Thursday, August 28, 2014

Coach Mike Montgomery Knows Coaches

The St. Ignatius College Prep athletic department begins the school year with an impressive Kick Off meeting for its entire coaching staff. After welcoming the leaders of 67 different sports teams, John Mulkerrins, the Athletic Director moves through a robust list of business items. It's an exciting time and that sentiment was turned up a notch when we found out that the former men's basketball of Stanford, the Golden State Warriors and most recently Cal—Mike Montgomery—was the guest speaker.
Coach Montgomery is joined by the SI Athletic Dept Staff and Principal 
Montgomery arrived as you would expect him to— 45 minutes early and dressed impeccably well. No multi-media, no tech whatsoever for this "old school" coach. I looked for a legal note pad but he arrived hands free. I wondered what his message would be and how my colleagues would receive him. Why?

Coaches can be tough. Too often we hear the same things. "You have spend more time with these young people than anyone." We know the court, field and trail is not only an extension of the classroom,but  a place where we are called in a special way to further the school's mission. We got it. I've heard many times that "going to practice may be the most important thing an athlete does" in their day. Fact of the matter is, many coaches hope that is true.

Indeed, every program is different and each faces its own challenges, but that had no bearing on Montgomery's message. His words had meaning for all of us. Here are but a few of the take aways from a memorable evening. 

Old School
Create a winning mindset
When I was at Stanford, I asked my players "Who here was recruited by Arizona? UCLA? " The room fell silent. I asked them "So what are we going to do about that? We play each team two times in our conference. We decided we were going to work harder, lift more, and play to our strengths. I named the reality, and let them respond.

The importance of fundamentals
Don't assume that all of your athletes know the fundamentals of the game. You might need to reach (or reteach) them. But, it's worth the time and effort because it ensures that everyone can and will do the same thing; not their version of it.

A culture of accountability
Young people want to be held accountable. This starts with the coach but ideally, the coach creates a culture where your athlete are accountable to one another—the team. If an athlete came late to practice, eventually, we got to a place where they apologized to their team right away.

I would remind my athletes why something like being on time is so important. If I expect you to cut at the high post and you're one second slow a that's not just late. That's a turn over. It's easy to hold others and yourself accountable on that, but it's all related. 

An environment where it's a privilege to be an athlete.
It is. 

Better programs start at the top

The head coach has to have a clear vision for their program. Set objectives and let those be known. The head coach ought to hire all the other coaches so that all teams are running the same system.

Student-athlete:coach :: worker:boss.
How an athlete works with their coach in many ways prepares them for the work force. It's good for young people to get out there and be responsible to a person, like a coach, to whom they are accountable.

Coaching is not about you, it's about your kids.
Enough said.

Be yourself. Be fair. Be firm. Be consistent. Be knowledgable about your sport.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Lessons to learn from the ProdiGOLSON

It all seems a bit ironic. While reading "The Making of a Man" by Notre Dame football legend Tim Brown, and I was struck by one of the many truths he offers his readers. Brown writes, "An author and congressman names Bruce Barton once wrote 'Sometimes when I consider what tremendous consequences come from little things, I am tempted to think there are no little things'."

It's ironic because Barton's words have proven all too real and true for the Fightin' Irish. In the past two years alone, the football and basketball teams have suffered because of violations against academic integrity.
When it comes to academics, Golson said, Notre Dame is tough but "manageable."
As an alum and a sports fan, what frustrates me most is that students are not learning from the mistakes of their peers. Cheating on an exam, submitting a paper you did not write for credit, copying the answers for a test are not "little things." And the consequences are real. Everett Golson, our starting quarterback missed his entire junior year. Jerian Grant, point guard and leading scorer of the men's basketball team missed the bulk of his senior year. And most recently, four football players—three of who are prominent athletes are under investigation.

For high school and college students, it's easy to lose sight of the big picture. Student athletes are no exception; they are subject to stress and desperation. I didn't complete the reading. I wasn't in class to take notes. I don't have time to study. I need to do what I need to do—right now. No one gets hurt anyway.

Such rationalizations are misguided. Many people get hurt, your teammates and coaches, your family, classmates, and your teacher. And what no student ever realizes are the channels a teacher must take to prove that a student's work is not their own: it is close to a legal course of action. The student is presumed innocent until proven guilty. 

I have often not wanted to fight that fight, but to not do so compromises the standard. Furthermore, it is personally devastating. Too often, it alienates teacher and student. I have had students flat out deny allegations. I take no joy in the process. In short, everyone loses.

But there's one other very important person that loses—the student who makes that choice. In the Wall Street Journal article "Is Notre Dame Football Too Demanding," Golson said "his suspension last season left him humiliated. 'You are at your lowest point,' he said. 'I was so downtrodden. I had to educate myself'."
Nothing fun about this press conference
I had hoped that students would learn from the example that was made of Everett Golson; many didn't. Perhaps his testimony will.

Adolescence isn't easy. No one ever said it would be. Yes, it's a time to make mistakes and ideally, one learns from those mistakes. But it's also a time to learn from others—their mistakes and all. And that is why, in spite of it all, I do love the T-shirt many Notre Dame faithful are wearing: Return of the ProdiGOLSON. We'll see him this coming Saturday.

Go Irish. Beat Owls.

Photo Credits
Golson and Kelly

Swarbrick and Jenkins
A great read! Enjoyed Tim Brown's words so much 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Found in a High School Locker Room: When the Game Stands Tall

"Seek and ye shall find." Nothing could be more true than these words from Matthew's Gospel. I use this adage as a reminder to myself. What is grabbing my attention? What am I focusing on? Why? 
This is a book I need to read asap
And I also use these questions to check in with myself. They heed caution when a negative spirit is spending too much time with me. In my prayers, I confront what's really going on.  Am I seeking the negative? Am I looking for a person or a place to let me down? How can I shift my perspective? What might be another way to see or understand something or someone? It helps to review your day and your outlook with this framework.

I was reminded of these questions after watching the Sports Review and Preview video from the premiere of "When the Game Stands Tall." This film, about De La Salle High School's football program and streak of 151 games was released in theaters today.

The book by Neil Hayes became a movie because its producer David Zelon is always looking for one thing: stories. And in this on-going search, he found this one at the bottom of his son's football locker at Santa Monica High School. 

He says, "I was a parent volunteer and I was cleaning up the equipment room. I came across the book, I sat down on a pile of smelly old shoulder pads and I started reading it. By page 30, I knew there was something really, really special—a special story with a special message. I reached out to the writer, Neil Hayes and we met two weeks later. And then we were off on this journey. 

The host, Brian Marchiano responds, "Most people find a jock strap or old socks in the locker room and you found a movie."

Zelon adds, "Well you know I'm always looking for movies. No matter what I read, I ask myself, Could this be a movie? and obviously this one could be.

The De La Salle community and sports fan everywhere will be glad Zelon was looking. I hope you enjoy what he found.

On the first day of my Sports and Spirituality course, I share with my students my personal motto. It is looking for grace. I am looking for grace to unfold at every live sporting event I attend. When I don't think I will find it, grace never fails to show up.

What are you looking for? I encourage you to sit with this question. Why? You'll find it.

Photo Credits
Book Cover
Sports Preview and Review Interview

Monday, August 18, 2014

Barry Brothers Basic Training Basketball Camp: A Different Look at the Game Standing Tall

Now more than ever, most high school soccer, basketball, swimming, baseball and volleyball coaches must answer a common question. And if the high school athletic director is not prepared to answer it, he or she better be in the near future. The question? Why play high school sports? I never thought spending two days at the Barry Brother Basic Training Basketball Camp would provide me with a unique answer. 
Jon, Scooter, Brent and Drew with Steve Coccimiglio. Scooter, the eldest and  founder of the Hoops Camp claims
to have helped his brothers by lowering the bar in terms of expectations
The aforementioned sports offer competitive club teams—teams that compete year round, teams that make it increasingly more difficult for athletes to participate on their school's varsity squad, but these are teams that may lead to a college scholarship. Many athletes and their parents believe these clubs give the training, competition and exposure that their high school program cannot provide. And they're right. But it's also important to consider what being "true to your school" can and does offer. 

Playing for your high school means that you are part of something much larger than yourself, much larger than just a club of select athletes. For the four Barry brothers, it means they were part of the De La Salle school community, one that serves 1050 boys for almost 50 years now. It is a place that Brent—the third son—makes its students aware that they "enter to learn, leave to serve."
from Brent's twitter feed. A great interview, he's still quick-witted, smart & kind. Can dunk too.
It also means you have entered into a community that can and will support you long after you graduate. For Scooter Barry, who graduated 30 years ago, that means assistance from the school and staff to develop a basketball camp on the same court where his three younger brothers played. As mentioned in the DLS 151 interview, Barry Brothers Basic Training Basketball Camp "is a place where kids are not only made to feel special, it's where they learn the proper fundamentals so they don't need to relearn how to play basketball later on." 

Playing for your school, means that the relationships you develop and appreciate, aren't limited to just the sport you play. As a coach, I am constantly reaching out to student athletes who are free in the fall season, who I know are good competitors and who I would love to see run cross country. There is unspoken, unwritten understanding between true athletes and us teachers who are coaches. For example, I still give a Kelly—a lacrosse and soccer player a hard time. I tell her we could have won the state meet had she run for St. Ignatius; Kelly graduated 5 years ago...

As evidenced at De La Salle, Brent had 30 minutes to talk to Brian Marchiano, the host of Sports Review and Preview after camp/before lunch with his Religion 2 teacher, Terry Eidson. Most people know him as "Coach Eidson" the defensive line coordinator, good friend and alter-ego to Coach Bob Ladouceur. For Brent, this was a friendship that developed in class, extended to his involvement in student activities—rallies and DLS TV and has remained for 25 years now. I would love to sit in on the conversation between them at Genoa Delicatessen, I don't doubt those two can share a few battle stories, good jokes, and insights on competition, strife, and the sweet, sweet taste of victory

Uniforms have the name of an institution on the front and a player's name on the back for a reason. We know the team must come first, but even the team is slice of a much larger whole. Representing your school, means that you are the public face of an institution that has a history both before and after you; but one that is shaped by the four years you give. To look at the sports history of De La Salle, it's not hard to see the impact that each Barry brother had is as unique as they are.

In this age of increased specialization and star-zation, I love to recall the fact that Brent did not play on the varsity team until his junior year. Brent continued to get better in high school, at Oregon State University and in the NBA. Brent, who was inducted into the inaugural Hall of Fame class at De La Salle, stands as an example for young athletes to emulate. Success isn't determined by the age of 8, 12 or even 15. It's a journey, not a destination. 

When you play for your school, It's bigger than your family name, even a name like "Barry." And it means that the relationships you develop with coaches and teachers have a home—one you can return to and even share with your own children. In our two days at camp, I saw Scooter work with his own kids. I saw other family members drop in and out. I saw that this gym is a second home to many people. 

The De La Salle community is one that is getting a lot of positive attention right now, thanks to the movie"When the Game Stands Tall." Although none of the Barrys played football at De La Salle, many of their basketball teammates and friends did. And yesterday I had the opportunity to watch it with 1,100 people from the DLS community. 

My guess was right. The film is about more than a win streak or the sport of football; the importance of "standing tall" is not limited to just one team or one program. It is something that has drawn Scooter, Jon, Brent and Drew back to teach what they learned in their four years at De La Salle, to serve the Spartan community that shaped them in the best way they know how: Les Hommes de Foi take the hardwood. Good stuff.

Video Credits
Watch Sports Preview and Review's work!
Scooter Barry
Brent Barry

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

It's Shark Week...A Tribute to Greg Norman

"Discovery’s Shark Week reached an important milestone this week: it hit an all-time ratings high, which the network partially attributes to an increase in female viewership" (The Verge). Many people consider Shark Week a highlight of summer. The week-long shark programming captivates the attention of all ages and the hours that no one seems to have.
Premiered in 1988. Going strong.
25 Year Anniversary is captured on DVD too!
Last year, my classmate and friend—Alex Montoya got me to think of "Shark Week in a new way" when he posted a photo of one of super athlete, former Notre Dame All American at wide received and pitcher Jeff Samardzija aka "The Shark." This image might scare defensive backs in the way a Great White or Mako frightens swimmers and surfers; hence the caption underneath it read "Shark Week!" That week, Samardzjia fans were treated to a different picture of the Shark in action everyday. 

Each "Shark Week" is unique—new stories (both fictional and nonfictional), current reports and never seen before shark footage. In that spirit, I would like to honor another great shark, known to many as "the Great White Shark," former professional golfer and entrepreneur, Greg Norman.

Norman, a former professional golfer and entrepreneur is appropriately named. His moniker is a reference to his size, aggressive golf style and in reflection to the native coastal animal of his birthplace—Australia.
According to his website
"Greg Norman was labeled the "Great White Shark" by a newspaper reporter during the 1981 Masters Tournament, but he began exhibiting all the characteristics of that deep-sea creature long before that.  
As a teenager, like today, Norman never did anything halfway. He was a regular on the rugby and Australian Rules football fields of Queensland and was regarded as an outstanding player. He was born Feb. 10, 1955, to Mervyn and Toini Norman. Merv was an engineer and Toini a homemaker and an accomplished golfer.  
The young Norman, whose older sister Janis and parents still reside in Australia, spent his time swimming, fishing and playing contact sports with friends. But when as a 15-year-old he decided to give golf a try in 1970, he did it aggressively with the intent to succeed.  
His interest in the game started with an unusual offer to his mother that he caddy for her during a regular mid-week game. Following the round, he asked if he could borrow her clubs and set out on his own. 
What his mother could not have imagined was that the young boy who had never taken an interest in the game would become one of the greatest golfers the game has ever known.  
Just two years removed from that first day at Virginia Golf Club in Brisbane, Australia, Norman was a scratch golfer, averaging par or better each time he played. For the next few years, he spent time working as an Australian PGA trainee, playing amateur and open tournaments throughout Australia before turning professional in 1976 -- just six years after caddying for his mother.
As someone who took up golf two years ago myself, I stand in wonder and awe at the sheer talent and ability to go from neophyte to near master is just two years time. Anyone who remembers Norman in his prime knows why golf fans were drawn to him. No need to chum the waters for this competitor, he was always lurking, waiting to lock and load. Often times, such aggressive play cost him, but it was fun to watch."
Steve Williams became the caddy he is thanks to The Shark
He could be personally endearing yet ruthless as well. Norman fired his caddie of seven years, Stevie Williams over the phone. "I didn't think that was the right way to do it. It was the first time I had been fired." Consequently, Williams vowed he would never become that close another golfer again. Those next golfers include Tiger Woods (who fired Williams in 2011) and now Adam Scott. But Norman also mentored Williams, perhaps in the same way that his mother Toini did. Williams said, "He knew I was young. He taught me the ropes. I would’ve never got to where I am today without starting with Greg Norman. He taught me a lot about the game and was a fantastic player to watch. He was so good it was like he was almost teaching me." (Q & A; A Caddie: Steve Williams)

I have often wondered about our fascination with sharks and in turn Shark Week. I believe we love "Shark Week" is because sharks inspire a sense of awe and wonder, let alone fear. Their beauty is undeniable. And that's an impressive context for thinking about Greg Norman and his legacy in the game of golf. Both reflect the majesty of God's creation.

Photo Credits
Shark Week
Norman the Shark

With Steve Williams
With the Claret Jug

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

What do you take with you when you run? Try this...take these....

What do you take with you when you run? Your iPhone? money? your iPhone? Hopefully as little as possible, and I mean that both literally and metaphorically.
This must be a new park; I haven't seen it before.
Or was I not paying attention?
I realize that some people do not have the freedom to run hands free. Some must carry an inhaler or even pepper spray. Too often, I take my "to-do" list, my concerns and worries. But today I decided that I would follow the words of Luke 9:3 "Take nothing for the journey, neither walking stick, nor sack, nor food, nor money, and let no one take a second tunic." Rather than taking something with me for the run, I was excited to see what I might take with me from the run. 

I have spent the last three weeks on the east coast; the final swing of my summer vacation.  Whenever I return to the Washington DC metro area, I enjoy running the same four square blocks in the Alexandria, Virginia neighborhood where I lived for two years. I have run those streets hundreds of times, but today I took from the run what I found while looking through the lens of sports and spirituality. And I found quite a bit. Had I run just 5 minutes longer, I could include T. C. Williams high school, the home of "Remember the Titans" in this montage. I'll save that for my next visit!

I love to run for many reasons and one reason is that it allows me to become more familiar with places and people. As opposed to driving through a neighborhood or taking public transportation through the city or another community, running exposes me to things that I might otherwise miss. 

Below are a few images of what I found. I encourage you to look through your own lens. What do you see? What have you never noticed before? What does it make you think about? Remember? Enjoy?!
First stop on the run was Episcopal High School founded in 1839. Notable alum includes Sen. John McCain.
Although many people find squash an elitist sport, I think indoor sports are very important for cold (and extremely humid) climates. It's not often you see a high school with its own center. 
On Seminary Road, this gates closes off the public from the Virginia Theological Society.
I just love that they think a young person might hop the fence to hit a few golf balls on the open space.
I say: Go for it!
A little social justice/Preferential Option for the Poor graffiti. I shared this with Tom Morello
This should also include the following from "Nine Things You Should Know About Gerald Ford" FASCINATING
Ford won a scholarship to the University of Michigan, which he attended from 1931 to 1935. The university’s football team, the Wolverines, won national championships in 1932 and 1933, and in 1934 (his senior year) Ford was named the team’s most valuable player. Upon graduation, Ford received offers from two professional football teams, the Detroit Lions and the Green Bay Packers, but he turned them down to take a position as head boxing coach and assistant football coach at Yale University, where he hoped to study law. 
The only way to conclude a run...with what America Runs on...
As we say "seek and ye shall find." Go for it.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Articles I Appreciate II....

This is not the doctor's office.
It's your office at home or bedroom, isn't it.
It's been planes, trains and automobiles for the last two weeks. I have traveled from Camden, NJ to Spring Lake—my favorite town on the Jersey Shore, and I am now in Washington DC. I've had plenty of time to collect "Articles I Appreciate" for my Friday posting.

Said travel has afforded the time to make a dent on that proverbial pile of magazines. I know you know what I am talking about. Some of you have even told me you stopped subscribing to weekly periodicals because it's just too hard to keep up. And I totally get it.

The best advice I can give? Don't unsubscribe—commit to reading those articles that are of interest to you. Don't tell yourself you have to read the publication from cover to cover. If a story doesn't hold your attention, move on. When I see an article I know I should read, but I don't want to, I review the title (in full), I read the block quotes, I look at the pictures and read their captions. All information is formation. 

The following articles, however made me pause and think more deeply. Some brought me to prayer, one resonated with my own experience so much so that I could have written it (but not as well). Another had me consider an idea I had never thought about before.  The Friday formatting of "Articles I Appreciate" is as follows:
  1. Each one has a connection to sports, athletics or fitness in some way.
  2. There is a spiritual dimension that is explicit and implicit.
If you can think of other criteria I ought to consider, please let me know!

Skin in the Game: Under Armour Knows Athletes. Can it sell it to everyone else?
by Kelefa Sanneh, The New Yorker, March 24, 2014

In case you haven't noticed, Under Armour is everywhere. Teenage girls at the school where I teach love Lululemon, but it's price point is very high. Under Armour however is competitive in its style, value and it can serve every athletic family's needs. 

This piece is not overtly spiritual, but it chronicles the dream of its founder and CEO, Kevin Plank and what he aims to do. It also gives a nod to his alma mater. It says "He went to high school at St. John's, a football-loving Catholic prep school in Washington, where he became fixated on the sport." That is of personal interest to me because I will be giving a coaches retreat there next week. I can't wait to see how Plank has shared the wealth.

Like most articles in The New Yorker, this piece is lengthy and extremely well written.

Getting the body, mind and spirit in shape in Allentown Parish
by David Kilby, The Monitor, August 7, 2014
One…Two… Three…
Parishioners exercise their mid-sections by doing sit-ups. 

Photo from St. John the Baptist Parish Facebook page
Who picks up the literature in the back of a Catholic church? Well....I do. After mass at St. Margaret's in Spring Lake, I got "The Monitor," the paper of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Trenton, NJ; I was delighted to read that St. John parish started an athletic program that brings together people of all ages and abilities for summer fitness. 

It is a collaborative effort between the parish priest—who has community building skills and a lay person who is also a football coach and has athletic training experience.

I started to wonder how this can change the experience of weekly mass for parishioners. Sports bring people together. The priest isn't just the presider, he is now a coach and partner. Folks are less likely to enter and exit the church without running into another friendly face. Hopefully it's a fit one too. 

The Walking Cure
From what I've been told, walking
the Camino is tremendously spiritual
by Michael Rossmann, SJ America Magazine, May 13, 2013

Even with the diagnosis of my heart condition, I have yet to fully give up running. I just love it too much. But my health has also humbled me and taught me to re-evaluate my expectations and the personal demands I have put upon myself. The grace in that humility, is that I have grown to appreciate walking.

Rossmann writes, 
"Additionally, walking has a surprising number of parallels with the spiritual life.
At an initial glance, walking seems rather unproductive, similar in many ways to spending time in prayer. There are usually far faster modes of transportation. Additionally, if one walks for exercise, it initially appears to be less efficient than other types of exercise that will raise your heart rate much faster.Scientists, however, are starting to see how intense exercise is not necessarily..."
If you want to know more, I recommend reading this excellent editorial!
Concluding Thoughts: Creativity is the name of the game. Perhaps your parish, like mine, now offers Yoga to young adults. Maybe you are a member of a walking group and have made new friends in the journey. Enjoy!
Oh, and Notre Dame is another big time athletic program that is sponsored by UA. Who and what is next for the company and their mission. Stay tuned.
Photo Credits
Pile of Magazines
Walking the Camino
UA and Parish photos are from the articles

Sunday, August 3, 2014

In Praise of Justin Tuck: On and Off the Field

Lauran & Justin Tuck
As a Notre Dame alum, it's nearly impossible for me to not be a fan of two-time Superbowl champion, husband, father, (now) Oakland Raider and the 2014 Harvey G. Foster award co-winner, Justin Tuck. And, after completing a week of service, solidarity and kinship through the Romero Center in Camden, NJ his endeavors both on and off the field make me appreciate #91 that much more. 

As written on the Notre Dame Athletics page, Tuck is a "Devastating pass-rushing defensive end who finished his career as the Notre Dame record holder for career sacks (24.5) despite seeing just three seasons of action ..." Furthermore, he "graduated in 2005 with a degree in management" 
Voted as the Notre Dame Monogram Club's MVP during his senior year, what may impress me more is that he was also named Bookstore Basketball tourney's MVP not once, but twice. In an ESPN Sportsnation interview he said "Freshman year I won the MVP! My team was the champs. We went to the final game and lost my sophomore year, but I was MVP again. And that was the end of my run. I didn't play anymore after that." I wish he had; I wish I was there to watch him play on those Stepan Courts.

Since graduating from Notre Dame in 2005, Tuck "helped propel the Giants to two Super Bowl victories and is a two-time Pro Bowl selection. He was also the leader and Captain of the Giants’ defense for nine years. He recently joined the Oakland Raiders defense and is quickly becoming the face of a reemerging organization." (RUSH for Literacy) I'm not a Raiders fan, but I am excited to see the impact he will have on his team and hopefully the Bay Area. Perhaps his charitable organization "R.U.S.H. for Literacy" will extend to Oakland, CA and to Camden, NJ as well.

"In 2008, the Tucks co-founded Tuck's R.U.S.H. for Literacy, a program that donates money and thousands of new books to low-income children in New York, New Jersey, and Alabama to fight summer learning loss and foster a love of learning." I learned about their project thanks to a posting on the Notre Dame Alumni Association page. 

Tuck and his wife Lauran '06 were recently honored with the prestigious "Harvey G. Foster Award." It is given to an alumnus or alumna, often an athlete or someone who works in athletics, who has distinguished himself or herself through civic or University activities.
Their website is extremely informative about why literacy is important—in particular for low income youth, it defines "summer reading loss" and identifies how they aim to make a difference. It says:
  • Students who are not reading proficiently in third grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school than their peers who can read proficiently.
  • Learning or reading skill losses during the summer months are cumulative, creating a wider gap each year between more proficient and less proficient students. By the time a struggling reader reaches middle school, summer reading loss has accumulated to a two-year lag in reading achievement.
  • It is estimated that the “Summer Slide” accounts for as much as 85% of the reading achievement gap between lower income students and their middle- and upper-income peers.
I was a witness to a lot of what their "Literacy" page outline this past week. I wish more Americans understood what is at risk, but what can be gained by encouraging kids to read. Their organization is thorough and thoughtful in its approach. Please check it out and as you do, I would like to add but one suggestion.
Great kids at St. Bart's and from SI.
Although we worked at St. Bart's Catholic Church, a parish that has traditionally served the African American community in Camden, NJ for only two days, the kids, volunteers and leadership at their summer camp made a huge impact on our hearts. Ten of my students all of who are rising seniors, played football, four-square, board games, tag and more for with the youth who  range in age from six to sixteen. If you were to ask me who had a bigger impact, I would have to say: they did. They were eager to learn how to throw a frisbee and sing new songs for jump rope. They took to the craft projects with creative abandon and they brought a new level of competition to "Uno." But they taught us more. How contagious a smile can be. How great it feels to be hugged. And that it's always ok to make up your own rules when playing football on a playground (sort of ;-)

The six-hour days flew by, but it's fair to say, everyone could have benefitted from a schedule that had a little more structure. As pointed out by my colleague, kids that age thrive on it, and an easy one to include that too often gets overlooked is reading and/or sustained silent reading.

Reading proficiency is related to how often a child is read to, the quality of education they receive and access to reading materials. Furthermore, when reading is modeled as a positive and enjoyable pursuit, children can and often look forward to it.

I know those students would have loved sitting beside the teenager they met to share a book together. I even think they would enjoy a time for silent but active engagement. Yes, sustained silent reading (SSR) takes management from the leadership, but once it's a regular activity, students more often than not take to it. New books and the ability to choose one of your own(!) in the way that R.U.S.H. for Literacy provides would be a dream for a lot of kids—especially those at St. Bart's.
I don't know how R.U.S.H. for Literacy could see to it that every program they help could encourage a mentor to read to students (they serve third graders who can already read) but it might be something to consider.

In the meantime, warm and heartfelt congratulations to the Tucks, my gratitude to the good people at St. Bart's and I am excited for the 2014-2015 NFL season and begins as a new school year does too. Go Irish!

Photo Credits
#44: ESPN interview
Lauran and Justin: ND alumni page

R.U.S.H. for Literacy 

Friday, August 1, 2014

Articles I Appreciate...

Kobe wants people to call him "Vino." He believes
he too has gotten better with age.
Had a great couple of days with my cousin Amy, an outstanding runner and avid reader of good blogs. She enjoys reading a popular weekly posting on "Cupcakes and Cashmere" entitled "Links I Love." I have to say Emily Schuman's "Series" of other regular themed postings is ingenious. Inspired by this idea, I thought I might create a one entitled "Articles I Appreciate," Sports and Spirituality style. Enjoy!

The Fourth QuarterKobe Bryant confronts a long—and possibly painful—goodbye. by Ben McGrathThe New Yorker, March 31, 2014

Make no mistake about it, basketball fans have very strong opinions about Kobe Bryant. I appreciated this lengthy piece about "Black Mamba" because it paints a clear portrait of who the shooting guard is today in light of all that he has been as he decides who he will be. 
This shoes means biz.
Kobe is so polarizing that friends of mine have literally picked themselves up from the table and walked away from the conversation. But, this article has also connected me to others in way I would never expect. For example, I noticed the barista at my neighborhood Peet's coffee was wearing these wild new Nike shoes. Think Air Jordan meets a wrestling shoe, oh and a zebra and leopard. What do you get? These kicks. I said to him, "Are those the Kobe Elites." He has never poured my coffee the same way since. And, The New Yorker always include excellent writing.

Simpler Praying by Kathy Coffey 
Coffey writes: "When asked how he prayed, the Trappist author Thomas Merton said, “I breathe.” He probably meant that prayer should be as simple and natural as breathing—or chatting with a dear friend. Each breath we take is God’s gift. Without it, we wouldn’t be alive." I agree, and yet I am not the best at prayer. Why I found this article helpful is that it reminds me of a very humble truth. When it comes to accomplishing (most) things in life, stay with Thoreau's credo: "simply, simplify, simplify!"

This article provides simple, realistic prayer exercises. Worth reviewing, and implementing!
The Home Team by Kerry Weber,
America Magazine, May 26-June 2, 2014

Weber writes, “You Don’t Have to love baseball to find beauty in “Field of Dreams." I agree. And for me, this movie captures what I profess in the Nicene creed: "I believe in things visible and invisible." I do. This editorial piece reminds us of that belief and more:
"This year marks the 25th anniversary of the now classic film that tells the story by a man who follows the direction of a mysterious voice—one that commands, among other things, “If you build it, he will come”—and plows under his Iowa cornfield to build a baseball diamond in his backyard."
The Mindful Revolution: The Art of Being Mindful
by Kate Pickert, TIME Magazine, March 31. 2014

"Finding peace in a stress-out, digitally dependent culture may just be a matter of thinking differently." And this is exactly why I run without music and why I play golf without my cell phone. I hope it enhances my ability to be present and live in the moment. I think it provides clarity and enhances my creativity. 

NB: Unfortunately, you must subscribe to TIME to read this article.

In conclusion, I love nothing more than leaving a stack of magazines behind on a plane when I travel. I can't however refrain from tearing out those that include a great story or insight. In the future, I will see to it that they find their way on this blog. I hope you enjoy these selected readings as much as I do. Please share those that you appreciate, too.

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