Thursday, December 4, 2014

Who do you keep close to you? A Case for Riley Quinn

I have the good fortune of moderating a group formally known as the Fellowship of Ignatian Athletes (informally known as Sports and Spirituality). This crew of varsity student athletes, the principal and I meet every other week to discuss our thoughts on faith and our experiences in sports.We begin with an icebreaker activity to start thinking and interacting in a fun and creative way. Attached is one of my favorites: Human Bingo. Members had to find someone in the room who met what the square says.
Whereas 100% of the students knew that I went to Notre Dame (shocking!), they weren't sure about our principal. When someone finally got the answer—Georgetown—another student quipped, "I thought he went to Oregon!?!" And another chimed in, "he loves the University of Oregon."

I know why these students made these remarks. Our principal sits on a committee with other high school principals and athletic directors. He said "we convene two times a year; their A.D. wants to get a pulse on the state of high school athletics from our respective points of view. I have to admit, I love Eugene.” 

A senior responded, “I bet you get a lot of cool gear! That sounds like an amazing opportunity.”

“It is, because their athletic director truly inspires me. I try to keep close to those kind of people, meaning, those who “ignite that fire within.” I think it’s important to learn from them. I look to see how they’re doing things, so I try to stay in touch with him between the gatherings. I think it's important to keep close to those kinds of people”

I was drawn to this idea. I started to wonder, Who do I keep close to? Who do I reach out to as a mentor? Who do I seek to learn from and stay in touch with?  

It's important for us to be able to answer the question: Who inspires you? I hope you have an answer. I also hope you agree that you can "keep close to" someone that you might not know. Perhaps you have never met him or her but you have read quite a bit about their lives. Maybe you have talked to others about this person and their impact.

Ever since I read about Riley Quinn, an athlete at St. Francis High School, I have thought if I taught at this Holy Cross school, I would "keep close to" him. There are several articles about Quinn and each one does that same thing: they name his disability and move far beyond it. Each piece paints a picture of this 18-year old senior as a dynamic three-fold person. As a Lancer, he is a 3-sport varsity athlete, an outstanding student and a wonderful teammate. 

This year, we don't have a single 3-sport varsity athlete at St. Ignatius. Quinn, who was born without a left forearm and hand due to an amniotic band breaking early during his mother’s pregnancy plays varsity football, basketball and baseball.

“Honestly, if he had both hands, he might just be a typical good athlete. Not having that hand just made him work that much harder and made his passion burn that much deeper.”

"It's only a problem if you make it a problem," Quinn said. "I don't view it as a problem, so it isn't." As a teacher and coach I hear excuses from students and my colleagues every single day. I've heard plenty of my own. Quinn's outlook and inner-drive inspire me to move beyond limitations, labels and excuses.

And, it should come as no surprise that Quinn "keeps close to Jim Abbot." Abbott played major-league baseball from 1989 to 1999 despite being born without a right hand; a career highlight is the no-hitter he threw in 1993 against the Cleveland Indians. "When Quinn was 10, he recognized his mentor on the driving range while playing golf with his grandparents in Carmel."

"He was in the foursome in front of us, and we'd talk at the tee boxes when the course backed up," Quinn recalled. "He was really nice and encouraging, and gave me a signed card and then sent me some of his baseball pictures." I absolutely love the fact that Quinn met a great athlete while the two of them were playing a sport that's tough enough with two arms.

Perhaps I should reach out to Riley Quinn and send him a note of gratitude for his example and inspiration. Or maybe I should "keep close" to a student who exhibits the same characteristics he holds. Either way, thank you to our principal for sharing this idea and for the men and women I've kept close to for weeks, months and years. You know who you are!
If you'd like to read more about Quinn, the quotes from this posting are from one of the two following articles
St. Francis Athlete Thrives with One Hand
St. Francis Athlete rejects disabled label, excels in three sports

Photo Credits
From the articles above.

No comments:

Post a Comment