Friday, June 7, 2013

Survive and Advance: Not a Given Part 1

Sitting at the Transition Liturgy--the final all-school mass of the 2012-2013 school year, I looked at the students around me, heaved a huge sigh of relief.  I said a prayer of gratitude and I should have thought to myself--we made it.  Instead, the words that came to mind were "survive and advance."
The sad reality is that the school community of St. Ignatius College Prep completed this year without a tragedy in our student body--one we have been too familiar with in the past 4 years--suicide. In the wake of two student suicides just last year, our goal as a school community was to complete this year without another.   In that moment of reflecting upon the past year, I thought the title of ESPN's 30 for 30 "Survive and Advance" was both curious and sadly appropriate.

Most people know the beloved, late Coach Jim Valvano for his message "Don't give up...Don't ever give up" which today serves as the motto of "The V Foundation for Cancer Research."  What they don't know that he first used this quote publicly not at the 1993 ESPY's but on the court at Reynolds Coliseum to commemorate the 10 year anniversary of the 1983 NC State men's basketball national championship team.  This "30 for 30" chronicles their fateful success and the players today recall stories about it.  It earned its title because Jimmy V's message to the Wolverines during the NCAA tourney wasn't "Don't give up..." No, it was something even more direct and simple.  It was "survive and advance."

What kind of coach tells a team to simply survive?  A coach who knows that it's not a given that you will; a coach who believes that you must do all that you can here and now.  Give it all you got.  Surviving means winning the game to stay in the tourney.  Advancing is the result of winning.  You survive, you advance.  Simple as that.  
The goal is to survive until the only place to advance is to a time and place where every player was asked to cut the net down.  Coach Valvano actually had his players practice this ritual.  Watching players climb the ladder and complete this mental exercise was somewhat strange to watch.  I thought Is this presumptuous?  Is it necessary? What kind of coach has his players cut down the net?  Now I know it's one that understands the goal and fruit of his words: "survive and advance" and "Don't give up. Don't ever give up."  And that is victory, triumph and even life itself.

Jimmy V's message is in no way limited to basketball or to sports in general.  
High school is tough.  The academic, social and athletic demands put on young people today are extraordinary.  The physical, emotional and spiritual growth that transpires in just four years time in extraordinary.  For some, these are the "Glory Days" and for others, everyday is a challenge.  It's not a given that you will survive and advance. Yes, this truth is much more obvious in sports than a school year.  Regardless, I don't take either for granted.
One the last day of finals, I had to proctor a freshmen English exam.  Their teacher came in to check on how they were doing.  He then turned to me and asked loud enough for all of them to hear: "What is the best thing about freshmen? They become sophomores!"

I hope they do.  Survive and Advance.

Part II will address the heart of Jimmy V's ESPY speech and how it also relates to this past school year.

Photo Credits
30 for 30 Dreams
First 30 for 30

1 comment:

  1. If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide - ask for HELP. If it is an emergency, then call 911. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has all kinds of resources- Survive and Advance.