two of my players was so good, I suggested that they get into the announcer's booth. Should I warn Kay Cockerill or Morgan Pressell now? My team was  slightly star struck, when they realized we were sitting next to several members of the Stanford women's golf team. They thanked Cal Coach, Nancy McDaniel for her Confidence Drill and they were able to take photos with several players. Go Lancers!

Two of my players with Emma Talley

My team wasn't the only enthusiastic bunch on the property. It was great to see so many fans of all ages—both men and women, teens and kids excited about the women's game. The tourney offered several great story lines with the return of past champions: the Pink Panther—Paula Creamer and new mom, Michelle Wie-West. One of the amateurs—Megha Ganne who has yet to complete her junior year of high school (and is already committed to Stanford) made her way into the final pairing. She is poised and gracious, spirited and spunky. I love that she beckoned the crowd to roar for more (after making a putt for bogey....awesome) and that she conceded that although she was a crowd favorite, her caddy--a long time member might be the bigger draw. Unfortunately, Lexi Thompson—who was once the youngest golfer to play in the USWO at the age of 12—lost the lead and finished in third. The Lake Course has long been known as the "graveyard of champions." Thompson proved it to be no misnomer. Though part of the story of the 2021 USWO, none of that should take away the accomplishment or the congratulations due to Yuka Saso of Manila, Philippines. Saso captured the championship in a sudden death play off and defeated Nasa Hataoka of Japan.

I kept thinking of the word "hospitality" all week long. To host an event takes incredible preparation, time, energy and sacrifice. Due to COVID, it was unclear whether or not fans would even be allowed in attendance and the volunteer pool was limited to just members. Fortunately, the tourney welcomed limited fans and it all worked because folks worked long shifts many of which required either setting and alarm clock and/or going to bed past one's bed time. We all bared the summer in San Francisco (brutal!) and walked away with fog burn, wind burn, new friends and a deepened appreciation for the club and the game of golf.

As I was talking to two of my players, I realized the man standing near us was none other than Mike Wahn, the longtime commissioner of the LPGA and soon to be CEO of the USGA. I smiled at him, introduced myself and said "I teach about you in my class." I told him about the power of the thank you note—how much I appreciated that he encouraged the LPGA players to write them to sponsors and in turn how this helped to grow the game. He was holding a folder and said "I have a few of them in here." "Caught in the act," I said. That is also something only you can do for yourself. 

What makes a life good? The 2021 USWO reminds me of the answers: friends, service, hard work, inspiration, athletics—golf, teamwork and....gratitude.

Photo Credits
@USWomen'sOpen Olympic Club Instagram

Monday, May 31, 2021

In Addition to the COVID Vaccine, a Different Shot in the Arm

I just completed my twenty-second year of teaching. On the last day of class, I congratulated my students for making it through such a challenging year, for having patience through every change and development, phase and Zoom delay. I gave a special shout out for those students who sent direct messages in the chat telling me, "Ms. Stricherz, we can't hear you" and the others who always kept their screens on when so many others did not. Applause! I told them I teach because I love learning and the relationships that form from that experience. With the Grace of God, both still happened. I said farewell to the 2020-2021 school year, hello to a better tomorrow and thank you to something equally significant: those shots in the arm.

I am grateful that so many of my students and golfers gotten the COVID-19 vaccine. I want to thank athletes like Bill Russell who have embraced creative campaigns to get one. The legendary Celtic said "this is one shot I won't block." Me either. As long time basketball fans know, although Hakeem Olajuwon holds the records for most blocked shots of all time, the accolade goes to Russell. How so? The NBA did not recognize blocked shots as an official stat until the 1973-74 season (Russell retired in 1969 after playing professionally for 13 seasons). Earlier this year however, he did not play defense when it came to vaxing up. Russell is one of many.  

I want to thank the HR department at Saint Francis who worked so hard to keep teachers and staff informed about the latest updates and opportunities so we could get vaxed early. I got mine in February and March but Pfizer wasn't the only shot I received during the past 14 months to keep people like me—a teacher, coach and administrator—healthy and happy. 

Just this past week, I had three former Sports and Spirituality students come by with a note of thanks. Each one expressed their gratitude for what they learned and the relationships that were born from that experience. Their words, the memories, prayers and hopes for the future are a shot without side effects. This was a different kind of heart burn.

One month prior, the girls' volleyball team sent hand-written, personalized thank you notes to the Athletic Office at Saint Francis for all we did to help them have a season this school year. My boss, the Director of Athletics told me about this first. He was so touched by the gesture, he brought it up in our weekly meeting. A few days later, I went to my mailbox at school only to find a stack of these missives addressed to me, too. Several were written by girls that I know but there were others I don't. It didn't matter. I read each one and I smiled. It felt GREAT. I was touched by their thoughtfulness and their realization that playing a sport is not something that just happens. Thanks to the hard work of many people, a season, practice, participation and competition in athletics can go live and thrive. We didn't need COVID to teach any of that, but it's one by-product of challenging times.

Coaches: Feel free to steal this idea!

Interesting historical perspective. This isn't the first time celebrities have been used to promote a vaccine
Here we have Elvis Presley getting the Polio vaccine in 1956

I have taught in a school where we lost not one but two students to death by suicide in the same year. There was a five year period, where teenage life was so precarious, we carried a burden that still confounds me. Long ago, I realized if we could make it through those dark days, we could make it through anything. Though true, it still didn't make this past year easier. It did however help me frame what I know: it is important to give thanks each day. Whether our gratitude is for our daily bread, a teacher or coach, the gift of life or the gift of a season of sport—let us remind one another that those words of thanksgiving whether written or said—are another great shot in the arm. And, we grow healthier and perhaps more resilient because of them.

When my friend Malia got her vaccine, she started to tear up. Relief, gratitude, thanksgiving. The nurse told her "honey, no one tells you those are another side effect of the shot." Here, here. And to more shots in the arm....thanks be to God.

Photo Credits
Bill Russell
St Francis Thank you notes--my photo!

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

The Gift of Work Friends

There are all kinds of quotes honoring old and new friends, girl friends, guy friends, friends of friends (when your friend introduces you to their friend... and the two of you become even better friends?!), best friends, childhood friends and friends for a lifetime. But, I have yet to read one about a very special type of friend: those co-workers who become friends. I say this because I am richly blessed. I have so many colleagues who have not just become friends, but dear friends. Close friends. And, my recent visit to Washington DC reminded me how many of them are rooted in Sports and Spirituality.

At the historic and iconic Clyde's in Washington, DC

My friendship with Bill is a story of Spirituality and Sports. We taught in the Religious Studies department at St. Ignatius College Prep in San Francisco for twelve years together. He and his wife Mary—who is also a treasure of a friend and former colleague—now live in Boyds, Maryland. He teaches at Georgetown Prep, Mary is at Holy Child and I teach at Saint Francis High School. 

Bill arrived at SI two years before I did and established himself as the RS 300: Foundations of Ethics: Morality and Justice level leader and World Religions guru. He brought a love for Thomas Merton—the true self, Thich Nhat Hanh—Living Buddha, Living Christ and Ecological Justice to our common curriculum. To this day, I still smile when I think of a student creation—a painting of the symbols for major world religions—that he stole from my classroom and hung on his wall. He was unapologetic in hijacking it; I have a feeling that painting  hangs today on the wall in Room 205. I learned so much about spirituality from him as both his friend and colleague.

Bill also coached boys and girls tennis, and teacher coach friends are a double bonus. With Bill, the game wasn't just something he taught and developed in his athletes—to this day, tennis colors his imagination, attention, calendar and more. And, as someone who has professed many times that tennis was and is my first love, this was a triple bonus. 

up close and personal with King Fed

Bill is unparalleled in his knowledge of  the men's and women's game, both past and present. How many more times can I identify this as a bonus in a friend!? I eagerly soaked up all that he knew— his updates, stories, stats and more. I remember a friend once gave me a lengthy profile from the New York Times about Roger Federer, Bill's favorite player I started reading it only to realize, I didn't need to finish it. Why? I already knew everything in the report thanks to Bill.

Working with your friends means you get to see them five days a week. And every September, during the fortnight of the US Open, I would tread lightly in the Religious Studies hallway until I knew one thing: if Bill knew the outcome of matches from the night before. Why? I came to learn this the hard way. I still remember the disdain—the shock and disappointment— on his face when I started talking about a certain upset in a quarterfinal match. Bill taped most of the tourney's matches, AND watched them too, so he would occasionally not follow things in real time. As a sports fan, I get it.  I'm proud to report I never made that same mistake. Furthermore, I did all that I could to keep my composure and not let my body language give anything away until he was ready to chat. Those are good memories. 

While I should say that a tennis highlight I share with Bill involves traveling with a group to Indian Wells for the BNP Paribas Open or connecting every July for the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford, my favorite memory is not about a match but about meeting a player—one we grew up watching and integrating into our classes.

Taken in 2009, we went to Indian Wells—also known as "The Fifth Grand Slam."
At this tourney we met American tennis star, John Isner. While I slept in most days, Bill arrived at sunrise and stayed until the lights went out.
SI teachers and students will fondly remember that our Fridays once concluded at 1:00 pm. This schedule allowed Bill and me to meet the former number one player in the world— eight time grand slam champion—Andre Agassi. Three years after his retirement he released "Open: An Autobiography" which is one of my top 10 sports books. Even if he really does "hate tennis," the stories he shared at this book talk and signing is a memory I still treasure. 

There are more stories I could share—most are true, some are enhanced. Most of them are rooted in Sports and Spirituality but they all are made possible by a friendship born in the workplace.

Elie Wiesel had it right when he wrote "friends are the jewel of life." In fact, Mary—a friend from work taught me that quote. And, as I penned this post, I realized I could go on and on. For example, Mary—who teaches Spanish loves Nadal. Bill is a diehard Washington Football team fan. He is a Notre Dame fan too, thanks to his Dad. Their son Liam—who was born in San Francisco—is a Giants and Warriors fan. Great call Liam! And, I might add that over five years have now passed since we work together. I am so grateful that our friendship remains and our love for both Sports and Spirituality is but one way we stay connected.

Saturday, May 15, 2021

ND Magazine: The Spring Sports and Spirituality Synopsis

Although many of the inmates tell Ellis Boyd "Red" Redding—one of two main characters in The Shawshank Redemption—that he speaks out of his a**, Red got it right when he said, “It was outdoor detail — and May is one damn fine month to be working outdoors.” And the same can be said for reading outdoors. 

Allow that to set the stage for the Sports and Spirituality Synopsis of the Notre Dame Magazine Spring edition. Take your printed copy and head outside. Here's what to look for.

Stillpoint: photograph
Given that I have applied sunscreen before coaching and playing golf everyday this week, this photo of male students curling next to a pile of white snow does not resonate with me or with the month of May . That “famously famous sport of the Winter Olympics” found its way onto campus.

Check out how and why. Print edition only.

Cool Classes During Winter Session
With to an extra-long winter break due to the coronavirus pandemic—students completed final exams in November and didn’t have to endure South Bend’s longest month of the year: January. 

To mind the gap, professors created more than 125 virtual courses that ranged from one to four credits per class. Boxing in America is one I gladly would have taken.

I can’t say that I follow boxing regularly. If a big fight is scheduled for a Saturday evening, I do enjoy talking to sports fans and gauging my students' about their interest. I can stomach the blows, I attended Bengal Bouts every year. I am intrigued by the number of films that feature boxing as the subject, back drop and call that so many men and now women are drawn to... I would imagine this course examines how and why.

Parenting x 3: All Aiming for Medical School, the Ekanayake triplets each excel in their own way

Samantha, Cameron and Derrick. For the Class of 2021, I can't imagine those names don't mean something.

Cameron, the middle child, once dreamt of playing football at the US Naval Academy and booming a military surgeon—but a shoulder injury got in the way. 

In spite of the ups and downs of his recovery, he played well enough to get an invitation from Notre Dame football as a preferred walk on.

He had no delusions about climbing the depth chart or winning the Heisman Trophy. He knew instead that his time and effort would prepare others for glory. “You have to be grounded in reality,” Cameron says. “As walk-ons, you know you might not receive the benefit of your work. But there’s something to be said about suffering and struggling with all these other people.”

I’m not sure what impresses me most. His manifold gifts and talents or his perspective on all of it.

Father Pete: The spirited, energetic, people-loving gregarious Holy Cross priest has become a campus favorite—by being himself.

Take one look at the 44-year old Director of Campus Ministry and you will understand what Saint Ireanus meant what he said “The glory of God is the human person fully alive.” 

My guess is that Father Pete came out of the womb with aplomb, enthusiasm and was ready to roll. To read that he has been on campus for 14 years, as an assistant rector, rector and chaplain of the men’s basketball team makes me appreciate that God-given energy, love of life and the Lord. No wonder he’s beloved...and that he's committed to being that way.

The Classes
Out here in California, beach volleyball has become so popular, and mainstream that it isn’t uncommon for high schools to offer it as a varsity sport. At ND, the Irish partake in what the lake effect affords: Snow volleyball. Side out!

Section: Print Issue Only 

In Closing
May is the month of Our Lady, Notre Dame. Thank you, to the University founded in her honor—celebrating sport and the spiritual life. 

Now get busy living....

Photo Credits
All from ND Magazine!

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

ISO Creativity...Thank You Shohei Ohtani

Albert Einstein said "Creativity is contagious. Pass it on." Yes please. I'll take what I can get. Why? Creativity reveals human genius. can solve problems and forge new pathways. It is the love child of inspiration, intelligence and insight. And, it is more than catch-as-catch-can, right? Right! Certain people cultivate it, others embody it. One example in worth noting and celebrating is Angels pitcher and outfielder Shohei Ohtani and I'd like to thank him for passing it on.

As a teacher and a coach I am in search of creativity every single day. I want a lesson plan that is creative to engage my students' minds. I seek to go beyond that which is expected. And, as a coach I am constantly in search of a creative approach to help my golfers improve. The game is hard enough; creativity might just make another avenue worth trying. 

There is however, a delicate dance we all do with creativity. Most often, I go looking for it. For example, just this week I committed time and attention to not just flipping through VOGUE magazine, I gazed at each fashion photo shoot and read the articles. Amanda Gorman was the feature story. To link her to creativity is a given. 

To find creativity—look, listen and learn from creative people. I also believe, that if you live your life this way—creativity will find you. And it did, on my morning walk. 

After my #21for2021 (21 minutes of reading) I head out the door for about 25 minutes, put in my headphones and listen to ESPN Sports Daily. The feature on story on May 3, entitled "Shohei Ohtani's Baseball Experiment is Working" offered me a creative insight that I shared with my golf team later that day.

For those unfamiliar with the Los Angeles Angels star, according to Joe Levin, Ohtani "stepped onto the pitcher’s mound and into the history books on April 26. That day, he became the first player since Babe Ruth (Yes, Babe Ruth) to be a game’s starting pitcher while also leading the league in home runs."

His manager, Joe Madden has been extremely supportive of Ohtani's desire to work as a two-way player. Madden and other coaches have found this to be a win-win situation. Why? How? 

Alden Gonzalez reports that "hitting and pitching on the same day is actually a major benefit for Shohei Ohtani because it doesn't allow him the bandwidth to dwell on either of the two. His last start is a perfect example of this. Think about how crazy this is: he gives up four runs in the bottom of the first. His team is down 4-1. He comes back up in the top of the second. He's got two runners on. He lines a two-run double to right field. It's a 4-3 game. He's on second base. Mike Trout hits a bloop single. Shohei comes around to score. All of a sudden it's 4-4. Shohei said he went back to the mound with a renewed confidence, with a feeling this was a brand new game and from that point forward he retired 12 of the next 13 batters he faced. Eight of them on strikeouts. He was a completely new guy and that was the perfect encapsulation for why the Angels feel like this is exactly the way they need to treat Shoehi Ohtani."

I heard this story and creative juices started flowing. I began to wonder if I might offer this as an analog to my golfers.

High school golf offers the experience of "team" for an individual sport. Helping golfers to understand what that means and what impact they can have takes time, maturity and wisdom.  Yes, the lowest five out of six scores determine a win or loss, but a good teammate will know that a victory is achieved by more than just low scores. Success is found in good golf AND in positive presence and active participation with your playing partner. This is not new news for my golf team. However, using the example of Ohtani was. It might be a reach, but it was one I was ready to make.

I told the girls to consider letting go of the pressure to post a low score on every hole. I said if you have a bad hole but your teammate has a birdie, celebrate that with her. This is the beauty of team golf. Let that leverage your spirits. I know you want to avoid mistakes. I know you want to play well on every hole but don't give it the bandwidth when the putt doesn't drop, the pitch doesn't fly or the drive has gone OB. Focus on the positive, wherever you can find it!

I told them about Shohei Ohtani and the unconventional role he has on his team and how it has helped him. I added that I never take for granted than any of them are playing high school golf. Certainly, many could just play junior tournaments in the area, but I encouraged them to think of what team golf affords and can do for their game and mental mindset. I hope they got it. Even if they didn't, it's fun for me—as their coach—to encounter creative examples and ideas for how we approach a tough game. If anything, I've lived up to Einstein's message....your turn to pass it on.

Is what ways do you express your creativity? Does your job require it? Is creativity something a person can cultivate? Can one be creative "on demand?" Does it take something out of you? 

Photo Credits