Thursday, September 25, 2014

Jeter's Way: Life Lessons from #2, Derek Jeter

If you haven't seen the Gatorade ad that bids farewell to Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter, stop reading now, and give it a go. It couldn't be more iconic. The black and white film, the filter, the backdrop of the New York City skyline as it meets the streets of the Bronx. Jeter appears as well—Jeter. He is accessible enough, he is adored by everyone, he offers a funny quip and emerges as a legend onto the field that creates them. And, it's set to Frank Sinatra's power ballad, "My Way." After reading Tom Verducci's tribute, "Exit Stage Center" in the recent, timely issue of Sports Illustrated, I believe it's worth reflecting on "Jeter's way."
I submit that Jeter's way is worth reflecting on in our own lives. They don't call him "Captain Clutch for nothing."

Leadership: "FORTUNE ranked him the 11th greatest leader in the world, 22 sports ahead of Apple CEO Tim Cook." 

Jeter said "One of the biggest things about is you have to get to know your teammates. You have to get to know who you're leading because there's different buttons you push with different people. Some guys you can yell and scream at, and some guys you have to put your arm around. You can do that only if you get to know them as people."

In light of Jeter's philosophy on leadership, how do you get to know those you are trying to lead? "Asking questions" and "spending time with someone" are obvious answers. But what are some practical things a good leader adds to the mix? 
Optimism vs. Negativity: "I always hear people say I give the same answers or I don't give you much. No, I just don't give you much negativity. When people are negative a lot, it starts to creep into your mind, and then you start having doubts, and I don't like that. If there's another way, show me. My job is to stay positive. My job is to limit distractions. And if you get annoyed by that, I don't expect you to understand because you're not in my shoes." 

How much negativity is in your life? Do you make an effort to stay positive? How do you limit distractions? 

The importance of mentoring & having fun: "Tim Raines, the one Yankee who could laugh off a slump or needle Paul O'Neill about being up a water cooler, became another influence" writes Verducci.

"I learned from him to have fun," Jeter says. "He had fun every day. That's a big part of being able to play all those years: to enjoy yourself."

Is there someone or something that makes your work fun every day? Seek them out. How or when do you enjoy yourself at work? Is that something you can be intentional about?
Presence: "A former teammate, Matt Ruoff, this month telling The Press Democrat of Santa Rosa, CA 'You always wanted to sit by him. I know that sounds weird, But Derek gave off a presence."

Have you ever sought out the company of another because they give off a presence? Describe it. 
What type of presence might you give off?  What type of presence do you hope you give?

Purpose: "And our job—we're playing a game—but our job is to entertain and to bring joy to people, and I think people have appreciated it."

Why do you do what you do? It might not involve entertainment, but how might it be possible to bring joy to others through your work? What might people appreciate about what you do?

Can-do Attitude: Jeter's parents, Dot and Charles, "never permitted Derek to use the word can't around the house. Anything was possible with hard work. There is no doubting whence come his distaste for negativity."

Can you imagine the world without the word "can't?" (maybe your response is 'no, I can't....haha!) I hear it every day at cross country practice. Today I told any runner who used those words the story of Derek Jeter. I also pointed out the best runners seldom if ever complain. Their attitude is can-do, not can't. 

How can we help young people work hard and appreciate its value? How often do I say "I can't?" How can I change my point of view?
The Dream: "I always dreamed of playing in the major leagues. But everything that comes along with it couldn't have possibly been part of the dream. Because it's been much better."

It's been better "Mr. November, Number 2" because you made it better. Thanks for doing it your way.

Photo Credits

Thank you

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A Sports Ode to September

By all these lovely tokens September days are here,
With summer's best of weather
And autumn's best of cheer.
Helen Hunt Jackson

September might be my favorite month in all of sports. You need not even turn the television on to understand of what I speak. 

Here in San Francisco, we have our eyes on the divisional title that we hope to snatch from our rival, the LA Dodgers. But if you look in many a MLB dugout, you might see that in addition to scores around the league, baseball players have an eye on college and professional football. With games now on Thursdays through Monday nights, that's a whole lot of action on the gridiron. But there's also a lot of of baseball and hopes for playing into October loom large. Pre-cell phone and internet, nothing beat the announcer at a football providing updates of live MLB scores. I still remember the collective cheers from the crowd in response to a game that might be taking place hundreds of miles away. September has bred good memories.

Earlier this month, I was in Denver for the BMW Championship, a golf tourney that is third in the FedEx series. We will see 35 of those golfers in Atlanta, a few Americans and Europeans at the Ryder Cup and all the others in 2015. And in between calculating the results for our first cross country invitational this year, I was keeping an eye on some great tennis at the US Open. Move over Andy Williams, I have a feeling a number of sports fan are all too willing to sing "it's the most wonderful time, of the year!" here and now.

Helen Hunt Jackson was right in calling attention to autumn's best of cheer. I see that nearly everyday at school where our fall athletes walk with confidence for making the team and proud of their distinctive athletic apparel. The colors are unfaded, the dirt stains are fresh and the hopes for a varsity letter run high.

Each sport runs its season. When it comes to a close, I always feel a tinge of sadness that the memories have been set. But the sentiment that colors these 30 days that have September are vibrant. What a gift....

Pay attention to the hustle and bustle that is taking place on the fields, tracks and trails around you.  Indeed the harvest is plenty...!

1. First spirit day of the year for our Cross Country team. We have 105 girls running this season! A new record. We hope to break a few too.
2. & 3. The Athletic Department at St. Ignatius is training captains on leadership. What an important subject to teach. Leaders are not just born, they are made....and formation along the way certainly helps. Here are two of our best senior captains!

4. Notre Dame Women Connect of the SF Alumni Club was proud to host Jill Bodensteiner '91, Senior Associate Athletic Director. Jill informed us all that the Athletic Department does to make 26 D-1 varsity programs run smoothly. Wow.
5. Picture Day always provides some sort of entertainment. Case in point: the senior football players pose for their "buddy photos."
6. I loved this pairing. Bubba Watson & Rickie Fowler at Cherry Creek Hills Country Club.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Remembering Sargent Shriver & Celebrating the Baltimore Orioles

I say to my students time and again "For Christians, death is not an end." I believe this is true with my whole heart...but many times, it sure doesn't feel that way. From the perspective of faith, however, when a loved one dies, the relationship has changed, but it hasn't ended. This is why Catholic profess a belief in the "communion of saints" in the creed. 

Richard Heft writes, "Catholics believe in the "communion of saints." Even though people die, we stay in touch with them and they with us. How is this possible? It is possible through Baptism by which we enter into the death and resurrection of Jesus. Even though Jesus died, he rose from the dead, remaining even more present than when he was on earth to all who believed in him. We live in Christ. Those who have died believing in Christ remain alive in him. 

Therefore, whether dead or alive, we are connected in love. So when your grandmother who loved you very much dies, we believe that she now continues in heaven to love who she loved on earth, but with much greater intensity and depth and selflessness."

And in the funniest of ways, despite the pain and loss that accompanies a death I have felt that connection in love in something as simple as...a baseball game. 

When the Baltimore Orioles clinched the AL East on September 16, 2014— for the first time since 1997—I immediately thought of the late Sargent Shriver. "Sarge" founder of the Peace Corps and architect of President Johnson's War on Poverty was married to Eunice Kennedy, the younger sister of JFK. He died in 1991 after a long battle with Alzheimer's. 

I felt as though I got to really "know" him vis-a-vi A Good Man: Rediscovering My Father, Sargent Shriverwritten by his son, Mark Shriver.  A native of Westminster, MD an outlying community of the Baltimore-Townson area, Sarge was a lifelong Orioles fan—which he made sure to pass on to his children and grandkids. 

Brigid Darrah captures how Sarge made that happen. In Loyola Magazine she writes "Shriver’s memories of the times his father would pile all his kids in the car to race up Interstate 95 to make the first pitch, cutting through alleyways and racing to his secret parking spot near the stadium—all while giving them insight into Baltimore City’s history, architecture, and political scene as he sped through city streets—stuck with him into adulthood."
Three Generations of Shriver: Sarge, Tommy, and Mark
In Part II of "A Good Man," the author Mark—the fourth of the five Shriver children writes:

"Dad loved baseball, he loved Baltimore, and he loved the ritual of fathers and sons and the American game. Even as a boy, I was aware of the transformation that would come over him as we walked down the steps at the ballpark. His face lit up, his step quickened, his eyes fixated on the field.

On that hot day in Baltimore, I was twenty-six. But I still felt like a kid, and I could tell Dad did too—even though in fact he was an aging man and I a newly arriving man. 

We sat behind the first base dug-out, and above us, in section 34, a guy named Will Bill Hagy led beer-drenched chants of O-R-I-O-L-E-S! A Baltimore cab driver, he contorted his beer belly and long beard and cowboy hat into the shape of each letter. 
Dad loved the whole spectacle, from Wild Bill to John Denver's "Thank God I'm a Country Boy" during the seventh-inning stretch. I always felt like he was more at home here than with the hotshots in DC. It wasn't that he disliked celebrity and power; he just wasn't consumed by it. He engaged with an athlete in Special Olympics with the same attentiveness and devotion as he did with Paul Newman.

But ballplayers were his exception. Dad used to talk about some of the minor league players he grew up watching as if they were Babe Ruth. He remembered plays and players and spoke about them with a vividness and enthusiasm that I inherited."

As I learned more about the "Good Man," I was humbled and inspired by his tireless efforts for the poor and marginalized, especially those who are disabled. And yet, I also loved his devotion to his team. It made him him relatable and real to me. And in a way, it made me sad that he is no longer with us to enjoy October baseball in Charm City. I'm sure his family would agree. 

But our faith prompts us to see things in a different way. The relationship has changed—it has not ended. Maybe Mark Shriver will take his three children to a play off playoff game just like his father did in 1983 to watch the O's sweep the Yankees (in New York!) in the AL Championship series. Perhaps he will drive his family down streets in Baltimore and point out the first "Washington Monument" as his dad loved to do. At the very least, I hope Mark raised a glass when the "Woes" did it— knowing that his dad was most likely doing the same in heaven.

When I play golf, I think of my own grandfather. "Easy Ed" was known for putting. I imagine what pointers he might give to me. When the White Sox succeed, I can't help but say a prayer for my friend Courtney. Her brother Josh died tragically of an asthma attack at the age of 33. As profound as the loss of his life remains, I remain grateful he saw his Sox win a World Series in his lifetime. 

If someone you loved has died, think of what they loved to remain in their love. If it's a white leather ball with 108 stitches, you know where to turn....

Photo Credits
A Good Man: Rediscovering My Father, Sargent Shriver
Fans say Heck Yeah
Oriole goes nuts
Shrivers at Camden
Communion of Saints

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Salvation in the North Tower...and on the Baseball Diamond.

Mychael Judge, OFM
Every year on 9/11, I make a point of teaching my students about the life and witness of Father Mychal Judge. The Franciscan friar and Catholic priest was chaplain to the New York City Fire Department. He ran into the lobby of the north tower after it had been hit alongside firefighters and other rescue personnel. It has been said that he was blessing people, giving last rites and offering confessions to men and women trying to flee the building, when falling debris collapsed on him. He is Victim 0001. 

For whatever reason, this year I could barely tell this story—I got so choked up. I was overcome with emotion as I thought about this saint losing his life while administering the sacraments for others. My students bowed their heads; we let a long pause linger in the classroom until I brought the remembrance to a close.

One young man broke the silence to ask: "Why you would want to have your confession heard in that time and place?" I looked at him and gathered my thoughts. I realized a very sobering reality, this young man—and perhaps countless others seldom think about salvation. When you're 17, it's probably the last thing on your mind. Tragedy reminds us otherwise.

A number of country songs tell us what the road to hell is paved by...but it's high time we start to consider the path to salvation and what will get us there. I believe what the victims of 9/11 sought in their final moments are a good indicator—forgiveness, the grace of the sacraments, blessings and giving of ourselves in service to others.

But most events in life are totally unlike those of 9/11—right? It goes without saying that most days aren't nearly as intense or painful. Thanks be to God. Most of us are trying to live good lives day in and day out. And most 17 years olds, are trying to have a good time doing so. 

Fortunately, the article "March Madness" speaks to that. The author, Rev. Dr Michael Tino reminds me that our spiritual lives need not always be so serious. He writes "And the business of fun—of play, of laughter, of lightness—is important spiritual stuff. Jesuit scholar Hugo Rahner is quoted as having written: “To play is to yield oneself to a kind of magic … to enter a world where different laws apply, to be relieved of all the weights that bear it down, to be free, kingly, unfettered and divine.”

Indeed, and I believe that is exactly where the Divine wants to meet us. This simple photo from the Trenton Monitor captured this conviction.
At first, I looked as this priest offering the sacrament of Reconciliation on the baseball field as a joke. I thought it was staged. I saw it as an "over-the-top" sales job to get young people to Confession. But the longer, I thought about it, the more I realized how important it might be. The young man who receives the grace of the sacrament on the baseball diamond is probably much more likely to become the man who seeks it fleeing a burning building than not. I could be wrong, but I think there's something there...

Our salvation is something to consider each day. To do so, invites the life and love of Jesus into our hearts and our homes. It means that we acknowledge our sins and seek God's mercy. The wonder of our God is that God offers it anytime and any place—from the north tower of the World Trade Center to a  baseball diamond in Kent, WA. Blessed Be God

Photo Credits
Fr Mychael

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Remembering 9/11 with Sports & Spirituality

It is hard to believe that thirteen years have passed since that fateful September day in 2001. How will you remember the events of 9/11 tomorrow? Will you go to Mass? Spend extra time in prayer? Reach out to a loved one affected by the tragedy? As a religious studies teacher, I feel as though I have a duty to recognize the magnitude of this infamous day. I also have the privilege of sharing some of the graces that flowed from the talents, desires and the selflessness of many. Here are a few ways I will remember.

1. Tomorrow, I will offer a prayer of gratitude for the countless men and women who respond to the call to serve our country. Although I am more intentional about remembering the former NFL football player turned Army Ranger, Pat Tillman on Memorial Day, his desire to serve was born out of the events of 9/11 and the example of his grandfather.

2. In Sports and Spirituality, my seniors will watch the HBO Documentary "Nine Innings From Ground Zero: The 2001 World Series." Tom Keogh summarizes why it's worth viewing.
In the days following terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001, sports might have seemed trivial and irrelevant. But Nine Innings from Ground Zero demonstrates how New Yorkers, in fact, embraced baseball with a cathartic passion, turning Yankees and Mets games into spontaneous rituals of grief and showcases for resilience and the restoration of normalcy. Off the field, both teams found a way to comfort the city to the extent they could, visiting firefighters and relatives of the dead; the Yankees' Derek Jeter personally reached out to the young daughter of one of the pilots killed by hijackers. The Yankees' ride to the World Series that year is covered extensively here, and the team's up-and-down dramas playing against Phoenix coincide with such off-field horrors as an anthrax scare and more warnings of terrorism. Outstanding game footage and interwoven analysis of baseball action and real-world events make Nine Innings unique.
3. Listen to "The Rising." The August 5, 2002 cover story of TIME magazine shares why Springsteen wrote what was his first new album in seven years. Josh Tyrangiel writes, "as he read the New York Times obituaries ("I found those to be very, very meaningful—incredibly powerful," he says), he couldn't help noticing how many times Thunder Road or Born in the USA was played at a memorial service or how many victims had a pile of old Springsteen concert-ticket stubs tucked away in their bedroom. Within days after the towers collapsed, Springsteen was writing songs." America is thankful he did

4. Read Searching for God at Ground Zero A wonderful read by one of my favorite authors, James Martin writes "my primary experience of working at the World Trade Center was that of a profound encounter with the presence of God. By saying this, I do not mean to deny that the site is also a piece of unmitigated evil and intense sorrow. It i, of course, a grave. But having worked at the sight meant that I was able to experience not only the sorrow that every American felt but also the hope that came from seeing how God revealed Himself among the people laboring at "Ground Zero." In effect, I was a privileged witness to what many were perhaps not able to see: signs of God's presence in a place of great suffering." I can't read that without getting choked up...and knowing that it's true.

5. "Six days after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Major League Baseball returned to the field with a new ritual. During the seventh-inning stretch, a moment typically reserved for “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” another song played at parks around the country: “God Bless America.” Everybody sang along, that night and for weeks afterward." (AP Article).

That tradition continues today. If you go to the yard tomorrow, please join in the singing of this beautiful song for all to hear.

6. Pamela Springsteen, the Boss' younger sister, is the photographer behind the cover art of several of his more recent albums. "The Rising" released on July 7, 2002, is one of them. Again, Tyrangiel writes "The Rising is about Sept. 11, and it is the first significant piece of pop art to respond to the events of that day. Many of the songs are written from the perspective of working people whose lives and fates intersected with those hijacked planes. The songs are sad, but the sadness is almost always matched with optimism, promises of redemption and calls to spiritual arms."

Thirteen years later, this album is more than relevant. It is spiritual, it is gospel, it is art, it is raw and it is remembrance—true remembrance.

In Judaism, the simple act of remembrance is a prayer. No wonder we say "9/11: Never forget." Let us forever hold one another in this prayer.
The tribute that stands outside of AT&T park today
Photo Credits
Thank you to my student Claire for sharing the photo from outside of AT&T

Monday, September 8, 2014

What I've Learned from Justin Verlander

The Tigers are no "Bad Boys" but starting pitcher and six-time All Star— Justin Verlander, might be worth his own "30 for 30" video short. After all, Verlander is the first pitcher in Major League Baseball history to win Rookie of the Year, start in a World Series game, throw a no-hitter (he's thrown two of them), and be an All-Star in his first two seasons. In 2011, he won the pitching triple crown an honor "awarded" to the pitcher who leads — or ties — his league in three major pitching areas: wins, strikeouts and earned run average. No wonder he was the AL MVP and Cy Young winner that year. 

But what I appreciate most about Verlander might come as a surprise to even him. You catch glimpses of it in his highlight reel, but it's something that I regard as a spiritual tool.
Last October, I was convinced the Oakland A's were going to represent the Bay Area throughout the month of October. I watched the fateful match-up of the young Sonny Gray and the ace Justin Verlander with anticipation. If you watched game 5 of that series, you know what I saw. Total domination by #35, "The Monarch."

But Verlander did it in a way that brings me back to post-season baseball year after year, regardless of who is in it. In the divisional, championship and world series, the intensity of every game is turned way up. The pressure is palpable. The responsibility falls on the shoulders of some in a way that could be back breaking. In those contests, you want the athlete who says and means "bring it." Verlander is it.
That night, Verlander took a no-hitter into the 7th inning. He pitched eight shut out innings, that amounted to a 3-0 win for the Tigers. All in all, he threw 30 scoreless innings against the A's in post-season ball. Those numbers point to what he did, but how he did it has stayed with me.

With 10 strikeouts that night, Verlander was certainly in a groove. He had such command of his pitches that he simply walked off of the mound at the end of two, maybe three innings without even waiting for confirmation—literally anything—from the umpire. He knew what he did. The batter knew. We all knew. "K" after "K."

His talent, his execution and his confidence inspire me. And they challenge me to find where in my life I can do the same. But c'mon—my job has nothing to do with winning or losing, my work environment is never that high pressure. Yet, I have been drawn to this image...his action...time and again. And I think when something captures our attention or interest, it's important to stay with it. 
It could be something you take to prayer. Maybe you run the idea by a friend or unpack in a journal. I think such inklings, questions or ideas are worth exploring because in my own life, I can see that they are marked by God's fingerprints. I feel led to something and somewhere. It's always worth the investigation.

What Verlander has done on the mound has proven to be a spiritual tool for me. There are times when I need to believe in myself in such a way that I realize now is the time: make things happen. I am not afraid of doing hard work or necessary preparation. When I am on, I do that up front and in when it's combined with my talents or skill set, I know the outcome isn't dependent on someone else telling me "yes" or "no." Nothing beats the feeling of knowing I have nailed something.

But there are also things in life that I need to leave behind and/or walk away from. A number of my friends have had to cut their losses with financial decisions (and I will be joining them too soon with my car!). It's always important to learn from our mistakes, but it's also critical not to dwell on them. I have invested in people and relationships that have failed. And that hurts, but looking at JV reminds me that there are times when it's best to simply walk off the mound. Carry your own confidence into the dugout and let those who are on your team do the rest of the work. I wish it were that easy. No wonder he's an All-Star; he's one of the best. I've still got work to do.

This idea and image of Verlander may not resonate with you, but I think sports offers us glimpses into something about us—our challenges, our struggles, our deepest desires and yearnings that are worth investigating. Looking at sports in this way can be a spiritual discipline. Those moments that stay with you can serve as spiritual tools. Pay attention. Look for it—something will happen on the court or field that will stick with you and hold on to it long enough—may even speak to you. Thanks JV.

Photo Credits
Game 5

Big Win
The Monarch

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Sports Journaling of Serena Williams: A Spiritual Discipline?

What a great way to start the day....!
This fall, I am teaching two sections of Sports and Spirituality, an elective in the Religious Studies department at St. Ignatius College Prep. By the second time I hit "play," I am much more at ease with the class of 30 seniors. I ask them questions with a genuine, sincere interest as opposed to a quick means by which to cover the curriculum.

I looked at this crew of 17 and 18-year old boys and girls and asked, "Who here keeps a journal?" The tone in my voice was in no way threatening. No hands went up. "Really? no one? I'm surprised. I know that many of you like to write and it's an important discipline for writers." Slowly but surely several hands went up. They began share what they journal, how they journal and how often they do. I always enjoy learning about my students; this was no exception.

I said, "I'm asking because not only can journaling can be a spiritual exercise, but it can serve as an important athletic training tool as well." They sat up in their seats, curious to learn more.

One day prior I read "Serena Now" a lengthy piece in the August 25, 2014 issue of Sports Illustrated on none other than the number one female tennis player in the world, Serena Williams. I've read a lot about Serena and I watched the documentary Venus and Serena not once but three times; she continues to fascinate me. The author of this piece, S. L. Price only added to the intrigue.
I hope she does it. I hope she wins her 6th US Open title
Price wrote about her coach, Patrick Mourtaglou:
Mouratoglou had been watching her closely for years, but more so since he stumbled upon her notebook in a tournament car at Wimbledon in 2010 and found himself entrance: page after page of meticulous notes on strategy, practice habits, tennis at large. He has coached Marcos Baghdatis, Aravane Rezai, Jeremy Chardy, Grigor Dimitrov. "I've never seen a player who had a notebook where he or she would write during practice what she needs to think about, when she serves, what she needs to focus on," he says. "She doesn't want chance to be part of the result. This is a very professional approach that I've not seen many times. Players don't write.
I'm sure they don't. Writing is a demanding discipline. There isn't much that's instant or gratifying about it—at least when you're only writing for yourself. It requires reflection, time and concentration. And without honesty, it can ring hollow and untrue. 

Yet, what fascinates me about this story is that Williams' writing is a key reason, if not the reason, that Mouratoglou decided to work with her. And under his tutelage, Serena has "102 wins, five losses; the Olympic Gold, the 2012 US Open, Roland Garros for the first time in a decade, another US Open, a career high 11 titles in 2013. Her tennis was smarter, more patient," Evert said. Simply amazing.
I never would have guessed that Serena is that thoughtful about her game. I found her discipline important and inspiring. I know many golfers who keep golfers notebooks; they have shared with me how helpful it can be to take notes after a round to remember insight gained on different holes—shots made and shots missed. I believe countless other athletes in different sports could benefit from a sports discipline of such a cerebral nature too. Do coaches encourage their athletes to journal? Should they?

I began to wonder, if kept a sports journal, would it lead me to reflect upon my spirituality? As someone who has kept generic diaries for year, I know that every one of them holds a spiritual dimension; I can't help but write out prayers—some are near psalms—of praise, thanksgiving and hope. I probably wouldn't want my spiritual director to find this notebook, but if she were, I hope, like Serena's coach that she would understand what I want for the world, my students, and all of those people I hold dear. I hope she would see what I need to focus on as a Christian and that I take it seriously.

Another thing I love about Serena is that she plays
both singles and doubles. And WELL!
Rather than leave that to chance, I have decided to keep a journal during this cross country season. At the end of practice each day, I write down something I am grateful for that transpired with an athlete, at practice or with the team. Many people keep gratitude journals and this is no different. But my hope is to come to practice each day with the mindset that something is meant for me to appreciate and cherish. 

I didn't coach last year and returning this year has given me a fresh set of eyes. I am ever grateful that I can run, albeit much slower and free than I once did. But in this discipline, I have only seen that sport has led to spirituality and my spirituality is nourished in my sport.

What might you journal about? What will it reveal about you? your sport and your spirituality? 

Photo Credits
Serena 2014 US Open

Player and Coach
Prayer Journal

Monday, September 1, 2014

Discussion Guide for Coaches: "When the Game Stands Tall"

Ask me what I think of the movie "When the Game Stands Tall" and I would rather not give an answer. I am no where near as close to the story as the hundreds of young men who have played for Coach Ladouceur or the coaching staff that has worked for him and yet, I don't think I can give an objective response. I went to Carondelet—De La Salle's sister school, my brother had Coach Lad as his theology teacher, and I know many Spartans from before, during and after the streak. I am much more than a believer, so I'll punt. But there is one group of people I would like to recommend it to loud and clear: coaches.
The real Coach Lad...the real Game
We all watch movies through a given lens. Our world view is shaped by many influences: age, race, gender, creed, life experiences, special interests, our passions and more. As a high school coach myself, a lot of this story resonated with that component of my identity. The same could be said for parents of high school athletes or an athlete who has contributed a legacy...and those tasked with building a new one.

But at the annual Kick Off meeting hosted by the St. Ignatius athletic department I attended last week, I was reminded how much I enjoy the opportunity to gather with fellow coaches. Like a "new mom's group," we speak a common language, we face similar challenges and host similar complaints.  We don't gather together often enough, but whenever we do, many of us wish did more often.

I put two and two together. I began to wonder what it would be like to gather coaches together for a screening of "When the Game Stands Tall." I would love to hear how my colleagues respond to Coach Lad's personal and professional struggles. I would enjoy their thoughts on how they build a team on principles that are countercultural—that are at odds with the face of athletics at large. Gathering coaches together to discuss this in response to #StandTall is an easy way to get those, and learn other tips. So, I created a discussion guide for coaches. 
No coach can do it alone. To have a friend on staff is a wonderful gift.
I watched the movie for a second time and used the lens of a coach to fine tune my prompts to fit our perspective. While many of the questions are not exclusive to coaching, my hope is that this resource is one athletic directors can and will share with their staff. ADs, you already know that a group screening will require some very cold suds and time for war stories. And coaches, even if you don't see this movie with another coach, I have no doubt you will be eager to talk to another one about what you thought. I am one of those coaches. I would love to learn what hopes you had for your team as a result of the inspirational story told through this film—of course, bias aside.
If you would like a larger PDF of the "Discussion Guide" please contact me

Photo Credits
Real Lad